From the outside Oldway Mansion is a sleeping giant, a very sad sleeping giant. The once jewel in Paignton's historic crown has seen better, more palatial days.
Mooted regeneration projects have come and gone for various reasons. So, too, have the Mayor and councillors who used the grandiose setting for meetings, workers once based there in offices and wedding parties who took to the eye-catching grounds in what was one of the most popular wedding venues in the entire country.
It was rumoured that former mayor Gordon Oliver was even willing to sell the mansion for a quid at one stage.
But now there is hope for the future, a new future. The community and especially the current Torbay Council administration have come together to breathe new life into the mansion.
An Oldway steering group, trust and Fiends group - who have re-opened the cafe and worked on the gardens - are at the helm of the new fight - with some great news just in.
The council and its community partner the Oldway Trust, supported by the Friends of Oldway and the Oldway Gardens Group, have secured almost £150,000 of National Lottery Heritage Funding.
The successful bid submission ‘Developing a resilient future for Oldway’ means longer term options can be explored and a Masterplan and Conservation Management strategy for the mansion and estate can be moved forward.
Over the next 15 months the council and the Trust will work together to deliver a range of outcomes. Together they will help to identify a resilient and sustainable future for Oldway, and also build upon the fantastic work already undertaken by the community.
The resilience project, which includes a £30,000 contribution from the council, is an important and essential first step to restore and give Oldway a new lease of life within the community.
A full-time project manager will be appointed to drive the project forward and to help co-ordinate the master planning process. Visitors to Oldway can continue to enjoy the gardens and tearooms.
As the project moves forward, visitors will also be able to take part in group activities that will improve physical and mental wellbeing.
Darren Cowell, deputy Leader of the council, said: “Oldway has been at the heart of Paignton for many years and is one of the finest heritage sites in the South West. This is an exciting time for Oldway and the community who have worked incredibly hard to transform the site.
"A big part of the Oldway resilience project is about building the capacity and capability of its partners, volunteer and community organisations. This funding will allow us to support Oldway’s volunteers and develop new ways of working so that the future of Oldway is informed and shaped by the community.”
Swithin Long, Cabinet Member for Economic Regeneration, Tourism and Housing for Torbay Council, said: "Securing this funding is fantastic news. Oldway is hugely important to Paignton and Torbay, not only for its heritage but for its role at the heart of the community. This project will allow us to embark on realising our wider vision for Oldway, which is to re-store and re-open Oldway, such that it has a sustainable future with benefits for local people and visitors to Paignton and Torbay.”
Paul Hawthorne, Chair of the Oldway Trust, said: “This funding is the first step in getting Oldway to where it ought to be – one of Paignton’s star venues and attractions. We will now be able to move forward and develop the frameworks and structures that are needed to get Oldway Mansion open and functioning again for all. This means things are definitely moving and is a great reward for everyone’s patience.”
I was given a guided tour of the mansion with Cllr Cowell, Trust vice-chairman Chris Robson and trustee Anna Tolchard.
The damage, mostly caused by water and dry rot, was not as bad I had expected. Oldway Mansion can be saved. It is a sleeping giant from within as well.
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