An ambitious music project at a former canal warehouse in an iconic location could soon be underway. Sally Clifford pays a visit and makes a few notes of her own.
IT IS a scheme to bring music to the ears of music lovers and visitors to this iconic West Yorkshire canal location.
Recently the waterways charity, Canal & River Trust, announced it was in the process of agreeing a lease with Hanson Music & Arts to create a North of England Centre for Music and Arts at the Grade II-listed former canal warehouse at Standedge Tunnel in Marsden.
Established in 1989, Hanson Music is a family business based in Marsden.
The company provides a range of instrument services, including repair and restoration, and is a member of the Heritage Crafts Association.
Alastair Hanson, founder of Hanson Music, explained they plan to retain a public visitor experience, incorporating the existing canal museum and tourist information with the addition of a musical instrument museum.
“We have an existing musical instrument collection of historic brass and wind instruments which are key to this area with the canal and mills,” said Alastair. “It would tie in well with the local area, a museum which ties in with the history of the canals.”
It is understood they will also retain the dry dock and existing public facilities and access.
Alastair is currently exploring the possibility of holding boat blacking demonstrations as part of the overall plans which, he hopes, will be under way by the end of the year.
The warehouse will also house Hansons’ heritage crafts business, making and restoring traditional musical instruments as well as an education facility and space for performances, conferences, meetings and weddings.
Importantly, they will continue working with the team of trust volunteers at Standedge to preserve and enhance the visitor experience in an area renowned as one of the Seven Wonders of the Waterways, and home to the highest, longest and deepest canal tunnel in Britain.
In the meantime, museum visits have helped the family in their research.
Alastair explained a family visit to Kinderdijk, the UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Netherlands, which tells the important story of its windmills and water, has inspired their vision to develop Standedge Warehouse as a vibrant and engaging place to visit with the potential for developing hands-on imaginative play for younger visitors.
“My family visited that visitor centre in the Netherlands in March this year and came out thinking that is brilliant, amazing,” said Alastair.
Living in Marsden with his family for 20 years, Alastair is familiar with the building – and its royal connection.
He recalled the visit by the then Prince of Wales, Prince Charles, now King Charles III, when he opened the Huddersfield Narrow Canal in 2001.
Interestingly, Alastair also had the honour of meeting the then prince when presenting him with what is believed to be the world’s first FSC certified, sustainably manufactured clarinet.
Knowing what an important community asset the building is has fired his enthusiasm for the future.
He said: “It is really exciting. We can’t wait to get the keys and start doing it.”
The building has a fascinating history as documented by Trevor Ellis, member of the Huddersfield Canal Society and author of The Standedge Tunnels which also includes the railway ones.
According to Trevor, the building dates back to 1830 when the warehouse at Tunnel End was constructed to serve Hey Green Corn Mill which stood at the head of Tunnel End Reservoir.
Interestingly, it appears the building may have been extended during its lifetime at the end furthest from the canal and was understood to have been altered to accommodate a railway siding running through the double doors on either side.
Evidence of this can be found in the blocked window openings. It is understood the siding was constructed shortly after the railway opened.
The warehouse is also believed to have served as a base for troops guarding the tunnels and their shafts during the Second World War.
Reflecting the site’s railway heritage, Alastair talks about his idea to, potentially, run a miniature engine on the original track on the towpath as an added attraction.
He is also keen to learn more about the history of the building and is appealing for anyone with information or suggestions to get in touch via the website hansonworld.co.uk or email [email protected]