Exploring the empty and dilapidated corridors of The Lawn in Lincoln stirs an enticing sense of both history and opportunity.
Work has begun to transform the 19th century building into a new coffee roasting headquarters and tourist attraction, and future possibilities could even include a spa and restaurant.
As new owner RW Stokes & Sons takes the iconic building under its wing, The Lincolnite was invited for a behind-the-scenes tour, looking at the future plans for the coffee company’s new £1.5 million headquarters.
A hidden theatre, bathed in colour from a towering stained glass window, secret views of Lincoln Cathedral turrets and patient suites from the building’s days as a county ‘lunatic asylum’ waited behind the doors of the Grade II listed building.
Stokes Tea and Coffee completed the sale of The Lawn on August 1, almost two years after being named the preferred bidder.
There’s a lot to do in the building before the company can relocate their roastery and head office from the current site on Mint Lane, including roofing repairs and work to remove fittings.
They plan to move in by spring 2017, before expanding their retail offer.
The conservatory that once stood on the site has already been dismantled and moved to Woodside Wildlife Park.
In its place, contractors are working to complete a newly extended car park, which Stokes says is expected to be completed in time for the Lincoln Christmas Market; during which the area will be opened up to stalls.
The ideas include plans for the company’s third cafe, with a specially designed viewing gallery making the roasting process open to the public.
The “educational experience” would also showcase artefacts and trinkets of the 100-year-old family business’ past, as well as information on where coffee comes from and the process between farming and the coffee cup.
Visitors will also be able to read interpretation boards containing the history of mental health in England and the originations of The Lawn.
Plans include a new accredited barista training centre, where tutors can guide staff from other businesses, and anyone else who wants to learn how to serve coffee.
In later stages of the project, owners plan to bring a hidden Victorian theatre on the first floor of the building to life, holding regular music and dance events.
Opportunities down the line
The possibilities are wide ranging for the adjoining suites of the former City of Lincoln Council-owned building, many of which are now available to let by independent retailers.
Stokes says corridors which formerly operated as hospital patient rooms would have the potential to become a spa-style facility, and rooms overlooking the site’s popular greens could be used as a restaurant.
Nick Peel, great grandson of Stokes’ founder, and current managing director, said: “The building will remain a place that Lincoln locals will be able to visit and enjoy.
“Whether you drop in for a bite to eat, want to watch the roasting or come and see a show, we hope you will love The Lawn when we have things up and running.
“Though nothing is set in stone yet, we are so excited about what lies ahead and look forward to the challenge of taking another beautiful old building under our wing.”