We had a number of excellent questions put to us at the presentation on Protecting, Conserving and Enhancing Skinners' Hall on the 6th November 2018. The questions and answers are outlined here in our FAQs. This is a living document; we intend to update it as more questions are asked in order to give you the most complete picture we can on the status of the project.
The Lord Lisvane KCB DL
The superficial appearance may be reassuring, but it is good practice to have a thorough look at the demands on any building – especially one of historic importance – and to see whether it meets those demands. That is certainly not something that we have done for many years, and arguably has never been done thoroughly. Instead we have inherited a wonderful building that has been adapted piecemeal through the centuries according to the immediate needs of the time. If this is not looked at comprehensively, there is a real risk that we fail to care for – even do damage to – our Grade 1 listed building, which has the added distinction of being a scheduled national monument. Yet it is not a museum, but a living working building and it deserves a look at whether it fulﬁls its role properly.
It is also much more expensive to deal with problems only as they emerge, rather than in a coherent planned way. Utilities such as lighting, heating and drainage, as well as IT, are all in need of replacement and should be put on a more sustainable and modern cost-saving basis. Access needs improvement in the light of current disability legislation.
There are several answers to this. The ﬁrst is that it is a false economy to save money on a building that is in need of modernising to meet the needs of the modern world, and that it can be very expensive to defer the problem. Tom Emerson of 6a architects has advised, and his advice is supported by Company members who are architects, of how expensive failure to plan thoroughly can be, causing changed plans and delayed schedules. Make do and mend is a costly way of going about things.
More than the economic argument though, the Hall is a national treasure and the spiritual heart of the Company. It engenders huge loyalty and affection. It is a hub and a real focal point in an increasingly digital world. Without it, you might ask what is the point of being a Skinner, when you can just give to charity and socialise in many different ways. If we are to prosper in the future as a Company by encouraging in new generations of active Skinners, we should pass on the Hall in a better state than we were given it. By doing that we can continue to foster the enormous loyalty to the Company that many of us feel today.
Second, David Beale gave his enormously generous legacy to the Company and not to its charities. It is reasonable to suppose that he wanted the Company to prosper and that it is in the spirit of his legacy that we should put our own assets on a sound basis - after all, unless we are a strong, thriving Company we won’t be able to administer Company charities properly.
Third, and most important, we should strive to make the Hall self ﬁnancing. We need to look at ways of insisting that it washes its face by generating income in future. At present we have tenants at number 9. We will look at whether we can build in valuable space for ofﬁces or entertainment which can take this principle further.
The ﬁrst stage is to review what we have at the Hall, and then to decide on the extent of the project. We are in the early stages of that work and will keep you updated. Cost will clearly be a factor in deciding the brief. One great benefit to the Company of this part of the process will be the invaluable results of research into the Hall, how it has developed and how it has been used over the centuries.
This depends entirely on what needs to be done. Major works would make parts of the Hall difficult or impossible to use, and we need robust plans to ensure that the life of the Company continued with minimal disruption.
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