THREE new enterprises are set to bring a boost to Winchester city centre following the launch of a new gin workshop.

The Blend Academy, a gin school hosting ‘create your own gin’ sessions as well as classes, is set to open its doors on October 1 and marks the next step in the city centre’s Silver Hill 2 revamp.

Run by local distillers Winchester Distillery, the new workshop is taking over the upstairs floor of the former Post Office site in Middle Brook Street.

The building has remained empty for a number of years.

Meanwhile, upmarket frozen food firm Cook has taken over the Jaeger shop on the corner of St George’s Street and Upper Brook Street.

And as previously reported, Nutshell Arts is taking over the Antique Market, which has been vacant for more than a year.

Also part of the Silver Hill area, the moves represent the first steps in the project, officially known as the Central Winchester Regeneration project, to revamp part of the city centre.

Council leader Cllr Caroline Horrill, who is also chairman of the committee leading the Central Winchester Regeneration, said: “It’s super to see local businesses take up space in the city centre and be a part of a thriving business community.

“We are thrilled to have the Winchester Distillery take up residence on Middle Brook Street, where we’ve already welcomed a Pilates business.

“The premises have been empty and neglected for years so we’ve totally refurbished the space and with businesses like Winchester Distillery moving in, it’s being brought back to life.

“This company has grown up locally and is a great example of innovation and growth in our district.”

Winchester Distillery owner Paul Bowler added: “We’ve been running gin-making experiences from our distillery in Alresford for a few years now and they’ve been really successful.

“This new space in central Winchester means more people can easily reach us and now we will have the space to host a range of fun, educational events.”

As well as the new workshop, Winchester city centre has also welcomed the arrival of new frozen foods store Cook, which has brought the former Jaeger shop in St George’s Street back to life.

The unit has been empty since the fashion chain went into administration last summer.

As previously reported, the Silver Hill 2 scheme sets out the vision for the regeneration of part of the city centre.

The 4.5 hectare area includes key sites such as the bus station, The Broadway, St Clements Medical Centre, Friarsgate Car Park and the Antique Market building.

  • Following the arrival of Nutshell Arts at the Antique Market, the building is set to be rebranded as ‘The Nutshell’ and will be used as a place for rehearsals, workshops, exhibitions and small-scale productions, alongside resident companies the Discarded Nut Theatre Company and ENCORE Youth Theatre. It comes after the council approved spending £25,000 to bring the vacant building back to life. Now The Nutshell is crowdfunding to bring the new venue to life. Harriet Morris, one of the directors, said: “This building is such a great space and will be a wonderful location for our work. “The Council’s investment has turned the building into a workable and safe public space, but it is an empty space. We now need help to fund painting, tiling, furniture and audience seating along with essential audio and lighting equipment. “We’ve set up a crowdfunding page – – for donations so we can create a vibrant arts centre for everyone.”