- History of Great Stony School
- Zinc and the development of the Arts Centre
- The Arts Centre
- Keeping history alive and the future
Built between 1902 and 1905, Hackney Homes (later Great Stony School) was designed as a self contained community of "cottage homes" for the accommodation of up to 300 children taken into the guardianship of Hackney Council under the provisions of the 1899 Poor Law. Initially it was intended that the children would be educated in the local village trust school but when this was ruled out, the large school building adjacent to Ongar High Street (now Zinc Arts Centre) was added.
Great Stony School remained in the ownership of the London Borough of Hackney and later the Inner London Education Authority and was used (until its closure in 1994), for the education of disadvantaged children and children deemed to have special educational needs (SEN). In 1995 Epping Forest District Council, designated the site a 'conservation area', and in 1998 the school was purchased by Taywood Homes Limited with outline planning permission for sympathetic conversion of the main accommodation blocks, administration offices and infirmary into luxury homes, with a limited amount of new build.
One of the conditions included within the outline planning permission was that the former school building be offered for community use. A number of proposals came forward and Epping Forest District Council was asked to select the most appropriate scheme. The scheme chosen was from Theatre Resource (now Zinc) and a team of dedicated local people set out to establish Great Stony as an arts and education centre.
Theatre Resource moved into the Centre at the end of June 1998 and started a nine-month refurbishment programme. A new charity 'The Great Stony School Trust' was set up to take on the freehold of the premises and the Centre was opened for public use in April 1999. Since then it has steadily grown to become a thriving venue offering arts activities and venue hire for the local community and community groups. It has become a much loved and cherished part of the local community.
In 1999/2000 Theatre Resource started raising money to develop the Arts Centre into a National Centre for Arts Access and Inclusion. The aim of this development is to expand the scope and range of arts activities taking place in the centre to include residential courses, vocational courses and supported employment schemes, as well as offering the local community a world class arts and education centre with facilities including a café, exhibition space, studio theatre and shop. Work commenced on the £6.2million development project in Autumn. The building work was fully completed in 2011, with the grand opening of the new Centre conducted by HRH Earl of Wessex in November 2011.
Zinc Arts Centre is a centre of excellence in the development and provision of high quality and engaging art for everyone. The facilities have been developed with high standards of accessibility to ensure that we can accommodate and cater for people with varying support needs. The new centre offers nine dedicated rooms for courses, classes and meetings. All rooms can be used for arts based activities and two in particular have been equipped for 'messy' arts and crafts activities. Additionally, our large multipurpose studio space can be used for community activities, performances, rehearsals and is fully equipped to be used as a theatre or dance performance space. It has dedicated dressing rooms and back stage facilities. This multipurpose studio space is also equipped with full ICT facilities and is suitable for conferences and large workshops.
All rooms are available for hire seven days a week. For information on how to hire our facilities please go to our building hire page. In addition Zinc will be producing a diverse programme of courses and classes, arts based activities, performances, exhibitions and events throughout the year. To find out more please check our What's On Calendar.
For groups that have to travel far or require more intensive time working together we have developed the Hawthorne Suite, our new residential facilities. With 25 dedicated rooms, sleeping up to 41 guests this fully accessible short-stay accommodation will enable people to come and relax in our beautifully restored Edwardian building and enjoy their training and educational activities to the fullest.
A key part of the development of the Arts Centre has been to help retain the heritage of the Great Stony School site and preserve the building as a hub of community engagement and activity for future generations. Our development has breathed new life into the building and has also retained many of the buildings much loved original features – from the beautiful parquet flooring to the arched ceiling of the old school hall. We have sought to preserve key features of the building and also to retain the heritage of the site. We are using the names of the Great Stony School homes to name our teaching and meeting rooms to bring some of the heritage of the site back to life. The original homes were named after trees that can be found in the area – Oak, Beech and Ash are three of the names that we have brought back. For a full list of our rooms and the building details please go our building for hire page.
We want our arts centre to once again be at the heart of the community, keeping the local area’s history and heritage alive, while also providing new activities, events and opportunities for everyone. The arts centre will provide a changing programme of arts activities, as well as being a place where people can meet and catch-up over a coffee, have lunch and catch a movie or a performance, in addition to providing courses and classes for all ages and interests. To find out what our centre has to offer please check out our What's On Calendar.