PICTURES: Work is ‘progressing well’ on £1.6m Diss Corn Hall refurbishment

The 1970s kitchen and stores behind the original Corn Hall being demolished. Photo: Lucy Kayne ANL-160415-135750001
The 1970s kitchen and stores behind the original Corn Hall being demolished. Photo: Lucy Kayne ANL-160415-135750001

Work at Diss’ iconic Corn Hall building is well underway.

Norwich-based contractor Pentaco won the tender for the £1.6 million project, with demolitions and a strip-out taking place over the past month, with all of the 1970s infill buildings being carefully removed.

The Waveney Rooms floor-to-ceiling windows revealed once . Photo: Lucy Kayne ANL-160415-135643001

The Waveney Rooms floor-to-ceiling windows revealed once . Photo: Lucy Kayne ANL-160415-135643001

Working to designs by Hudson Architects, the project will restore and upgrade the original Corn Hall, Waveney Room and Council Chamber, adding a modern two-storey extension at the rear to provide box office, foyer, bar, gallery and exhibition areas. It is hoped it will be completed by January 2017.

It forms part of the Heritage Lottery-funded Diss Triangle project, which, at a cost of £3 million, aims to regenerate the historic part of the town.

Sheila King, Programme Manager, said: “With demolition out the way, it’s now possible to see the original structure as it was first built. The Corn Hall was an amazing building, with some fascinating technical innovations for the time.

“I’m delighted that with the funding we’ve raised from the councils, the Heritage Lottery Fund and the people of Diss, we’ll be able do justice to this building once more.”

I’m delighted that with the funding we’ve raised from the councils, the Heritage Lottery Fund and the people of Diss, we’ll be able do justice to this building once more

Sheila King, Programme Manager

The Ceiling has been stripped away, revealing the original cast iron girders, which were made by Ransomes of Ipswich in the 1850s. Part of the work will see the introduction of artificial light boxes into the roof, to continue the feel of daylight, but also allowing the ceiling to be blacked out during performances.

In the Waveney Room, the bar and all other fixtures have been removed, and four original floor-to-ceiling windows, that once overlooked a courtyard, have been revealed; work in the 1970s changed the full-length windows into hatches leading to a kitchen and stores – not quite the elegant outlook created by George Atkins, the architect of the Corn Hall. These openings will be maintained as doors in future, leading into the new bar and foyer.

Upstairs, the mezzanine toilets – which recently functioned as the Green Room for performers – have been removed, along with the cell on the upstairs landing. This means that the lobby outside the Council Chamber has also been restored to its original proportions.

One of the technical innovations introduced by George Atkins was a heating system – two Cundy stoves manufactured by Coalbrookdale originally fed warm air into the hall.

Mysterious brick ducting underneath the Corn Hall floor. Could these be part of the innovative 19th Century heating system? Photo: Lucy Kayne. ANL-160415-135730001

Mysterious brick ducting underneath the Corn Hall floor. Could these be part of the innovative 19th Century heating system? Photo: Lucy Kayne. ANL-160415-135730001

As the floor below the wooden block has been broken up, a network of brick lined ducts have been revealed, and it’s believed these may be part of that system, although their arrangements suggests that the stoves might have been on the centre of the trading floor itself. Work is continuing to try to understand this from the remnants unearthed to date.

Cast iron beams made by Ransomes of Ipswich span the ceiling of the Corn Hall. Photo: Lucy Kayne. ANL-160415-135719001

Cast iron beams made by Ransomes of Ipswich span the ceiling of the Corn Hall. Photo: Lucy Kayne. ANL-160415-135719001

The rear of the Corn Hall with the Waveney Room windows to the right. This will become a bar and caf� area. Photo: Lucy Kayne. ANL-160415-135655001

The rear of the Corn Hall with the Waveney Room windows to the right. This will become a bar and caf� area. Photo: Lucy Kayne. ANL-160415-135655001