The Henwick Building
Long standing members of the Friends will remember that we had a mad rush to rescue the former Hines Coal Merchants office building from the yard at Henwick Station in Worcester. The station has been closed since the 1960's but the level crossing together with its signal box remain to this day. The former goods yard had been in use by Hines as a coal distribution yard until September 1998. At that time the yard was sold by British Rail for development as a housing estate effectively closing the door to use as a parkway station for all those living on the west side of the river. A major blunder. Traffic in Worcester is notoriously bad and the east-west river crossing has been only slightly improved by the multi-million pound new bridge and associated road system. Why is the rail option always last on the agenda?
Back to the plot... The Coal Office is a gorgeous mock Tudor fantasy of around 1900. It was too good to lose, so members of the Friends aided by our Worcester "agent" Ralph Dunham dismantled the building brick-by-brick, numbering all the bricks and loading them onto pallets. All the tiles, roof timbers and even the ornamental counter were rescued too. They were transported to Kidderminster for eventual re-erection.
This project was very much on the back burner until Dave Redfern was contacted by the guys at Tyseley who said they would like the building for their new presence at Stratford. By coincidence Mick Yarker also received a call from David Mee, the SVR Education Officer, to say that there was an interest in erecting the building on the SVR site at Highley. Now we were in a cleft stick. Money was waiting if the building was to go to Stratford, however the SVR option was a 'definite maybe'. Obviously the Friends would prefer the Office to stay with us, but if the SVR option fell through what would be the fate of the building?
A hasty meeting was arranged between Keith Redfern, Bob Brown and Mick Yarker for the Friends, and David Mee and Phil Sowden for the SVR. We explained that we would need some sort of 'guarantee' if we were to turn down the Stratford offer in preference to the Highley one. No guarantee could be given at the time, but David agreed to progress the matter and see if finance could be obtained or at least promised to get confirmation of future plans, so that we could go ahead with a degree of certainty. David contacted John Ash at Highley. John is planning to erect a wagon weighbridge – a most exciting project, and he was happy for the Coal Office to be erected as part of this 'development'.
Part-funding has also been offered, so it looks as if the project may well be viable, and as such we have decided to go for the Highley option.
The Friends are not going to erect this building. It is outside our finances and skill. The building will (hopefully) be erected by paid professionals with as much volunteer assistance as sensibly possible. To this end all the timber has been brought inside the Storage Building where it will dry out. It's long wait in the Coal Yard has rotted some of it but all the major parts are retrievable and are fit for use once they have received attention. The panic to clear the Road Motor Depot away has resulted in a few casualties among the bricks and stonework as heavy ironwork has been dumped on some of them. It is hoped to move the bricks, tiles and stonework to a safe area ready for shipment as soon as possible.
Meanwhile we await further developments with some excitement. Let's hope we can get this worthwhile project underway!
Mick Yarker. January 2006