On Friday 3rd September 2021, we welcomed back our previous CEO, Liz Bates to The Old King’s Head. Liz has not seen the project that she started over 5 years ago since she left the Trust in May 2019. It has been two years since she has stepped on site and so we couldn’t resist filming her reaction as well as getting her thoughts on the project.
How did you start this project for Heritage Lincolnshire?
We were approached by the owners, via Boston Borough Council, who asked for advice on the urgent repairs that were needed to the building. Eventually it became clear that the cost of repairs far exceeded the value of the property overall. We began to look at whether Heritage Lincolnshire might be able to offer a solution.
How supportive were the local community to Heritage Lincolnshire purchasing the building and restoring it?
This building has been part of the village of Kirton for hundreds of years and as a pub it had been the focal point of social gatherings and family celebrations for generations. As a result there was a huge amount of support for bringing the building back into a good state of repair and giving it a use that would give the community access to it again. Local people also showed their support in terms of donations, volunteering, providing letters of support and voting for the project in the local Co-op.
The project has been over 5 years in the making, how does it feel to walk into it knowing you were one of the main reasons it was saved?
I’m massively proud to have worked for a charity that feels so strongly about safeguarding heritage and bringing special buildings like this back into use for the benefit of local people. The commitment to this charitable purpose, and an impressive track record of delivery meant that the trustees were able to take a calculated risk in purchasing a derelict building at a time when everyone else had written it off. It has been a real team effort to deliver this project – the trustees, Heritage Lincolnshire staff, the funders and local partners, the professional team and contractors and of course, local people. Having played a part in that means that I can sit in the café at the Old King’s Head with a big silly grin on my face for many years to come!
You haven’t seen the project in nearly two years, what were your first impressions of it when you visited recently?
I must admit that was quite an emotional visit! The last time I saw it was when the repair works had just begun and there was a sense of excitement that this building, which really was on its last legs, was finally being rescued. Coming back to see the complete transformation was just amazing. It was just as I had envisioned, but also 10 times better due to the care and attention given over the last couple of years. I just can’t wait to see it full of people now.
You now work for the National Lottery Heritage Fund, who are one of our main funders for the project, what advise would you give to anyone looking to get involved in a project like this?
I would say if you have an idea for a heritage project of any kind that you feel passionate about, that is definitely worth pursuing. The most important thing is to find out if other people care about it too and make sure you get the support, advice and commitment you need from others before you set off. Think your plans through carefully and make sure you’re aware of any potential pitfalls. As I said above, it takes a team to deliver these projects, and it’s not always plain sailing, but it’s so very worth it in the end…. And P.S. don’t forget to keep playing the Lottery so that we can support more of these projects in the future!
We even got Liz to recreate the photograph when the Trust had just received the key in 2016!