Gods House Tower
God’s House Tower (GHT), the cornerstone of Southampton’s ancient defensive walls, is about to begin a programme of refurbishments ahead of it reopening to the public as a new arts and heritage venue.
The project has been made possible by the support of a £1.7m grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), £100k from Arts Council England (ACE) along with generous support from national foundations and local group the Friends of Southampton Museums, Archives and Galleries (FoSMAG).
The redevelopment is being led by the Southampton based organisation ‘a space’ arts and Southampton City Council with the aim of reopening, culturally reanimating and gifting this important local monument back to the people of Southampton. With the majority of funding now secured ‘a space’ have begun the project delivery phase, and aim to begin work on site later this year.
The project will breathe new life into the Grade II listed monument and tell the special story of this 700-year old building. Refurbishment works will include returning public access to the tower and removing modern internal walls to re-expose a number of original architectural features. A lift will also be installed granting access, for the first time in 700-years, to the upper floors of the main building.
Architects and Designers are busy putting together plans that will give a new lease of life to the grade II listed building. The current plans are to restore the original entrance on Town Quay Road, which will lead into a ground floor café/bar and retail area.
The 1960’s staircase by prominent former city architect Leon Berger will be retained and a lift added that will lead onto a mezzanine level that will become the Collections Gallery where relevant items from the City’s expansive collection of art and artifacts will be displayed to the public.
Go up one more level into the largest space in the building. This triple height first floor room will be home to a programme of changing contemporary exhibitions on themes based on the stories of GHT. Leading off this, the Crawford Room, with it’s impressive timber beamed ceiling will be available to hire for workshops, lectures and events.
The back end of the building houses the tower, the different levels of which will house an innovative thematic telling of the building’s fascinating story. For the first time the public will have access to the tower’s roof where they can enjoy expansive views over Southampton and Southampton Water.
Building work is expected to start this winter with an anticipated opening by 2018. In the meantime local artist Sarah Filmer has won Arts Council England funding for a group of eight artists to work together to respond to and interpret the building as it undergoes it’s transformation. The project, ‘God’s House Tower – A Reincarnation’, can be followed on their blog – www.ght-a-reincarnation.tumblr.com.
In October this year God’s House Tower will reopen to the public for 10 days as it plays host to a series of events as part of the British Art Show 8 Fringe. The programme will include events by the Nuffield Theatre, a pop-up cafe by Mettricks Tea & Coffee, Dangerous Ideas – In Conversation, a display of the GHT future plans, an exhibition of work in progress by GHT a reincarnation artists. This will give the pubic a chance to see the building in its current state and to feed back on the plans for the development.
As an organisation, ‘a space arts’ play a key role the Southampton’s creative community and have a history of reinventing unused spaces. Currently they have artists’ studio spaces at Tower House (next to God’s House Tower), the Arches Studios (underneath Central Bridge) and the Sorting Office (in Eastleigh) as well having previously run the Bargate Monument Gallery for a number of years.
To keep up to date on the project you can sign up to the ‘a space arts’ newsletter from the website.