Known as the King of Hearts Arts Centre, this was the Trust’s most complicated, expensive and successful project to date. During restoration of a rundown group of shops the rather ordinary street frontage and highly subdivided interior was discovered to conceal the major part of a very large courtyard house with two halls, one above the other, built in the 1540s for Edmund Woode, grocer and mayor in 1548.
The project, which grew in size and complexity as the importance of the house was revealed, involved close co-operation with and support from City Hall. It also required some highly specialised restoration techniques, and careful and sometimes convoluted negotiations to re-house existing occupants. The final bill of £915,000 tested the Trust’s finances, but the underlying strength of its business model was proved more than capable of coping with such a major scheme. The project also benefited from a close and successful working relationship throughout with the eventual leaseholder, Aude Gotto. In 2011 the freehold of the adjoining corner property on the corner of Fishergate (7-9 Fye Bridge Street and 1, Fishergate), which had been incorporated into the King of Hearts complex, was gifted to the Trust by Ms Gotto.
Before restoration the premises included a kebab takeaway, a printshop and a souvenir emporium. The City Council served repairs notices on the owners, and later provided a grant to the Trust to cover the cost of purchase.
Originally the scheme was to provide five flats and four commercial units, but once the quality and significance of the interior was discovered, including a magnificent mullioned window hidden behind plasterboard, it was decided to open up the building for public use and seek a single tenant. Over the years it proved one of the City’s foremost meeting places for the arts, including a gallery, music recital room, studio workshop, offices and a café/restaurant. This nature of use continues under the Anteros Arts Foundation, who are leaseholders at the time of publication.