'Delight' as plans approved to reopen iconic Grade II-listed pub in Northampton

The main refurbishment work is set to start next year

Friday, 26th November 2021, 8:40 am

An iconic former pub in Northampton has been granted planning permission to reopen - with refurbishing work set to start next year.

West Northamptonshire Council (WNC) has approved plans to allow the Churches Conservation Trust (CCT) to reopen the Grade II-listed Old Black Lion, which is next door to St Peter's Church, as a 'community-based pub'.

Peter Aiers, chief executive of the CCT, said: “It is such a relief. We are really grateful for WNC’s ongoing support for this innovative project.

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Old Black Lion is set to reopen

"I am really excited that we can now realise the vision to bring the Old Black Lion back into commercial use, whilst helping to sustain one of the most important Norman Churches in the country, St Peter’s."

The plans propose the regeneration of the building, with restored bar spaces for eating and drinking, and a new dining room overlooking the courtyard beer garden.

The historic carriage passage from Marefair into the Old Black Lion’s courtyard will be reinstated and the pub – which dates to at least the 16th century – repaired to the highest conservation standards.

A new path and gate will connect the pub’s courtyard entrance on St Peter’s Street to St Peter’s churchyard next door.

The main building contract for the refurbishment work will begin in 2022.

Chair of The Friends of St Peter’s Mrs Jean Hawkins, added: "We just can’t wait to have the Old Black Lion up and running again. It will simply revolutionise the sort of things we can do at the church.

"All events will be so much easier to fix up with toilets and refreshments next door once again. It will bring new possibilities to St Peter’s. Having a pathway into the churchyard linking church and pub will bring daily life back to this potentially pleasant part of Marefair.

"Friends volunteers will have creature comforts - no more running to the railway station for a toilet. The whole visitor scene is going to be so attractive.

"The design features of the project will make the pub a delight. It's going to get back its own character and fascinating history. It will be a proper part of the Heritage Gateway to the Town.

"We really have missed the Old Black Lion so much."

The pub is owned by WNC, which will lease it to the CCT. The trust is managing the project and has been awarded £1.8m from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

CCT is currently in the process of selecting a hospitality operator to run the pub, with a portion of the profits going to repairing and conserving the neighbouring 12th-century St Peter’s Church, which the trust has cared for since 1998.

The wider regeneration goals of the project – which include new landscaping in the churchyard, biodiversity initiatives, community activities, and creating new jobs in the pub – have attracted funding from WNC, via the HM Treasury’s Towns Fund, and the Architectural Heritage Fund.

The site forms part of the Heritage Gateway initiative, which seeks to improve the approach to the town from the railway station.

The Old Black Lion closed in 2018. Its heyday was in the second half of the 19th century when, under the custodianship of the Roddis family of landlords, it provided lavish dinners for Northampton societies, clubs and businesses as well as stabling for horses.

Find out more here or join the Friends of St Peter’s Church to support the care of the church building and churchyard.