East Sussex County Council was granted permission to start work on the historic Southover Grange in Lewes, breathing new life into disused rooms while protecting the unique history of the building.
The county council took possession of the building following a land swap with Lewes District Council. It plans to create a range of ceremony and community spaces and update and improve accessibility to the registration offices.
“Southover Grange is a beautiful building in a stunning location and is a perfect venue for weddings, civil partnerships, naming ceremonies and all manner of celebrations,” said Cllr Chris Dowling, the county council’s lead member for communities.
“The project is a sensitive one and we are determined to retain the charm and history of the building, restoring the oak panelling and ornate moulded plaster ceiling and opening up existing fireplaces on the ground floor.
“This is a unique opportunity for us to safeguard the manor house for future generations, make the most of its historic features and ensure that the entire building remains open for the public to enjoy.”
The plans include bringing the three grand ground floor rooms and central hall into use as wedding function facilities, improving and refurbishing the first floor registration facilities and installing a new lift and staircase to make access to the first floor easier.
A former flat within the building will be bought back into use as a VIP suite for wedding ceremonies and facilities including a kitchen and toilets will be refurbished.
The major renovation project will also create community space in the Newton Room which will be available to rent by local groups and the wider public.
The Sussex Guild, a local partnership of artists and craftsmen, will continue to occupy part of the ground floor of Southover Grange and the café will continue in its current location.
Cllr Dowling added: “This is a significant project for the county council and an important one for the local community. Work has now started and we hope to able to reopen in spring next year.
“We are sorry for any inconvenience that will be caused by the continuing closure of much of Southover Grange, but I am confident that the end result will be well worth the wait.”
Registration services will continue to be provided at Westfield House, in front of County Hall, and Register Office marriages will continue to be provided at Lewes Town Hall, while work at Southover Grange is carried out.
East Sussex County Council and Lewes District Council officially exchanged Southover Grange and The Maltings in July 2014. The move will ensure the future of the two landmark Lewes buildings.
The county council previously leased part of the first floor of Southover Grange for its registration office. Planning permission for the work was granted by Lewes District Council in April.
The initial budget for the project, which includes archaeological work, is £1.296million. This will be regularly reviewed to take into account the age and history of the building.