Visitors to a historic park in Stoke-on-Trent will soon be able to enjoy freshly prepared food, quality hot drinks and afternoon tea when a stylish new café venue opens inside a renovated pavilion.
The refurbishment and restoration of the disused main pavilion building at Hanley Park has been one of the main elements of the park’s multi-million pound refurbishment, after Stoke-on-Trent City Council was successful with a bid to the Heritage Lottery and Big Lottery Fund.
The work has seen a complete restoration to the interior and exterior of the 123-year-old pavilion including repair work to the roof, windows, brickwork and clock tower, installing new toilets and and improving access to the building. Elsewhere in the park, the boat house on the main lake has been restored to house a café and a function space on the upper floor. And the former Northern Bowls Pavilion, near to the popular children’s play area, has been refurbished to sell ice creams and snacks to visitors.
Now the city council, which is responsible for delivering the restoration project, can reveal it has signed a contract with Caterleisure Group to provide catering at all three venues. The company, which was established in 1976 and employs more than 370 people across 55 ventures, will shortly begin work to fit out the buildings before opening them to the public.
The pavilion will be open all year round as a café and function venue and will have room for 80 diners inside and space for a further 50 in an outdoor seating area. It is hoped the venue will open to the public in October. The boathouse will be available for hire from the autumn for meetings and events, and open to the general public on a seasonal basis. The play area kiosk is scheduled to open in April 2020. In total, around 20 jobs are expected to be created.
Councillor Carl Edwards, cabinet member for environment, said: “Having the pavilion, boathouse and children’s play area kiosk open again and giving visitors somewhere to eat, meet and enjoy themselves will take the park up another level. This will make the park a top free-to-enter leisure destination not just in Stoke-on-Trent but in Staffordshire, which has something for everyone. The restoration of these buildings has been one of the headlines of the entire restoration project that captured people’s imaginations and memories and it’s fantastic to now be at this stage. We’re really pleased to have Caterleisure Group on board and are excited with their plans for catering in the park.
“We’re nearing the end of the restoration project now and the park is going to look fantastic when everything is finished. It’s been a long project but it’s a big site to cover, and historic buildings such as the main pavilion have been painstakingly restored to their former glory. We recently unveiled the restored bandstand, which looks absolutely stunning, and the response from the public to that has been incredibly positive. Having high quality green space and leisure facilities is vitally important to supporting the health and wellbeing of our residents and that theme has been at the centre of all the work that has taken place. Hanley Park is one of the city’s oldest and most historic parks, and this is another example of how we are working hard to protect and appreciate our heritage. I’d like to personally thank everyone who has been involved in the project for the fantastic work they have done.”
The park, which spans across 60 acres, is one of the UK’s largest Victorian public parks. It was the first public park commission of the well-known landscape designer Thomas Mawson, and opened in 1897 as a much-needed antidote to the poor working conditions of the potters and miners in the district.
Further improvements carried out in the Grade II*-listed park as part of the restoration project have included restoring the terracotta Hammersley Fountain, repairing canal bridges, fences, gating and footpaths, and restoring the bandstand, which is now hosting a series of summer music performances. Two lodges at each park entrance have also been restored and will be commercially let out by the council. The park restoration is expected to be fully finished by the end of this year.
Louise Hodgson, development director at Caterleisure Group, said: “The pavilion will cater for all park visitors and we hope it will become a destination café, somewhere for the local community to meet and enjoy time with friends and family. The menu will feature local produce and traditional classics, grab-and-go snacks, freshly prepared meals, ice cream and quality hot and cold beverages throughout the day. The building has two areas that are ideal for private hire and functions.
“The boathouse is in a stunning location overlooking the lake, and we feel it will be perfect for any celebration. It will be available for hire throughout the year and will be a place where people can enjoy traditional afternoon tea with family and friends. And the kiosk next to the children’s play area will sell a range of classic ice cream flavours, as well as confectionery and hot and cold snacks.
“We’re delighted to be coming to Hanley Park, which is a fantastic venue with enormous potential. It is great to see all the refurbishment work that has been taking place getting close to completion and we can’t wait to get started now.”
Anyone interested in job opportunities in the park with Caterleisure Group can complete an online application form at http://www.caterleisure.co.uk/online-application/