Pioneering scheme for Dewsbury

The iconic Grade 2 Listed Pioneer House in Dewsbury begins its next chapter, being brought back to life with Kirklees College taking over the former Co-op building from the council.

What is Pioneer House?

Pioneer House opened as the Co-operative Central Stores on 11 Dec 1880 and was designed by local aldermen and architects Holtom and Fox (who also designed Dewsbury Town Hall, 9 years later in 1889). Consisting of three buildings, it takes its name from the Rochdale Pioneers who opened the first modern co-operative store in 1844. The Co-op ceased trading from the building in 1975.

Departmental shops were on the ground floor; library, conversation rooms and offices on the first floor and an Industrial Hall on the second floor. Further extensions northward were added in 1896 and 1914, the latter in a flamboyant Baroque style. The Hall was converted to a cinema in 1922.

What happened to the building?

Given changing retailing habits and shift away from the Northgate end of town, the building, unfortunately, began to decline and fell into disrepair, being sold on – eventually becoming owned by Stayton. The London based company had big plans for redeveloping the building and Dewsbury town centre, but sadly this didn’t happen. In order to protect the building the council began Compulsory Purchase proceedings and successfully acquired the building on 19 July 2011.

Cllr Peter Mcbride, Cabinet Member for Regeneration, said:

“Pioneer House is such a landmark building, the council took the view that we wanted to protect it from further decline and bring it back to life, and initially undertook a phase one programme of work to make it wind and water tight.

A lot of further essential works were then undertaken in phase 2, including the installation of a new metal frame throughout, new floors across building three as well as major flooring repairs to building one and two. The basement has been tanked out, and now has a fully operational sump system to fully maintain a dry basement. Various elements of the historical features of the building have been saved and restored such as the original Victorian “Minton Hollins” tiling, Original shopfronts to buildings two and three including Edwardian signage, stained glass panels and balustrading to name but a few.

Through partnership and the financial support of Kirklees Council, Kirklees College, National Lottery Heritage Fund and Leeds Enterprise Partnership, we’re really pleased to be able to hand possession of the building over to the college where we’re sure it will be in good hands.”

The building has been the focus of the Kirklees Council / National Lottery Heritage Fund jointly funded Dewsbury Townscape Heritage Initiative, which completes in December this year. Restoration first began in April 2012 to stabilise and repair the external structure, with the final works being completed by KNH in June this year.

Ian Webster, Director of Estates at Kirklees College adds:

“We are excited to enter the next stage of development with Pioneer House. Once complete, it will cater for students focusing on apprenticeships and post-19 studies including Art and Design, Digital Media, Creative and Healthcare. We’re focused on helping regenerate the town and opening up new learning opportunities within the area.”

Kirklees College will now take over possession of the building and work with contractor Styles and Wood to fit the building out and make it fit for purpose, with the aim of opening doors for use from 2020.

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