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Letter: Community Has a New Chance to Save West Lodge

Published on: 10 Feb, 2021
Updated on: 10 Feb, 2021

West Lodge, ChilworthFrom: Gavin Morgan

Founder of Guildford Heritage Forum

There is new hope for the historic West Lodge at the entrance to the Chilworth Gunpowder Mills, a scheduled Monument. Guildford Borough Council’s planning committee has approved an application from St Martha Parish Council to change its use from residential to community. The search for  a useful and secure future can now begin

The previous council had been trying to sell West Lodge, a move that could have led to its demolition. St Martha Parish Council tried to step in but it was impossible to agree on terms that were financially acceptable to both parties.

Since 2019, however, things have changed. Cllr John Redpath (R4GV) who took over the heritage portfolio in December has tried a different approach. With his experience of setting up the Spike Heritage Centre at St Luke’s he has offered the local community the chance to find a solution without insisting on burdensome conditions. It is significant that this council, faced with the biggest financial dilemma in a generation does not feel it must insist on profiting from the deal.

But this is also the start of a long journey for St Martha Parish Council, Chilworth2Gether and the Surrey Industrial History Group who have championed West Lodge over the years. They may no longer see a wrecking ball hanging over West Lodge but the clock is ticking and some kind of solution must be found.

There are hopes that West Lodge can be turned into an education centre exploring the history of the site and the environmental features in the woodland walk. There is a lot of potential.

West Lodge is a significant feature of the Chilworth Gunpowder Mills woodland walk. Standing at the entrance it could welcome visitors and help them orientate themselves.

The woodland walk contains an intriguing and yet confusing set of ruins so it needs interpretation. West Lodge is the place where workers clocked in and handed over items that were a fire risk in return for tokens now at Guildford Museum. So it is a very relatable place with a story to tell.

My hope is that people with experience and creativity will come forward and will be able to work together to give West Lodge the future in the community.

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