Shooters Hill’s Grade II listed Shrewsbury House appears to be under threat this week after a mysterious letter went out to affiliated community groups calling an Emergency General Meeting for tomorrow, August 10th.
The current Shrewsbury House was built in 1923 and replaced an earlier building from 1789. English Heritage suspect many of the features of the new house were transferred from the old.
After coming under Woolwich Borough control in 1934 it became a library in 1938 before being used as an Air Raid Precautions (ARP) Control Centre during World War II. After the war it also housed Woolwich Borough’s mobile library.
After the merger of Woolwich and Greenwich Boroughs Shrewsbury House became a community centre in the late 1960s, surviving through funding cuts then the closure of the library and other council services in 1990, before becoming a registered trust and charity. However, under the terms of the original sale, Greenwich Council is still obliged to maintain and insure the building.
What is this emergency meeting about?
The accounts for 2016-17 are projected to show a loss of around £18,000 and, with bookings down again for 2017-18, the Trust’s ability to continue as a going concern is under threat.
Under Charity Commission rules there must be sufficient reserves to enable continued trading for three months. Alongside the £15,000 already set aside for redundancies and a large bill for internal electrical work, that figure could be breached at any time.
The Charities Commission reveals the state of play:-
Although Shrewsbury House has suffered a number of financial difficulties in the past, this looks to be on a different scale with no resolution in sight. After the last loss in 2015 the Shrewsbury House Community Association Trust lost most of its Trustees and all of its Directors until Councillor Don Austen (Labour – Glyndon) stepped in.
Why can’t Greenwich Council help?
The Council currently funds Shrewsbury House, along with other local community centres, through a dedicated £477,000 grant.
|Abbey Wood Community Centre||£40,500||1900||£0.41|
|Clockhouse Community Cenre||£27,000||850||£0.61|
|The Forum @ Greenwich||£36,000||420||£1.65|
|Glyndon Community Group (4 centres)||£81,000||3405||£0.46|
|West Greenwich Community Group (3 centres)||£45,000||2830||£0.31|
|Middle Park Community Centre||£54,000||1922||£0.54|
|Mycenae House Community Centre||£22,500||4250||£0.10|
|New Charlton Community Centre||£31,500||490||£1.24|
|St. Mary’s Community Complex||£67,500||2538||£0.51|
|Woolwich Common Community Centre||£49,500||1100||£0.87|
Source: Regeneration, Transport & Culture Scrutiny Panel – July 12th, 2017 and RBG spending data
While Shrewsbury House’s £22,500 grant is equal to Mycenae House in SE3’s Westcombe Park, it’s also the lowest in the borough. New Charlton Community Centre and The Forum at Greenwich both receive far more in funding, for far fewer visitors.
External funding is very difficult outside of rental and event income – however, the Council is currently consulting on changing lease arrangements to make this easier as part of its Voluntary & Community Support (VCS) Strategy.
What happens next?
The Council is keen for Shrewsbury House to continue in its present form but, at present, isn’t prepared to offer any additional financial support. Given the financial circumstances, the lack of trustees and Don Austen’s resignation tomorrow, in all likelihood the Trust will decide to wind up. This means Shrewsbury House will close at the end of the month.
There’s still a chance of changing things though. With some local expertise and support, and despite the location on the hill, this hidden gem could become as popular as Mycenae House.
Do you have events management, marketing or business skills and some time to spare? Do you have a local group or society who could use the facilities?
Get along to the meeting at Bushmoor Cresent, SE18 3EG for 1930 tomorrow and offer your services and support.
Revamp Shrewsbury House and turn it into a wedding venue.
They’ve been using it as a wedding venue for a couple of years now.
Very restrictive licences, in part due to a few disgruntled residents complaining about noise and parking, have caused problems with sustaining income from these popular community events. What happens if it closes? A derelict locked up historic house for sale and conversion – with lots of building work and perhaps very noisy neighbours to boot
Some very good points there, Former Trustee. Transport is always going to be an issue around there but there are a few simple things the council could be pushing for, including moving the bus stops closer. The routes are currently under review anyway.
Are there any covenants in place regarding the sale of the house? I know there some relating to what it can be used for and what the council has to provide for upkeep, etc.
A ‘few disgruntled residents’ are those who actually live very close to Shrewsbury house and must put up with the nuisance of loud noise, which has been an issue this summer especially.
Holding more and more parties for the sake of saving the community centre is a knee jerk reaction.
Instead of making the house a source of irritation to the neighbours, how about raising the prices for day activities and hold more community led activities – yoga, knitting, sewing.
They’ve been left in a difficult position without a permanent license for the bar, then trying to raise money through big events and temporary licenses. One part of the solution that would suit everybody, including local residents, is probably getting that reviewed so it can open more often. There’s money to be made from the regular visitors which wouldn’t create noise for everybody else. It works for Mycenae House.
What was the outcome of the meeting?
The house has a reprieve for the moment with RBG stepping in to pay the costs of the emergency electrical work and also appointing new trustees. I’ll be writing something up with more details and a few interesting snippets that came out during the meeting.
Finding Trustees who are willing to contribute and able to put the time in is absolutely essential here. It really isn’t an easy role but if enough energetic people can be found hopefully they can turn this situation around. The Council also has to be brave enough to allow the appointment of people who don’t always agree with them.
Our beautiful Shooters hill is attracting many young families to the area, if Shrewsbury house could encourage more pre school activities to hire rooms , I’m sure it would help . Under one roof in Woolwich is flourishing catering for this market. Examples……Soft play…..Bopping bunnies……Baby yoga….Baby reflexology…..Family choir. I would love a choir to go to. There are many very talented people who would love to run an activity , but need a bit of help in marketing their enterprises, could the council help them perhaps?
To directly answer the question posed by this article – no. Luck hasn’t run out. As a member of the new Board of Trustees I can report that we have done a lot of work in a very short time and can now say with some certainty that, for the immedaite future at least, we are secure.
Nothing spreads faster than bad news and Shrewsbury House has suffered from a false impression that all is doom and disaster and the House is about to close. There have even been rumours of it being sold to a property developer.
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