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Historic Northampton coaching inn set to pour pints once again

Business and licensing

11 October 2021

Old Black Lion PubThe Old Black Lion and St Peter's Church - Copyright Alex Davidson

A historic Northampton Coaching Inn could reopen to the public, if funding for its renovation is approved by West Northamptonshire Council’s Cabinet on Tuesday, 12 October.

The 16th century Old Black Lion public house on Marefair has sat empty since its closure in 2018, so funds are needed to restore the building back to a community pub, offering food and drink, a function room and five guest bedrooms.

A total of £315,000 is recommended to be released from West Northamptonshire Council’s £24.9 million Town’s Fund pot, which was allocated to Northampton by central Government in March 2021. A further £150,000 of Section 106 funding is also being sought, while 200,000 of match funding has already been provided by the Council to support the project.

The project has previously secured almost £2 million from the National Heritage Lottery Fund and further funds from the Architectural Heritage Fund to help develop commercial aspects of the building.

The Old Black Lion is an integral part of Northampton’s heritage, but in its current state, it has a negative impact on the neighbouring 12th century St Peter’s Church – one of the finest Norman buildings in the country - and gives a negative impression of the town to people arriving from the train  station. 

“It has a wealth of original features and is Grade II listed, so we want to ensure a sympathetic renovation using the best conservation standards, in order to create a welcoming, financially viable and much-needed community venue.

“The project will form the basis of our wider regeneration vision for the Marefair area and will provide an anchor point for the new ‘Heritage Gateway’ area of the town which will link to and support the town’s thriving Cultural Quarter.

“We are also very pleased to be delivering this project with the Churches Conservation Trust, who have successfully managed St Peter’s for almost 25 years and have exciting plans for both buildings going forward.
Cllr Lizzy Bowen, West Northamptonshire Council Cabinet Member for Economic Development, Town Centre Regeneration and Growth

A 30-year lease of the building to the Churches Conservation Trust is also recommended to allow the project’s delivery, with the first 12 years offered at a peppercorn rent and a clause allowing the trust to purchase the building from the Council at a later date.

The trust is supported by the Friends of St Peter’s, a group of volunteers who help to care for the Grade I listed church. They also host a regular programme of events, talks and lectures, both at the church and online and have been involved in the project from the outset.

We are really excited to be working on this innovative venture - our team brings considerable experience of community-led regeneration of church buildings - and the skills we have developed are directly applicable to help tackle the problem of struggling high streets.

“After years of work by many people I am overjoyed that the project is moving into this new and exciting phase. We are extremely grateful to all of our partners and funders for their continued support and belief in this bold and complex scheme.
Peter Aiers, Chief Executive of the Churches Conservation Trust 

Proposed works to the Old Black Lion include:

  • Reinstating of the historic carriage passage from Marefair into the inn’s courtyard and a new path and gate to connect the pub’s courtyard entrance on St Peter’s Street to the adjacent churchyard
  • A new dining room extension at the rear, re-establishing the horseshoe plan of the original building and overlooking the courtyard, which will be a beer garden
  • Five bed and breakfast guest bedrooms, a meeting room and a function room, which will both be available for private hire and community use

The Churches Conservation Trust is also exploring a partnership with the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers, which could see a national bellringing training centre based at the Old Black Lion and St Peter’s.

In addition, the pub will provide facilities for visitors to St Peter’s Church, generate funds for the repair and conservation of the church and support the work of the Churches Conservation Trust.