Hat’s off for lottery grant to save Luton’s heritage

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Luton Culture secured £200,000 Heritage at Risk grant aid from Historic England to restore and re-use ‘Hat Works’ - the town’s oldest hat factory.

The additional funding will be used for much needed repair works to bring the derelict grade II listed building back to life.

“This building is a significant part of Luton’s hat manufacturing past and its prominent place on Guildford Street makes it a focal point for visitors and commuters to Luton. Therefore, its restoration and reanimation will achieve a great deal by improving people’s perceptions of Luton and growing local pride and connectivity to Luton’s built heritage,” said Karen Perkins, Head of Culture and Engagement at Luton Culture.

Simon Buteux, Principal Advisor for Heritage at Risk for Historic England in the East of England said: “The great strength of the scheme is the creative use that is made of Luton’s distinctive heritage associated with the hat industry and this grant will help secure a sustainable future for this important industrial building.”

Hat Works’ was originally a Straw Plait Merchants built sometime between 1840 -1860 and remained a building dedicated to the hat manufacturing trade until 2006. It is now part of Luton Culture’s Hat District creative cluster project to offer new, affordable and contemporary workspace and opportunities for emerging creative talent from Luton and beyond.

In autumn 2017, Historic England funded emergency works to halt any further decay. The additional £200k grant will fund repairs to brickwork, roof, tiles, plaster, windows and floorboards. This will ensure its historic character is retained and shared with the new Hat Works members who will use the space on its completion in summer 2020.

Hat Works, is part of the Hat District project led by Luton Culture to restore three hat factories and develop one new build with the strategic aim of creating new job opportunities, regenerating Luton’s conservation area and supporting more arts and cultural events across the region.