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Bigg Market Rejuvenation Continues with Balmbra's Restoration

The Bigg Market’s rejuvenation, led by NE1 Ltd, continues with the transformation of one of Newcastle’s most iconic and famous buildings, Balmbra’s on the Cloth Market. Immortalised in the Geordie anthem, The Blaydon Races, Balmbra’s was once a hugely popular music hall and pub but was damaged by fire in 2014 which largely destroyed the interior of the building.

Now with the help and financial support from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, administered by NE1 Ltd, owners the Malhotra Group are redeveloping the building for interim use and will receive a grant to restore the building’s exterior.

The frontage will be restored, and the signage replaced with a reproduction of the original from the 1900s. 

Inside the building at 6-8 Cloth Market, the owners will be creating a pop up bar, as a transitional, ‘meanwhile’ use to protect the building, bring it back into public use and generate some income as a stop gap until the wider transformation and redevelopment of the site can be carried out in the future. The building formed part of the Malhotra Group’s £25 million investment plans for the area which centred on the creation of a luxury hotel, labelled the ‘Dorchester of the North’, plans which were put on hold due to Covid 19.

The Malhotra Group is working closely with the conservation team at Newcastle City Council to protect the building without a full restoration and to ensure that all interventions and improvements are appropriate and in keeping with the building’s history.

Three bay windows, which have been boarded and blocked up to weatherproof the building will be reopened with Perspex infills allowing light back into the building. One of the most famous parts of Balmbra’s, the barrel-vaulted roof, which suffered damage during the fire will be preserved. Malhotra Group will also improve the dereliction to Dury lane by redecorating, cleaning and lighting the lane.

Once complete the venue will be operated by Zafer Saygilier, owner and operator of Soho and Greenhouse.. The work is due to commence on Monday 14th September and is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

Balmbra’s will be the sixth building to receive a Heritage Fund grant as part of NE1’s redevelopment of the Bigg Market, which has also seen the transformation of the public realm, work that was completed in 2018 and was awarded the Lord Mayor’s Award for Landscape design. Other buildings to be redeveloped in the area are; Pumphreys, Koh-i-Noor, Cosy Joes, 41 Groat Market occupied by Meat Stack, and WC Newcastle.

Commenting on Balmbra’s redevelopment Alex Slack, Project Manager for Bigg Market said:

The public hasn’t been able to enjoy Balmbra’s for years. Whilst we would ideally like to see the full restoration of the dance hall, this interim redevelopment and pop up bar will bring the building back into public use and will go some way to stopping the rot and allowing further disrepair. Balmbra’s plays an important and significant role in Newcastle’s history and in NE1’s Bigg Market redevelopment programme as it seeks to build upon the progress made on the Cloth Market. Pumphrey’s at the top of the Cloth Market was the first building to receive a grant from the Heritage Fund and Balmbra’s, the penultimate building on the street, will hopefully catalyse further improvements.”

Meenu Malhotra, founder and chairman of the Malhotra Group said “We are delighted to be receiving support from The National Lottery Heritage Fund and NE1. Having previously completed the restoration of Pumphreys we are excited to begin the next chapter in Balmbra’s rich history. We remain committed to a full restoration in due course but as an interim measure we want to see the building back in use. We will be working hand in hand with NE1 and the City Council to ensure the project is carried out appropriately and sensitively.”

Since NE1 Ltd started the delivery of their National Lottery Heritage Fund supported project in 2018, there has been £1 million investment in the public realm and £350,000 in building restorations funded by NE1 and the Heritage Fund as well as a further £3.1million by the private sector.