New lease of life for old prison at Northleach

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New lease of life for old prison at Northleach

Posted: 22/09/2006 17:12:41

A 200-year-old Georgian prison is being given a new lease of life with the opening of a stylish 21st Century coffee shop.

Blades opens on Monday (September 25) at the Old Prison, Northleach – formerly the Cotswold Heritage Centre.

Business owner Felicity Blades hopes to attract families, businesspeople and tourists with real coffee and locally-produced food.

The venture got off the ground following a £200,000 investment in the building's future by its owner, Cotswold District Council.

The cash injection has not only enabled Blades to open in the former shop area, but has given the Cotswolds Conservation Board larger offices in the heart of the building.

Visitors will also be able to see, free of charge, the historic courtroom and parts of the rural life collection – including agricultural implements and waggons, from the Lloyd-Baker collection - in an open storage area outside.

The 200 rural life items have not been on display since the building was closed to the public by the previous Council in 2002. At the heart of the collection is a group of 23 farm wagons and carts - one of the largest publicly-owned regional collections anywhere in the country.

District Council museum staff and volunteers have spent the summer months cleaning and conserving items from carts to seed drills in readiness for the opening.

Councillor David Fowles, Portfolio holder for Sport and Culture, said: "The new coffee shop and cleaned and conserved collections look great and are sure to attract people to Northleach and the Cotswolds.

"The investment by the Council is a very positive move to bring an important historic building back into public use after listening to the wishes of local people."

The coffee shop, which will be open seven days a week, all year round, will employ six local people and will serve coffee, tea, wine, beers, hot snacks, a daily special and a selection of cakes.

Mrs Blades, whose husband Nick runs the Fruit Cakes store in Northleach, said: "Much of the food will be brought from the same local suppliers as we use in the shop – it's all freshly-made, simple fare.

"We want to attract customers from all walks of life – from families with small children to tourists who are passing on the Fosse Way. We're hoping we will build up a crowd of regular customers who will come in for a cup of coffee and a relaxing read of the newspapers. People are also welcome to use Blades for meetings – we've got fixed and hotspot internet access.

"The Old Prison is an amazing building in an excellent location and we're looking forward to making a success of this venture with the Council."

Cotswold Museums Service Collections Officer Judy Mills said: "We are very pleased that visitors will be able to see, free of charge, part of our rural life collection."

Much of the collection was brought together by the late Miss Olive Lloyd-Baker whose family owned estates south of Gloucester and in the hills of the western Cotswolds. She set out in the late 1960s to build up a collection of agricultural 'bygones' and kept them at the family home at Hardwick Court.

When Miss Lloyd-Baker died in 1975 the collection was accepted by HM Treasury in lieu of estate duties, and transferred to Cotswold District Council.

The collections can be viewed until the 1st November, after which the items must be protected from the weather during the winter months. They will go back on display from April 1st, 2007.

Free information sheets will be available on site – a wagon catalogue and a catalogue of the agricultural implements. The collections can also be viewed on line at


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