The St Austell community came together on Saturday (June 24) during the town’s annual Garden Festival to commemorate the momentous completion of St Austell’s Townscape Heritage Scheme. This remarkable five-year project aimed to transform the town, benefiting residents, visitors, and the local economy.
The £1.5 million initiative, generously funded by the National Lottery, was led by Cornwall Council in collaboration with St Austell Town Council and St Austell BID. Its primary focus was the repair and regeneration of historical buildings and public spaces within St Austell’s conservation area. The notable accomplishments include:
- The meticulous restoration of St Austell’s Grade II listed 1844 Market House, which has been ingeniously repurposed into a thriving community space, now home to local independent businesses.
- The revival of shopfront façades and signs through the skillful application of handmade botanical ceramic tiles, alongside bespoke ceramic murals that have garnered acclaim in the 2023 Cornwall Buildings Group Awards.
- The rejuvenation of the Trinity Centre, which has been transformed into a multifunctional hub for the local community, providing meeting and training rooms, with an eagerly anticipated café opening soon.
- The restoration of the historic marble drinking-water fountain at Holy Trinity Church, dating back to 1890, complemented by the addition of a new water refill point.
The delivery of much-needed improvements to revitalize St Austell’s town centre received overwhelming positive feedback from residents and stakeholders. An extensive independent evaluation report conducted earlier this year commended the investment in the town and its significant impact on enhancing the appeal of the town centre conservation area, attracting both visitors and investors. These achievements were made possible through the Townscape Heritage Scheme, which commenced in 2018 and aimed to inspire enduring positive change.
The scheme successfully revitalized 12 historic buildings across the town, employing local artists and employing traditional, high-quality restoration techniques. This meticulous approach breathed new life into shopfronts, reinstated missing architectural details, and revitalized signage. Additionally, the project facilitated the creation of new community spaces, recreational areas, workspaces, and improved accessibility to public spaces.
Louis Gardner, Cornwall Council cabinet portfolio holder for the economy, emphasized the invaluable role of community involvement and collaboration with local stakeholders in the rejuvenation of public areas and the restoration of dormant or underutilized buildings. The Townscape Heritage scheme’s undeniable impact on the town centre’s appearance, its increased allure for visitors and potential investors, and its alignment with other local initiatives for the betterment of the town centre environment and economy were cause for celebration.
Anne Double, Cornwall Councillor for St Austell Central and Gover, Strategic Partnership Group and Grants Panel Member, expressed her satisfaction with the visible improvements brought about by the Townscape Heritage Scheme, stating that it had significantly enhanced parts of the high street. By revitalizing and enhancing these historical buildings, the town has experienced a renaissance, gaining momentum with new innovative projects on the horizon.
Drawing inspiration from St Austell’s rich China Clay heritage and its close association with renowned sub-tropical gardens, the infusion of botanicals and ceramics played a central role in bringing the new public features to life. Heritage specialists undertook extensive restoration work on the St Austell sites, using quality materials and employing time-honoured methods to ensure the preservation of historical features in harmony with the local environment.
A glance at the key improvements resulting from St Austell’s Township Heritage Scheme includes:
- Comprehensive repair of the ornately designed Holy Trinity Church marble drinking-water fountain, dating back to 1890. Cornish ceramist Fleur Winter was commissioned to create a new custom ceramic tile plaque for the historic fountain, complemented by a water refill point for passersby.
- The revitalization of Café Tengo (1 Fore Street) and artisan shop Coral & Moss (1 Vicarage Hill), showcasing their renewed shopfront façades and signs adorned with exquisite handmade botanical ceramic tiles crafted by Studio Hotmess and Parasite Ceramics. Additionally, 2-6 Bodmin Road, now occupied by Moustache Jacks Street Burgers, proudly showcases a bespoke ceramic mural frontage by artist Marian Brandis. All three establishments are shortlisted for commendation in the 2023 Cornwall Buildings Group Awards.
- The magnificent transformation of St Austell’s Grade II listed 1844 Market House, designed by Christopher Eales, into a vibrant community space following extensive restoration efforts. The project revealed the original stone pillars and arched ceilings inside, refurbishing the sash windows, installing clear glazing to the ground floor openings and doors, and incorporating new traditional ceramic signage. The addition of bespoke planters created by local artist Paul Jackson adds a charming touch.
- The Trinity Centre, strategically located opposite the Grade I listed Holy Trinity Church and adjacent to the Market House on 3 Market Street, has been transformed into a hub for the local community, offering versatile meeting and training rooms. Soon, a new café will open its doors to visitors. The meticulous building restoration work ensured the preservation of the structure’s heritage. A unique ceramic mural depicting St Austell, designed by Caroline Allsup-Evans with tiles produced by Flookan St Austell Ceramics Hub, adds a touch of artistry.
- The former Tregarne Sunday School on Trevarthian Road, an important part of Cornwall’s Methodist history, has been sensitively restored. Previously classified as a “Building at Risk” after remaining vacant for 25 years, it was sold in 2021 for conversion into residential units. The restoration efforts included re-roofing with local slate, repair of the original doors and arched sash windows featuring colored glass, and the provision of EV charging points for cars and bicycles.
The projects funded through the Townscape Heritage Scheme have not only achieved their goal of delivering high-quality improvements but have also become emblematic local landmarks, uniquely incorporating the region’s clay heritage. This outcome is a testament to St Austell’s spirit and will hopefully serve as inspiration for future endeavors in the town.