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Hathersage Business Centre, Derbyshire

PUBLISHED: 11:43 19 November 2010 | UPDATED: 16:51 20 February 2013

Frances Wells of Frances Wells & associates in her business unit in the Orchard House

Frances Wells of Frances Wells & associates in her business unit in the Orchard House

Mike Smith visits Michael Shuttleworth, the Hathersage entrepreneur keen to bring business back to the rural community

During the last century, commentators were forever predicting the demise of the English village. With traditional rural occupations in rapid decline and young villagers leaving in droves to find education, jobs and affordable housing in the cities, the future certainly looked bleak. However, as the century progressed, it became clear that news of the death of the village had been greatly exaggerated. With the advent of universal car ownership, village houses became attractive to commuters and retirees, who set about restoring their cottages with loving care. As a result, most villages are in better physical shape now than they have ever been.

On the other hand, it cannot be denied that many rural settlements are dying as working villages. While incomers have helped to re-energise their adopted communities by reviving traditional customs and becoming involved in local societies, most do not work in their place of residence they either have employment elsewhere or do not work at all and there are precious few local jobs for the indigenous population.

Situated in the beautiful Hope Valley and located just 11 miles from Sheffield, Hathersage is an obvious example of a village that has become a magnet for retirees and commuters, but it is also leading the way in demonstrating that villages can be re-born as working communities. In 1989, David Mellor showed that a cutlery factory could be built on the edge of Hathersage without destroying the beauty of the area. More recently, a suite of business units has been constructed on the site of a disused goods yard. Both these developments are new-builds, but Michael Shuttleworth is about tobring many more jobs to the village by putting buildings that have been in his familys hands for many generations to new use.

The Shuttleworths, whose ancestral home is Gawthorpe Hall in Lancashire, acquired land in the Peak District when William Shuttleworth married Christiana Spencer of Hathersage Hall in the eighteenth century. The present hall, which stands in front of remaining portions of the original fifteenth-century house, was rebuilt in 1820 as a mansion with an impressive classical faade. Two decades later, its adjacent farm buildings were re-modelled as domestic outbuildings, comprising coach house, stables, hay barn and dovecote, all set around a large courtyard.

In the early twentieth century, the buildings were returned to agricultural use, primarily for dairy farming and stock-rearing. However, most of them were far too grand for a small farm and they fell into a ruinous state. The Shuttleworths vacated Hathersage Hall in the 1930s and moved into Nether Hall, which they had built at the other end of the village in 1840, but they retained the farm buildings. For the past 25 years, Michael Shuttleworth has been trying to convince planners that these wonderful old buildings could be restored and used to bring high-wage jobs to Hathersage. His persistence has finally paid off and his vision is about to become a reality.

After serving in the Royal Marines and as a pilot in the Fleet Air Arm, Michael worked in marketing for the De Beers diamond company. He is now putting all his considerable energy into Hathersage Hall Business Centre, which is the reincarnation of Hathersage Halls Grade II-listed outbuildings as spaces for knowledge-based businesses. The centre comprises six carefully-restored original buildings and two new-builds, set around a huge walled courtyard at the interface between the village of Hathersage and the great swathe of moorland where Charlotte Bront found inspiration for Jane Eyre during visits to her friend Ellen Nussey, who lived at Hathersages vicarage.

With the exception of a red-brick former dovecote, which must have been one of the most stately homes for doves in the country, all the original buildings are characterized by dignified stone faades and arched windows, one of which features on the business parks logo. Michael describes their sensitive conversion as a showcase for what can be done with historic redundant buildings. The two new-builds comprise a glass house, set against the perimeter wall of the courtyard, and the Orchard House, which is a pastiche of a stone barn and is half-sunken in sloping ground, in order to preserve the view from the village to the moors. Alongside, there is a fruit orchard that will be run by the village allotment society.

Michael and his architect David Ettridge took me on a tour of the 3.5 million development. After pointing out some of the magnificent roof timbers that have been dried out and re-used, they showed me a range of horse feeders, which have been retained as a feature in the former stables, and a plethora of carefully-restored mullions, window-surrounds and quoins. Modern interventions, such as plain-glass window and door inserts, internal glass-lifts and spiral staircases have been introduced with due deference to the old buildings. All the computer cables are completely hidden and the under-floor heating is powered by air-source heat pumps.

By sub-dividing some of the larger buildings, Michael has been able to provide 13 business units in all. He says: Im hoping to encourage business growth in the area and help Hathersage evolve from a dormitory village into a more balanced and sustainable community.

With high-speed fibre-optic broadband connectivity in all the units, Im expecting to attract a broad skill base. Legal, architectural, design, digital, finance and marketing companies could all operate in this environment and the smaller spaces will be ideal incubator units for new businesses.

At the time of my visit, two businesses had already moved into the centre, which had just been opened by the Duke of Devonshire. One tenant, architect Helen Ibbotson, was on a business trip to China, but Michaels second tenant, Frances Wells, was pleased to show me her split-level space in the Orchard House. Frances, who worked on the Earth Centre Project in Doncaster for seven years, set up her own consultancy in 2000, in order to help organisations to think more smartly about sustainability, with regard to people, finances and the environment. She is delighted with her new location, where she will be able to find peace and quiet, as well as social interaction with other business people in the centre.

Frances desk is located by a picture window that looked out onto a snowy winter wonderland on the day of my visit, but will frame a view of Englands green and pleasant land in the summer months. Pointing to a large meeting room below her office, she said, I plan to host away-days for clients, when they will be able to clear their minds and think strategically in a calm rural environment. These events will also bring extra business for local taxi firms, shops, caterers, publicans and hoteliers, thereby helping Hathersage to thrive as a living and working English village.

For further information, visit Hathersage Hall Business Centre at www.hathersagebusiness.co.uk (or ring Michael Shuttleworth on 01433 651098); Ettridge Architecture on www.ettridge.net (01652 631545); Frances Wells & Associates at www.fwaconsulting.com (01433 440510)

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