|The Engine Shed Project -
Background and History
This is a Project which is borne of an idea in the 1990s. An idea to
find a building suitable as a theatre for Wivenhoe's many performing
groups. This building, known as the Engine Shed (technically a Goods Shed
to railway purists) seemed like an ideal building and a group of people
came together to try and turn an idea into reality.
The original idea soon became a much broader one with the realisation
that the population was continuing to grow. When the project started thee
were marshes behind the building, now there are nearly 300 new homes.
This was a building that could serve Wivenhoe and the surrounding area
as a Community Arts Centre. It could be run by volunteers under the
constitution of the Wivenhoe Community Association, a registered charity.
A planning application was submitted to Colchester Borough Council in
January 2003 for a scheme which included an extension on the rear of the
building. This application was for an
auditorium for up to 200 people as space for performances, shows and
exhibitions plus 4 rooms which would support other arts and educational
activities. Click here for more
information about the planning application.
The project received a major boost when
the project received news of a £75,000 grant from the Railway Heritage
Trust (for more info click here).
The planning application was approved in
August 2004 and work started to
refresh the project costings.
However, by 2005, it was clear that building costs had risen so much
the original scheme was not going to be viable and we revised the scheme
by scaling back the extension. In 2006, even the extension looked
In the summer of 2006, the Project team took a hard look at the scheme
and determined that the most important thing was to save the building.
With so much elapsed time, the fabric of the building was steadily
deteriorating. At least Network Rail had taken steps to prevent the walls
falling over or the roof caving in. The team got the consent of the
wider supporters of the Project, and the backing of the Town Council, to
appoint a local firm of architects and with their professional help to
make more rapid progress with a grant application to the Heritage Lottery
The Project team also reduced the scope of the Project to an
absolute by eliminating a requirement for an extension but leaving that as
a longer term ambition, when funds became available. Taking away the
extension does reduce the scope of the building and probably eliminates
the possibility of putting on activities where changing rooms would be
required - because there won't be any, unless it was possible to bring in
some temporary changing rooms!
The team also determined a new focus for
the building, that of being a base from which to promote Wivenhoe's rich
heritage and using art, in its many forms, to be one channel by which
people could become knowledgeable and appreciative of our past. And not
just of Wivenhoe's past but that of this area which goes back 2,000 years
to the Roman invasion after which Colchester became a Roman colonia and
carries the accolade of Britain's oldest recorded town.