Owner fights to breathe new life into historic King’s Lynn building

Veronica Sekules owner of the Winlove Building on Purfleet Street in King's Lynn. Picture: Matthew U

Veronica Sekules owner of the Winlove Building on Purfleet Street in King's Lynn. Picture: Matthew Usher.

They stand just metres apart, at the heart of King's Lynn's historic quarter.

17 Purfleet Street also known as the Winlove building, King's Lynn. Picture: EDP Library

17 Purfleet Street also known as the Winlove building, King's Lynn. Picture: EDP Library - Credit: Archant

One, the Custom House, is known for its splendour and was described by architecture writer Nikolaus Pevsner as 'one of the most perfect buildings ever built'.

The other is a derelict eyesore, decidedly down at heel.

Now art historian Veronica Sekules is seeking to breathe new life into the 1930s workshop, Number 17 Purfleet Street, by transforming it into a thriving gallery and meeting place.

But her project to do so has led to a lengthy planning process, complicated by the building's proximity to the Custom House, built in 1683.

Photos from photographer Matthew Usher's landscape exhibition at the King's Lynn Arts Centre - Lynn

Photos from photographer Matthew Usher's landscape exhibition at the King's Lynn Arts Centre - Lynn Custom House in the snow. Picture: Matthew Usher.

Dr Sekules, head of education and research at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts in Norwich, bought the 1937 property two years ago, when it already had planning permission for a renovation scheme.

She wanted to vary this, but her application was turned down, after Historic England, formerly English Heritage, expressed concerns about a flat-roof extension, which they considered would not be fitting in such a heritage area.

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She later submitted a 'compromised' pitch roofed design which was approved earlier this year, but is now keen to try to get her original vision accepted. An inspector is expected to make a decision in the coming months.

'The original flat roof design was intended to harmonise with the Custom House without being a pastiche of it,' she said.

Dr Sekules said she wanted the property to become a showcase for contemporary art, featuring both international and local artists.

'I really feel we can do something for the town to give some vibrancy and life to that area and something of very high quality as well,' she said. 'I want to make it a social place where people can talk about art.'

In 2014, Norfolk County Council submitted a planning application to build a three-storey building housing a retail unit on the ground floor, with four flats above at the adjacent land – 18-19 Purfleet Street. That application is currently subject to appeal.

Have you submitted a planning application in a bid to transform a tired building? Email sophie.biddle@archant.co.uk