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Wednesday, 30 July 2014

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Carlisle's former Central Methodist Hall sold at auction for £116,000

Carlisle's disused former Methodist Central Hall has been sold at auction for £116,000.

Carlisle hall photo
The former Methodist Central Hall

But it is not clear what the new owner intends to do with the grade II-listed building in Fisher Street, which closed as a place of worship in 2005 when it was declared redundant by the Methodists.

Carlisle City Council identified the hall as suitable for conversion to a theatre/ arts centre but dropped the idea earlier this year in favour of developing the former fire station in nearby Warwick Street instead.

The Methodist Central Hall went under the hammer at Carlisle Racecourse last week. Auctioneer Colin West, of Auction House Cumbria, said: “There were two or three parties bidding. It went to a local buyer but I’ve no idea what they’re going to do with it.

“The listing limits what can be done and that is reflected in the price.

“With properties of this type, the money that has to be spent on renovations and refurbishment works is always in excess of the purchase price.”

The listing is likely to rule out any subdivision of the main auditorium, which can seat 400 in the stalls and gallery and could, Auction House Cumbria says, potentially accommodate 550 people.

The Civic Trust prepared a report in 2011 into possible uses – it was this that alerted the council to the possibility of conversion to a theatre and arts centre.

The report says: “The building is in generally good condition and all parts are kept accessible and usable.

“Arts and performance uses could be suitable.

“The location would help in creating an accessible drop-in feel to the place.”

The report also says the auditorium could become a large retail space, perhaps a furniture, antique or book store. Other uses considered included a cinema, bar, restaurant, offices, a nursery, dance studio or gym, a creche, library, museum, court, training centre, conversion to private homes, or casino.

Mr West said: “If it wasn’t for the grade II-listing there would be huge development potential.

“As it is, the main hall lends itself to some sort of arts or entertainment use.”

Since its closure as a church, the hall has hosted occasional concerts and theatrical performances.

The price achieved was in line with expectations.

Auction House Cumbria had predicted that it would fetch between £100,000 and £150,000.

The premises extend from Fisher Street to Market Street and comprise the auditorium with balcony and ornate ceiling, meeting rooms, a school room, kitchen and a three-bedroomed caretaker’s flat.

Inside the basement there is even a Roman well.

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