A large Grade II* historic building in the heart of the market town of Malton, North Yorkshire, has received a major funding boost for its ongoing transformation to secure its future.

As part of the Government’s Levelling Up programme, the project has received £370,000 from the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, administered by North Yorkshire Council.

It is the largest such grant for a capital project so far awarded from the UK Shared Prosperity Fund in North Yorkshire.

The restoration and re-ordering of the historic building will feature state-of-the-art facilities for community use, complete with a flexible 600-seat auditorium, one of the largest such spaces in Ryedale.

Paul Emberley, trustee and Wesley Centre development lead, said: “It’s an exciting milestone for Malton after many years of work to help realise our vision, particularly for the benefit of the wider community. So far, we’ve secured total investment funding for the scheme of almost £2 million – which is testament to the confidence that major funders have in our overall vision.”

The iconic Malton building had twice been put up for sale over the last century and was at risk again of permanent closure or demolition after the discovery of a significant structural issue with its roof in September 2015.

As well as remaining a place of worship, as it has been continually since 1811, the Wesley Centre promises to be inclusive, serving a diverse range of social needs, as well as being a major centre for the classical arts and for community recreational use.

Detailed planning to redevelop the historic building began in 2016, following consultation with Malton and Norton residents and other stakeholders. This revealed a dearth of spaces for community use in the rapidly expanding towns of Malton and Norton. In recent years, more than 1,200 new homes have been built in the towns, with a further c. 800 additionally planned.

To date, the Methodist Church has been one of the largest donors to the Wesley Centre project, with over £0.5M from its Central, District, Circuit and local Church funds.

Paul Emberley concluded: “Getting the vision right from the outset was key. We believe we’ve struck the right balance between community benefit and financial sustainability.”

The listed buildings advisory committee of the Methodist Church in Great Britain has praised the quality of the scheme and the sensitivity to its heritage, as has its national property development committee – which said it is a model example of how such historic Church property assets can be successfully transformed – whilst ensuring their long-term financial sustainability.

Previous support for the scheme also came from the Government’s Culture Recovery Fund for Heritage, other grant trusts and donor funders. To date, work has been undertaken to restore its roof, a connected office building, as well as the main interior of the large 1811 building.
According to Historic England, the Malton building is of ‘national significance’ and is a rare surviving Methodist Church of its era, being one of 13 designed by the architect William Jenkins who worked with the founder of Methodism, John Wesley. Of the four remaining today, Malton’s building is the oldest.

Kevin Hollinrake MP, member of Parliament for Thirsk and Malton, who has consistently supported the project, said: “The Wesley Centre is an important part of Malton's heritage and sits at the very heart of our community. This funding will help to ensure its future as a vibrant hub for classical music, an array of public functions, and as a vital community resource for future generations. As someone who is always working for a fairer deal for the North, it's projects such as this that are well-deserved beneficiaries of the Government's Levelling Up initiative."

Councillor Carl Les, leader of North Yorkshire Council, said: “The quality of this project and the large grant awarded is a testament to the hardworking volunteers and the professional leadership of the team in Malton. The Wesley Centre has served the people of Malton and Norton for over 200 years, and we believe that the positive impact of the changes now being made will be of significant benefit to an expanding community and for the rural economy as a whole in this part of southern Ryedale.”

Malton’s divisional member for North Yorkshire Council, Councillor Lindsay Burr MBE, said: “I’m tremendously pleased to be able to support this project, the Wesley Centre scheme is inspirational and its impact on this community will be profound for many years to come.”

The extensive works include a new entrance lobby, new facilities for the disabled, a concert and events box office, a community café, and purpose-built facilities for the Malton Free Fridge, which provides free surplus food to more than 30,000 people a year from the Wesley Centre, supported by volunteers.

The fourth and final phase of the Wesley Centre project is expected to start in the autumn, with a new three-storey accessible annex at the rear of the building. It will contain new meeting spaces, many more WC facilities, as well as a large professional events kitchen for banqueting and other catering.

The whole project is expected to be completed and the building re-opened to the public in late spring, 2024.