The National Centre for Craft and Design started life at The Pearoom in Heckington. The Pearoom was built in 1870 by the Great Northern Railway Company and shortly afterwards was leased to the internationally renowned seed firm of Charles Sharpe of Sleaford. Sharpe used it as a pea-sorting warehouse right up until 1961. Locally grown peas were brought to the Pearoom by horse and cart with peas from further afield being delivered by rail for sorting and then exporting.

In the 1970s, with the help of Government grants; fundraising activities; hard work by many volunteers; and leadership by the Heckington Village Trust, the Pearoom was converted into a heritage, craft and tourism centre for the village. It was operated by the Village Trust and a team of dedicated volunteers until a licence was granted by the trust for North Kesteven District Council.

The Pearoom established itself as a contemporary craft centre, displaying a range of exhibitions through two gallery spaces and delivering a short course programme and unique shop. Artist workshops and a café also attracted some 30,000 visitors each year.

This used to be a seed warehouse…it still is!

When the lease expired on the building, The Pearoom moved to a new home in Sleaford, where the opportunity to develop and build the Centre and resource was realised through one of 13 major projects completed as part of a seven year Sleaford Pride Regeneration programme.

The development of The Hub was a £2.4 million refurbishment of the old Hubbards and Philips Seed Warehouse in Navigation Yard, Sleaford.

The original building which opened in 1939 was a steel framed four-storey structure of normal brick construction with wooden floors designed to accommodate the substantial floor loadings from the processed seed. The roof was a flat construction with a brick parapet running the full four sides of the building. Two pea cleaning machines of differing sizes were installed and at a later date the original extract pipe work was replaced by cyclones to enable the dust extract to be collected at the base of the building. At times, upwards of 300/400 tons of peas were stored in sacks throughout the various floors — and it is said one particular gentleman used to carry 16 stone sacks between the floors. As trade reduced the business closed in 1972 and was subsequently used as a storage area by A. Hatcher and Sons.

The redevelopment approach taken by the architects, Frank Shaw Associates, was sympathetic and reflective of the industrial heritage of the old building. Original exposed steel work combined with the use of modern materials such as the stainless steel architraves and lighting panels in the main gallery, give reference to the building’s past. One floor was removed from the four storey building to create a double height main gallery at first floor level with original exposed steel beams. A small mezzanine floor space, is the only reminder of the floor that was removed. A Roof Gallery was added to the roof of the original building restoring the building to four floors. This gallery is flanked by two viewing galleries which provide a superb view of Sleaford’s roofscape to the west and along Sleaford Navigation to Haverholme Lock and beyond to the east. A new extension was added to provide a lift, staircase and craft workshop to the north and a fire escape was added to the south.

The final stage of the Navigation Yard project was the repair, restoration and re-use of the Navigation House enabling visitors to learn about the history of Sleaford Navigation, and also the creation of craft workshops.

The Hub opened its doors on 7 October 2003 by Her Royal Highness, The Princess Royal and it was recognised as a nationally significant development by the Arts Council of England in 2003.

The Sleaford and District Civic Trust recognised the Hub for the quality of its building work and design. The Green Organisation also awarded a Silver Green Apple Civic Pride Award to the Centre. Both these awards are given for projects that enhance the environment and give a sense of civic pride.

The origins in the Pearoom and the old Hubbard & Phillips Seed Warehouse will never be forgotten. The transformation of the former Hubbard & Phillips Seed Warehouse to The Hub, included funding for a series of commemorative commissioned art projects:

  • Visitors are greeted with the words “This used to be a seed warehouse. It still is”. A leather plaque with gold leaf lettering by Tracey Routledge.
  • Exhibition benches produced by Electric Wig are still in use in our galleries today.
  • Sam Buxton, designer and producer of Mikroworld, produced a laser cut stainless steel piece, which is currently on loan.

Funding for the original development was made available through European Funding, East Midlands Development Agency, Lincolnshire County Council, North Kesteven District Council and the Sleaford Pride Single Regeneration Bid Partnership.

Over the years The Hub developed a strong reputation within the national museum and gallery sector as a unique and ambitious gallery that exhibits the most innovative, challenging and accomplished artists practicing within the craft and design arena today. Recognised as being ‘at the top of its game’ by Arts Council England, The Hub re-branded as The National Centre for Craft & Design in 2011.