Community pride in Penrith’s Two Lions …

Date: Friday 15th September 2017
Penrith’s deputy mayor, David Whipp, outside the Two Lions, the future of which is to be the subject of a public meeting next week.
Penrith’s deputy mayor, David Whipp, outside the Two Lions, the future of which is to be the subject of a public meeting next week.

A PUBLIC meeting is to be held on Tuesday to discuss the future of one of Penrith’s oldest buildings, the Grade II* listed former Two Lions public house.

The meeting has been called by a community group set up to safeguard the future of the building. It is interested in recruiting further members and gauging public opinion as to what that future could be.

The group ultimately hopes to take over the lease of the 16th Century building from Sainsbury’s so that it can ensure its long-term future and protect its important historic features, including a heraldic ceiling bearing the crests of members of the Lowther family dating back generations.

Carol Grey, economic development officer at Penrith Town Council — several members of whom have been instrumental in bringing the community group together — said: “It’s condition is sound, but people should be able to see it.”

Penrith’s deputy mayor, David Whipp, added: “It has not deteriorated, as far as we know, but the building will become a liability, not an asset, if nothing is done with it.”

Mr. Whipp said that Sainsbury’s had spent £250,000 in the past five years on making the building weather-tight in order to protect the historic features.

“It’s survived until today and it deserves to survive longer,” he said. “There are only four other buildings in Penrith that survive from that time. The others are Dockray Hall, the castle and Tynefield House. Everything around them would have been fields.”

Members of the group, which already includes town and county councillors, a history professor and Friends of Penrith Museum, have deliberately not put forward suggestions as to the future use of the building, as they would like to hear ideas from the community. They have suggested there could also be a social history project to run alongside any fund-raising campaign for a community use of the Two Lions, charting its history to the present day.

Mr. Whipp said the scale of work still needed inside the building would mean that the group would be looking to funding bodies such as the National Lottery to take any ideas forward, which would mean that any future use would need to be “self-sustaining” —or in other words generate an income.

Lottery bids must also be supported by 10 per cent. of local fund-raising, he added. However, other than this, there are no stipulations as to how the building might be used.

A spokesman for Sainsbury’s confirmed that the company was aware that a community group had been set up to look at the future use of the Two Lions and invited it to submit any of its proposals to the estates team.

The company has been marketing the building, which it holds on a lease from Eden Council as part of the New Squares shopping development, and is also in discussions with other parties, however. “We are in discussions with a number of business about the Two Lions pub, so we can try and bring it back into use,” added the spokesman.

The former Two Lions and integral stables have been registered as a listed building since 1951, with Grade II* protection. Parts of the building are known to date back to the 1500s.

l Tuesday’s meeting is being held at 3-30pm in the parish rooms.