Sheffield’s iconic Old Town Hall has been handed a lifeline by a new Friends group determined to save it from years of decay.
The Friends of the Old Town Hall are campaigning for the Waingate building’s owners to help breathe new life into the landmark, which has stood empty since 1996.
Brian Holmshaw, of the new group, said: “The Old Town Hall is Grade II listed.
“That means it has special significance as part of the city’s architectural scene and history, and the owners are supposed to take care of it. Instead, it’s been empty for nearly 20 years.”
The building has been accepted as a project by the Community Assets in Difficult Ownership (CADO) programme, which has provided start-up funding for the Friends group.
The Old Town Hall – also known as the Old Courthouse – was built in stages from 1808 to 1896. It has played a central role in the lives of Sheffielders for generations.
It was a target of Chartist activity in the 1830s and was the place prominent activist Samuel Holberry was imprisoned. After the Great Sheffield Flood of 1864, it was a place of refuge for people made homeless.
The building became purely a courthouse when the current town hall on Pinstone Street was opened in 1896.
It closed when the courts moved out in 1996 and was bought by London-based company G1 London Properties Ltd in 2004.
Friends chairman Valerie Bayliss said: “We don’t think it’s acceptable for such an important local asset, part of Sheffield’s heritage, to be left to rot.
”We’ve asked the owners to meet us to talk about their intentions for the building’s future.”
The Friends group is now seeking grant funding to commission an appraisal of potential new uses for the building.
A spokesman at the owner’s registered office said he was unaware of any contact between the owner and the Friends group.