Published: 14:58, 29 October 2018
| Updated: 19:42, 29 October 2018
An historic Grade II listed building in the heart of a town sold under the hammer for £590,000 this afternoon and is to be transformed into a community arts centre.
In a fast and furious bidding war ,The Conservancy Building in Rochester High Street went in just four minutes at auction well exceeding its guide price.
The building, which served as an annexe to the Guildhall Museum, was given a price tag of between £400,000 and £410,000, plus fees.
It went up in 20 bids each time by £10,000 before the hammer finally came down for the successful new owners,the trustees of Nucleus Arts.
Its sale sparked fiery exchanges between Medway Council's ruling Conservative group who deemed it "surplus to requirements" and rival politicians and conservationists.
Proceeds from the sale are set to go towards massive refurbishment needed at the Corn Exchange and to update the museum.
It has been bought by Nucleus Arts which will create studios, a gallery and cafe in the space.
Nucleus already has several centres in Chatham including a cafe and gallery in the High Street.
Dalia Halpern-Matthews, its director, said : "This is a dream come true. We have always wanted to be in the heart of Rochester.".
Video: Rochester's Conservancy building sold at auction
The Clive Emson land and property sale brochure described it as "a truly outstanding opportunity."
It said: "Befitting the building's historic past and purpose, there are many attractive and ornate features within the building and it is considered that there are a variety of potential future uses for the property, subject to all the necessary consents being available."
The building, within the town's historic conservation area, was built in 1909 and originally used as offices for the Medway Conservancy Board.
In the 1980s it became part of the adjoining museum and was used to store archives.
It comprises a basement, ground and first floor where there is a main feature front room with two original fireplaces and access to a viewing area.
Money will go towards renovating the 18th century Corn Exchange which the council wants to promote as a venue for functions and meetings.
When the plan was announced in May, Tory ward councillor Stuart Tranter, said: "Despite good progress,it is still difficult for some people to physically access the museum and keeping displays up-to-date was a challenge.
In his newsletter Cllr Tranter added that the Conservancy Building was "often missed out" by visitors and was seen as little more than repository for Victorian exhibits.
But his colleague ward councillor Labour' s Alex Paterson felt that it had educational use.
Labour councillors questioned the lack of information and scrutiny of the decision to shut it and the "low" guide price.
Thousands of artefacts will be rehoused at the Guildhall and Eastgate House.