YMCA Somerset Coast breathes new life into Barley Wood Country House

By Jul 09, 2015

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£1.8 million Charity Bank loan secures property purchase and refurbishment to provide social housing and job prospects for young homeless people.

  • Home built for 19th century social entrepreneur Hannah More brought back into social purpose use
  • It will house a children’s nursery, conference centre, community space and will be marketed as a wedding venue

Building work has started to Barley Wood, on the outskirts of the village of Wrington, to transform it into housing for young homeless people and to create employment opportunities with the launch later this year of a pre-school nursery and community space.

Lain empty for the last seven years, Barley Wood is a Grade-II listed country house and dates back to 1801, when it was built for Hannah More*, the poet, religious writer and philanthropist.

YMCA Somerset Coast, which provides housing, education and employment services to young people, has bought the property to bring it back into social purpose use for the benefit of the whole community.

Martin Hodgson, YMCA Somerset Coast CEO, says: “Our aim is to break the cycle of no home, no job. We will provide young homeless people with a roof over their heads and career prospects through apprenticeship schemes so that they can build their self-esteem and make a contribution to society.

“Wrington is a tight knit community and we want to bring this big empty old house back into use for the benefit of all of its residents.”


From left: Chapman Harrison, regional manager at Charity Bank, with Martin Hodgson, CEO of YMCA Somerset Coast, outside Barley Wood

Ethical bank, Charity Bank, provided a £1.8 million loan for the purchase and refurbishment of the property into twenty new units of accommodation for homeless young people and for the establishment of two new social enterprises to offer training and employment opportunities.

The plans for Barley Wood initially include three clusters of five bedrooms each with a shared living space for young homeless people, who will then be able to access apprenticeships, training and employment opportunities in the areas of hospitality, catering, administration, childcare, facilities management, horticulture, land and woodland management. All apprenticeships and training are being planned in conjunction with Weston College.

The nursery will be open in time for the September intake of pre-school children and will be merged with the Wrington Playgroup Association, which currently operates from the local Memorial Hall. There will be 48 places for children aged 3 months to 5 years.

The second social enterprise, the conference centre and wedding venue, will be developed and marketed later in the year.

Chapman Harrison, Charity Bank regional manager, says: “It is serendipitous that a house built for Hannah More, the great social entrepreneur of the early-19th century, is coming back into social purpose usage under the management of YMCA Somerset Coast.

“We exist to support projects just like the transformation of Barley Wood House that will have a positive and measurable impact on the communities it serves. Charity Bank is owned by the social sector and run for the social sector. When an organisation pays back its loan, we use the money to lend to another organisation working to benefit society.”