In 2016 the Society decided to do all we could to buy 14 St George’s Terrace and develop the property in an appropriate way to become a focal point for the study of Nicholson’s writings and the promotion of his work. We have been working hard to bring this to fruition ever since. We have had some ups and downs, learned a lot, and made a huge amount of progress - but we are not there yet!
The situation as of the spring of 2020 is that, following advice, we have set up a Community Interest Company (CIC) which will drive the project forward, with the aim now of not only creating a place which is special for Nicholson devotees, but also of making No 14 a focal point for community activities which will be of real benefit to the people of Millom.
The Norman Nicholson House CIC was formally registered at Companies House in March 2020. The decision to adopt the structure and principles of a Community Interest Company was reached following advice from Cumbria CVS. We are grateful to Bridget Johns, Business Development Officer at Cumbria CVS, for her hard work on this, and to Copeland Council for providing the funding for Bridget's time. The company's aims are to acquire funding to buy the property, renovate and repair as necessary, create a worthy memorial to Nicholson which will attract visitors to Millom, and make a worthwhile and lasting contribution to the local community.
Picking up on the work of the Society thus far, the CIC is preparing an application to the National Lottery Heritage Fund, and other funders, for the resources to fulfil our ambitions. The health crisis caused by the coronavirus has, at the time of writing (April 2020), caused us to slow this work for the time being. We expect that the funding environment will look somewhat different once the health crisis is over - the financial resources available from funders are likely to have been depleted by the demands placed on them in the current emergency, and deadlines for funding applications are likely to be reviewed. We will remain in touch with our advisors and look forward to going ahead with our plans as soon as the situation improves.
THE STORY SO FAR
This decision by the Society to try to buy No 14 was prompted by the property having been on the market for several months without attracting a buyer, while it was becoming apparent that it was in danger of falling into disrepair. Prior to publicly launching our ambitions in March 2017 we did a lot of work developing plans for the long-term future of the building, to include an upgraded café, restoration of Nicholson family rooms to reflect the way they looked when Norman and his parents lived there, and a Nicholson 'visitor experience' (a description of which doubtless he would have disapproved!). We thought that the existing kitchen extension would have to be demolished, giving us the opportunity to build a new extension at the back which in turn would allow us to add better food-prep area, better toilets, and scope to offer accommodation for, among other options, a writer in residence.
Following a tender process we invited John Coward Architects of Cartmel to work on the project. We decided to apply to the National Lottery’s ‘Resilient Heritage’ fund for the finance to pay for preparatory work, including a detailed survey and costings of our plans.
On August 23rd 2017 the Heritage Lottery Fund approved our application for a grant of £9,900 to carry out this preparatory work. It included a feasibility study commissioned from John Coward Architects, which in January 2018 reported that the Society's plans were well-organised, viable, and well worth pursuing.
On June 5th 2018 we submitted an application to the Heritage Lottery Fund for a Heritage Grant to enable us to buy the house and carry out the work required to transform it into a worthy memorial to Nicholson. On September 20th 2018 the HLF Panel decided not to approve our application this time, but stated that the project has the potential to achieve HLF outcomes and we were welcome to re-apply. In the following months the HLF underwent a substantial reorganisation and redefined its criteria, while we worked to improve our case. In the summer of 2019 we submitted an 'Expression of Interest' as a precursor to another application, but to our dismay this was turned down. Again, however, we were encouraged to keep going. In the autumn of 2019 we began to rebuild our project, and we look forward to pressing ahead with a formal application in due course.
Our vision is that this house which was so important to Nicholson will be preserved for future generations; that it will inspire lovers of literature in general and Nicholson in particular; that it will encourage the study of his work and simultaneously the discussion of literature's role in a world which has an increasingly sharply-defined sense of location; that it will make a vibrant contribution to the town of Millom, both by attracting visitors and also by operating as a focal point for activities designed to enhance the wellbeing of the community.