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Historic gatehouse to be given new lease of life as part of The Hepworth Wakefield Garden development

A donation from Wakefield-based Wilkes Group has placed us one step closer to achieving the full £1.8m target to complete The Hepworth Wakefield Garden project.

The Hepworth Wakefield announce today that a donation from Wakefield-based Wilkes Group has placed them one step closer to achieving the full £1.8m target needed to transform the Wakefield Waterfront site into a beautiful free public garden by internationally renowned garden designer Tom Stuart-Smith.

The generous contribution comes from facilities management supplier Wilkes Group, founded in 1946 by Gerald Aulton Wilkes. Wilkes Group was the last owner and occupier of the now empty Rutland Mills complex which shares the waterfront site with The Hepworth Wakefield, where they operated from 1974 until 2007. Rutland Mills was built in the 1870s by Isaac Briggs, a retired railway contractor, and originally operated as a worsted spinning mill.

As part of the development plans, a small Victorian gatehouse which sits within the garden and formed part of the Grade II-Listed Rutland Mills site, will be restored and brought back into use as an expansion of the gallery’s catering offer. The gatehouse is planned to open in time for The Hepworth Wakefield’s annual Christmas Market (22 – 24 November and 29 November – 1 December) to serve warming treats.

Simon Wilkes, Director of Wilkes Group said: ‘We were really excited to hear about what THW is trying to achieve on our former site and wanted to show our support for what will be a wonderful addition for Wakefield. It is a fitting way to remember my grandfather Gerald Wilkes who further developed our group of companies on the site all those years ago.’

Olivia Colling, Director of Communications and Development at The Hepworth Wakefield said: ‘The Wilkes Group’s generous donation to our fundraising campaign has come at a crucial time as we try to find the final £150,000 needed for this transformative project. We are so grateful to the people who have already supported our public appeal and hope that many more will feel able to contribute. Every penny donated is hugely appreciated and will help us create the only free public garden designed by Tom Stuart-Smith in the country. We are planning to open the first completed section of the garden for the school summer holidays, but we still need to restore the gatehouse and build a garden studio, which will act as a classroom space for an exciting new programme of creative outdoor learning. We are very grateful to the Wilkes Group for their support and are delighted to continue their family connection with the site.’

A portrait of Gerald Aulton Wilkes, founder of The Wilkes Group.