A site for cold hands

As far as we can determine, the original site was part of the Wilton Royal Carpet Factory, whose walls still border the centre, and later on it became the site of a very expensive gloves manufacturing factory. Apparently, the owner did so well, that he had the big Georgian house built more or less opposite, which is now called
Wilton Place and is a private residence.

After that came the school as in the photo below.

Old School Building 1907

Transcript of this photo:  WILTON NATIONAL SCHOOL in 1907. Situated in West Street, the school was built in 1842 to accommodate a maximum of 420 children. Residences for the master and mistress were also included (now a Vets Surgery, offices and flats). The building was sold by Wilton House Estate in 1976 for £13,000 to the newly formed Trustees and financed by the Mayor of Wilton’s Appeal, it was converted to a community centre in 1977.

This is the oldest picture we have of the building which is pretty much as it is today, less the central bell tower which was removed for safety – or perhaps prudence.
It would great to ring the bell when the classes were about to start! The bell stills remains in Wilton, but we declined to keep it on display for security reasons.

The arch was also taken down but the gateway still remains. The present curved wall was supposedly built in 1850’s as a viewing area to admire the splendid new Italianate Church built opposite by the Pembroke Family, but serves as a good entrance to todays community centre. Now sporting a 5mph sign – about the same speed as the horses that used to use it.

Previously, there been a Wilton Museum at the Wilton Royal Carpet Factory, which was closed due to health and safety issues, but a local historian, took and stored all the display boards in his house. In 2011 he asked us if we would display all these history boards of Wilton, and the Centre was delighted to be asked and said yes. They are now on display throughout the hallways and Room 2 and available to look at whenever the Centre is open and Room 2 is not being used. A fascinating pictorial diary of times gone by in Wilton.

Several of our older users and lots of visitors remember coming to school here.

It has now been secured for future generations by vesting by the custodian of the Charity Commissioners, which means it will continue for community use, whatever happens to the Trustees.

The Centre today
The Centre today

Building and Renovation Work

in 2009, The Trustees began a survey of the dilapidated building, which had not been touched for about 25 years, and started making a “wish list” of improvements and panning a campaign of fundraising. The list amounted to around £70,000, but slowly increased to well over £100k. Funding was slow and spasmodic, but thanks to
Gary Nunn, a new Trustee, we managed to raise about £20,00 from local sources and grants to get the work started and employ a Project Manager. Then, as if by magic, a local man, Geoffrey Taylor, left the Centre a generous legacy, which enabled us to look at the repairs in a different way, with not just papering over the cracks, but securing the building for the next generations of users and Trustees.

The interior was first to be tackled and easier than the outside so work began there.

It was most comprehensive makeover and during a two year period 2009 – 2011 the Centre was completely transformed.

Interior improvements

  • New eco boiler and heating system
  • Ceilings lowered, insulated and low energy light installed
  • Much of the electrical wiring was replaced
  • Upgrades to meet fire, health and safety regulations of public buildings
  • All the floors, repaired, sanded and sealed
  • Installation of kitchenette in Room 2
  • Redesigned kitchen
  • Complete re-decoration throughout

Exterior improvements

The major contribution was, after much research, to install photovoltaic panels on the south facing roof. 36 panels were installed, at a cost of around £20,000 becoming the first public building in Wiltshire to have achieved this. It was estimated that the Feed in Tariff return would take us about 25 years to repay the costs, but in fact the returns have been so advantageous, that we will have paid off the amount in about six years time. After that the income will continue to come to the Centre.

The 36 solar photovoltaic panels installed on the roof of the community centre in October 2010
The 36 solar photovoltaic panels installed on the roof of the community centre in October 2010

As we had to install the panels from scaffolding, we decided to completely renew the roof at the same time so this was done. After the roof and the solar panels were installed, the outside had a complete redecoration as well.

Then came to the two entrances. Making them access friendly and up to standard, with ramps and hand rails.

The last project was to fix the toilet block which was pretty dire. So, the block was gutted and a new eco suite of ladies and gents toilets were installed at enormous costs, but changed the Centre forever. Each one has low level flush, new tiling, automatic lighting and water supplies and efficient and well beyond the regulations.

Then the Centre was reopened by our MP John Glen, and due to its bright, clean, green rooms, it is now full of happy users.

The work continues

Of course the work continues and The Trustees are always monitoring the Centre for repairs and renewals. Right up to date, the Centre has just been closed for two weeks while Room 1 was redecorated and a re-fitted kitchenette installed and another new kitchenette fitted between Room 3 and 4. new eco lighting was fitted in the hallway and several repairs were made.

The Trustees have regular monthly meetings, and our Property Manager and House Manager keep a running list of repairs needed and completed and the Centre is well maintained. Any problems are soon identified and rectified and the Trustees have set aside a budget for repairs and renovation.

In May 2017, the Trustees commissioned a building survey, which only highlighted cosmetic repairs, and no major concerns, which is encouraging for future generations.

Gary Nunn June 2017