A Victorian railway station with a huge toilet which was a “gateway to the seaside” for working class tourists will be restored and converted into art studios in an ambitious £550,000 project.
The crumbling yellow brick Excursion Station in Scarborough, which had the biggest platform bench in the world when it was built in the 1880s, has won a £190,000 grant from English Heritage, allowing Scarborough Studios, Network Rail, the Arts Council and the Railway Heritage Trust to begin the six-month development in the spring.
"Giving the building a viable new use is the best way to protect it in the future,” said Giles Proctor, the Historic Buildings Architect for English Heritage.
“Mass tourism was key to Scarborough's prosperity and the Excursion Station was built at the start of a social revolution when ordinary working people began to get more leisure time.”
The station was designed to cater for working-class daytrippers to the North Yorkshire town, with a third of the building occupied by a men’s toilet in an era when trains were made without onboard toilets.
It went on to be used as a parcel store, garage and tile showroom, but badly leaking roofs and rotting timbers have put the Grade II-listed site at risk.
"We plan to stage a public consultation event in the New Year so people can see how the building's interior could look,” said Jo Davis, who will be part of the Studios team overseeing the development.
“Externally it won't alter very much as we want to retain its unique period character. This kind of visual arts venue is something which the East Coast has been crying out for.
“We want it to be a hub for developing a visual arts cluster, while offering a dynamic environment and high quality studio space for professional artists."
The intact cast iron and glass canopy at the station persuaded Scarborough Council to list it on the local Buildings at Risk register. Arts Council England has also provided £80,500 in funding.
Images: Tony Bartholomew