Half a million investment means glittering future for glass centre

Stourbridge News: Artist's impression of the new visitor reception area at the Ruskin Glass Centre site. Artist's impression of the new visitor reception area at the Ruskin Glass Centre site.

A STOURBRIDGE arts and education centre has scooped nearly half a million pounds towards the final phase of a major redevelopment project.

Bosses at the Ruskin Glass Centre, Glasshouse College and Glasshouse Arts Centre, which share a site in Amblecote, are over the moon to have received £483,018 from the European Regional Development Fund towards phase three of the Glasshouse Development Project.

The money will fund a new visitor reception at the Wollaston Road site plus a heritage display area, workshops, incubator units for small businesses, meeting and activity rooms.

It will also cover the cost of resurfacing and landscaping the car park and improving signage at the old glassmaking site which was home to Webb Corbett and later Royal Doulton before the Ruskin Mill Land Trust took it over in 2000.

Oliver Cheney, principal at the Glasshouse College which teaches youngsters with learning disabilities, was "delighted" to hear the ERDF bid had been successful.

He added: "The success of our students and the businesses on the site played a crucial part in demonstrating we were worthy of such a large grant.

"This is a clear indicator that a national body believes in what we do here at the Glasshouse, and the need to invest in the glass industry, and former industrial workspace and job creation, if we are to protect of our heritage.”

Stourbridge MP Margot James also welcomed the funding boost, saying: "This will add new facilities to the site, so that it can support businesses, the community and young people with learning disabilities even more effectively."

The grant will also fund the preservation and digitisation of old Webb Corbett pattern books and articles which will later go on display to the public.

Over the last five years investment in the site adds up to nearly £5million.

Phases one and two of the redevelopment project, which received cash from Advantage West Midlands, the Heritage Lottery Fund and Arts Council England, saw the Ruskin Glass Centre refurbished to include a café and studios for small glass and craft businesses.

The Glasshouse Arts Centre was also revamped to include a 400-capacity auditorium, 100 capacity studio theatre, multi-use first floor extension, two commercial workshops - and the Webb Corbett Visitor Centre was created to tell the story of the site's glass heritage.

Norman Price, deputy chairman of the West Midlands ERDF local management committee, said the attraction will be able to build further on its success thanks to the latest investment which Ruskin Trust bosses hope will help to enhance the visitor experience at the facility - home of the prestigious International Festival of Glass and British Glass Biennale competition.

Before building work gets underway in April - archaeological digs are taking place at the site, which has been associated with glassmaking since the 17th century.

Archaeologists have been escavating the car park and they plan to turn their attention to the rear of the site in search of glass-related treasures from Monday March 10.

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