Long battle to restore historic Ancoats Dispensary ends in defeat

Ancoats Dispensary

The community group engaged in a five-year battle to restore the grade II-listed Ardwick and Ancoats Dispensary building in Manchester in which it raised £1.1m has admitted defeat.

The Ancoats Dispensary Trust (ADT) said the building has been back into the ownership of Greater Manchester-based regeneration company Urban Splash.

Funds were raised from the Heritage Lottery, the Architectural Heritage Fund, Power to Change and through donations from private individuals.

Ownership of the dispensary will soon revert to Manchester City Council and the shared ambition is that it can now be used for affordable housing in partnership with Great Places Housing Group.

The trust says it has spent the last few months attempting to find alternative solutions to enable the community to continue to shape the dispensary’s future after its attempt to secure a total of £4.3m from the Heritage Lottery Fund was rejected.

It has been in confidential commercial discussions with Urban Splash and others, and have been unable to keep the public informed until matters had been fully resolved.

However, without lottery funding it is no longer financially feasible for the trust to maintain ownership of the building.

The trust’s lease was also subject to a draw down clause stating that it must enter into building contracts a whole year before work was scheduled to take place in September.

In light of the HLF rejection ADT said it had “no choice but to accept the transfer of ownership”.

A statement from the organisation said: “For the Trust to have come so far and to fall at the final hurdle has been extremely difficult to accept.

“We fought so hard because we believed that the Dispensary’s heritage was unique, and that the stories of people in its’ community deserved to be told.

“We might not have been fully successful in our vision, but if you believe that something is right then you fight for it, and we are proud to have fought for so long. After five years the dispensary still stands, and we consider this a testament to the community’s love for the building and people power.

“The dispensary was an opportunity to save an irreplaceable piece of the city’s heritage for the people of Manchester.”

The trust said the the regeneration of the dispensary would have “prevented the privatisation of our heritage and represented a chance to re-purpose such a wonderful building”

It added: “ We are proud that over our campaign we’ve been able to draw attention to Ancoats and the dispensary’s fantastic history and to encourage people to engage with their heritage and community.”

Cllr Bernard Priest, deputy leader of Manchester City Council, said: “The dedication of the Ancoats Dispensary Trust has been admirable throughout their fight to save the property.

“ADT has worked closely with us and other stakeholders over the last few months to find an alternative future for the Dispensary, and our ambition is to partner Great Places to build affordable homes while maintaining as much of the fabric of the remaining building as possible.”

Peter Bojar, executive director of growth and assets at Great Places Housing Group, said: “We are pleased to be able to confirm that we are working closely with Manchester City Council to develop proposals for an affordable housing scheme at the Ancoats Dispensary site, retaining as much of the original building as possible, to celebrate the historic importance of the property.”

Established in 1828, the Ardwick and Ancoats Dispensary moved twice before permanently finding its home in 1874 at 94 Mill Street (Ancoats, Manchester).

It officially became the Ancoats Hospital and Ardwick and Ancoats Dispensary, but usually shortened to Ancoats Hospital.

Other buildings have come and gone, leaving the original building standing alone. Having stood proud at the centre of Ancoats for 140 years, the Victorian Society in 2011 listed The Ardwick and Ancoats Dispensary as one of the 10 most at risk buildings in England and Wales.