4:22pm Friday 1st November 2013
By Ashley Barnard
A HISTORIC building that has been used as council offices since 1956 has held its last full council meeting.
Richmondshire District Council bade farewell to Swale House last week ahead of a move to its new base at the former Richmond Lower School in Station Road – now called Mercury House.
It is hoped the old offices will be snapped up by a developer to maintain its future – especially in light of its rich history.
Council director Tony Clark looked back at a booklet he wrote in 1979, called A Study into the Past, Present and Future of the Council Offices, Swale House, Richmond, and said the building had previously been used as a family home when it was built in around 1750, then grammar school accommodation and a wartime hospital.
He said: “On the outbreak of war in 1914, with the startling amount of casualties entering Britain, many large houses were commandeered or given up by their owners for use as convalescent homes or hospitals.
“In October 1914, Frenchgate House, close to Swale House, was taken over by a local branch of the British Red Cross – and it is thought that Swale House accommodated officers while Frenchgate House looked after other ranks.”
Swale House also housed a number of Belgian refugees before they were moved into agricultural occupations.
And during the 1800s it was lived in by the headmaster of the nearby grammar school, while it also acted as boarding accommodation for students.
At the last full council meeting in the building, council chairman Coun Rob Johnson said: “This was a momentous occasion for the council – the chamber in Swale House has been the scene of many an impassioned debate and many an important decision.
“But it is time to move on – the new offices will bring the council together under one roof and offer significantly better services for our local residents and businesses whilst providing working conditions for our officers that are fit for the 21st century.
“It is a very exciting time for everybody.”
The offices at Swale House, Frenchgate, Dundas Street and Friars Wynd will all close as a result of the move.
The district council will shut down from 5.15pm on Thursday, November 21 and re-open at 8.45am on Tuesday, November 26 in Mercury House. Emergency calls will be handled over the closure period by calling 01748-829100.
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