Outline Plans submitted 31 May 2021) by Church Conservation Trust to develop Old Black Lion pub in Northampton and integrate it with St Peter’s Church

The following is a synopsis from a CCT press release issued as the Planning Application was lodged in late May 2021.

The Churches Conservation Trust (CCT) has operated St Peters Church since 1998 and has been seeking a commercial venture to support its repairing and conservation. It has identified the neighbouring Old Black Lion (OBL) public house as a potential partner and has recently submitted an outline planning application proposing reopening the Grade II-listed building as a community-based pub and repairing it to the highest conservation standards. 

The pub is owned by West Northamptonshire Council who will lease it to the CCT; the Trust is managing the project and has been awarded £1.8m from the National Lottery Heritage Fund. In due course, the Trust will select a hospitality operator to run the pub, with a portion of the profits funding the Church maintenance costs. 

Peter Aiers, Chief Executive, CCT says: ‘We are really excited to be working on this innovative venture. Our team brings considerable experience of community-led regeneration of church buildings and the skills we have developed are directly applicable to help tackle the problem of struggling high streets. After years of work by many people I am overjoyed that the project is moving into this new and exciting phase. We are extremely grateful to all of our partners and funders for their continued support and belief in this bold and complex scheme.

The wider regeneration goals of the project – which include new landscaping in the churchyard, biodiversity initiatives, community activities, and creating new jobs in the pub – have attracted funding from West Northamptonshire Council, via the HM Treasury’s Towns Fund, and the Architectural Heritage Fund. 

CCT is also exploring a partnership with the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers, which could see a new national training centre for church bellringing based at the Old Black Lion and St Peter’s.

The site forms part of the Heritage Gateway initiative, which seeks to improve the approach to the town from the railway station.

CCCBR/PDGCBR Involvement

The CCCBR have been involved in discussions with the CCT for about 1 year and the Peterborough Guild started to be involved in September 2020. Chris FitzGerald saw something that alerted him to a project the CCCBR were working on in Marefair in Northampton. As it is close to where he lived he thought he would find out more. It is potentially an interesting, albeit challenging, project due to the complexity of ownership.

The basic objective of having a state-of-the-art ringing education centre on the Guild’s doorstep is very exciting. The current proposal is to have:

  1. Access to St Peter’s ring of 8. This ring would benefit from bell work, sound proofing and better sound directed to the ringing chamber. We would have to be able to ring without disturbing the neighbours.
  2. A training facility to be created in the refurbished Old Black Lion. What is believed to have been a stable has been earmarked for our use and it is planned to house:
    1. A ring of 8 dumbbells
    2. Simulator technology to enable training from 1 ringer to a whole team.
    3. Projection equipment
    4. A library of resources
  3. Access to post ringing food and drink in the OBL which is competitively priced – subject to agreement with the yet to be appointed OBL operator.
  4. A potential venue for Guild meetings and events – which will be balanced with the requirement to move such events around the Guild.
  5. To promote ringing throughout the public house with bell ringing paraphernalia which will enable us to create a recruitment focus.
  6. To develop Northampton into a nationally recognised centre for excellence in training that will see it as a destination for visiting ringers and increase the interest in ringing in the town and area.

Project Timescales

The project will be subject to all the usual planning constraints as well as the availability of building resources, but the current CCT intention is to start the project in June 2022 with a view to completion by June 2023.

CF 11/6/21