A new arts and entertainment venue in Tetbury

Tetbury Goods Shed is a part volunteer-run arts centre, converted in 2016 from a former Great Western Railway building. Shed-Arts opened in the spring of 2017 having received generous support from Tetbury Town Council, the general public and regional donors.

The first season of events was varied but always informed by our vision for the Goods Shed to become a regional centre of artistic excellence in the Cotswolds. Shed-Arts provides arts and entertainment in an iconic building that doubles as a community hub.

The most popular events have proven to be music covering the full spectrum of styles including jazz, classical, rock and choral events; the spoken word in the form of poetry, readings and informative talks and discussions; craft workshops for adults and children; and rotating exhibitions of art.

Always at the heart of the Shed-Arts vision is an ambition to encourage and capitalise on local talent whilst also showcasing performances by artists, authors and speakers from further afield.

In the spring of 2018 the Goods Shed Cinema opened with weekly screenings of newly released films aimed at all age groups and tastes; and the popular Whistle Stop Café reopened providing drinks, light meals, delicious cakes and a friendly meeting place to chat and relax.

2019 saw the Arts Centre settling into its stride with a humming, lively venue. And then came 2020 and COVID19: shutting down the Shed for months along with much of daily life for many of us. We are confident that we will surmount the challenge of revivifying the Goods Shed, although the continued support and goodwill of our users is now needed more than ever. So please, pay us a visit when it’s possible again. We would love to see you.

Bringing the Goods Shed back to life

The story of how Tetbury’s former railway goods shed became one of only a handful of such buildings in England to become a community asset contains as many ups and downs as the western main line through Devon and Cornwall.

Below is a potted history of the building from 1964 when BR closed the branch line to 2016, when HRH Prince Charles opened the new Tetbury Goods Shed community arts centre. Click or tap the headings to view each section.

In the last chapter of The Tetbury Branch, his illustrated history of the branch line from Tetbury to Kemble, (Wild Swan Publications 1985), Stephen Randolph wrote:

‘Memories of the railway line to Tetbury are fading into the past. The town has long since become accustomed to life without its rail link, and a new generation of Tetbury’s young people know of the railway only as part of the town’s history, while newcomers see its remains as an untidy, overgrown area, cared for by nobody.

‘The goods shed stands practically unaltered … together with the former sidings area, all of which is fenced off…’

Many people hoped that the town would be able to acquire the station site to turn the land and buildings into a community asset. But when British Rail decided to dispose of the property in 1995, a Tetbury resident, Will Cook, learned at the last minute that it was about to come up at an auction.

Will Cook

Fearing that the land would be bought by a housing developer before the town had a chance to save it, Mr Cook managed to get the auction stopped. The station lands and Shed had been reprieved – but only temporarily.

How do you use a large piece of left-over Victorian industrial architecture in the 21st century? The question vexed people’s minds in the town for nearly 20 years. The Goods Shed, having lost its last business tenant years before, was in a parlous state with its windows boarded up, the roof leaking, and ivy and rainwater penetrating the walls.

There were feasibility studies, surveys, proposals, counterproposals. It seemed to be as difficult to find a future for the Shed as it had been to attract the GWR a century earlier.

Over the years the plans for the refurbished goods shed have included badminton courts, a community centre, a cinema, a youth theatre, craft workshops, a cafe and eventually an arts centre.

Then, in 2011, the Goods Shed’s continuing deterioration literally became a burning issue when a fire severely damaged the south end windows and roof.

 

By 2008 when this photo was taken the land to the north and south of the Goods Shed had been landscaped into a park, picnic area and car park. But the outlook for building itself remained as uncertain as ever

Although few people realised it at the time, the 2011 fire proved to be the turning point for the Shed. Rather than just making good the damaged section, Tetbury Town Council took the opportunity to completely weatherproof its exterior.

With new office doors and windows and a fresh paint job, the Goods Shed was able for the first time in 50 years to show off its potential.

In September 2013, the Trust and the town council opened the Shed’s doors to the public for National Heritage Open Day. The Trust showed visitors its proposed plan for the Shed and invited them to consider joining up. By this time, a quantity surveyor had costed the necessary building work at £489,000. The Trust’s accounts for 2012 showed an income of £0.

Undaunted, several new faces showed up at the next monthly meeting. Three of the newcomers volunteered to put on ‘Pamper Evening’ and the revived Goods Shed Project was off and running.

With hindsight, the Trust’s most valuable move was to open up the Shed for events as it stood.

Energised by people’s reactions to the building’s clear potential and the generous response to their fundraising and planning activities, the Goods Shed group mounted dozens of events in 2014 and 2015, from concerts to car boot sales.

Trust members and supporters on the cover of a fundraising calendar produced with support from local organisations and businesses in 2015

Phase 1 of the project, in 2016, comprised the main structural work on the Shed, needed to create the ‘shell’ in which the Trust installed the Arts Centre equipment and facilities.

The cost of this phase was over £600,000, more than half of which was met by Tetbury Town Council from public works funding and ‘Section 106’ monies from housing developments in Tetbury.

Between December 2013 and December 2016, the Trust raised over £200,000 in sponsorship, grant awards and direct income from fundraising events. Around half the total was given by charitable trusts, which responded to the project with great enthusiasm.

The reaction from people and businesses in the area has also been fabulous. They sponsored our events and appeals, named seats and bricks and showed a level of confidence in the project that was truly inspiring.

It meant that the Trust and TTC were able to complete Phase One, refurbishing and extending the shed’s structure, in 2016.

Tidying up in the freshly-converted main hall just before the official reopening in December 2016

One hundred and twenty-seven years after it opened for business and 20 years after it was almost lost to the town forever, Tetbury’s sturdy GWR Goods Shed embarked on a completely new role within the community it previously served for three-quarters of a century.

HRH Prince Charles officially inaugurated the restored building on 22 December 2016, culminating three years of strenuous activity by TTC, TRLRT and the Shed’s many friends and supporters.

Prince Charles congratulates fundraisers and supporters at the opening (Image by Hyde-Media.co.uk)

In the next phases of the Shed’s new existence the Trust installed state-of-the-art seating, cinema projection and sound installations, a high-quality catering kitchen, and space for classes and workshops in a preserved Finland Railways carriage sited behind the building.

Getting here had been a very long story. And was really only just the beginning!

A BIT MORE HISTORY

To learn more about the history of the Tetbury branch from 1889 to 1964 and long campaign to reclaim the Goods Shed for the town and surrounding area, do take a look at these infographics from the official reopening in 2016 (click on the images to open PDFs).

The story of the Tetbury Branch line

The campaign to save the Rail Lands and the Goods Shed for the town

Redevelopment plan and the vision for the Arts Centre

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OUR DONORS

Tetbury Goods Shed Arts Centre has been made possible by the support of the local community for our fundraising activities and appeals, and by funding from donors large and small, which is and will continue to be vital to the Centre.

Logos of sponsors organisations of Tetbury Goods Shed