£1m climbing gym ‘likely to open late 2024 / early 2025’

Entrepreneur Duncan Craft tells LBN he is optimistic his Southport climbing gym will open later this year or early next with delays to renovation of Grade II-listed building sending costs rising to £1m. Tony McDonough reports

Southport, Duncan Craft
Apprentice Luke Kane working on the Southport climbing gym project


Entrepreneur Duncan Craft wants to reassure Southport residents that his new climbing gym “will happen”.

In December 2022, LBN revealed Londoner Duncan was to invest more than £500,000 converting a Grade II-listed former auction house in Lord Street into a new climbing facility.

As well as offering a 4.5m wall for climbing enthusiasts. it would also include a cafe and hub where people can work remotely.

His original plan was to open the attraction in mid to late 2023. However, unforeseen complications of the roof’s structure, and the task of conserving the lime plaster, plus the rising cost of materials, has caused delays and sent the final development value close to £1m.

These delays have led to suggestions within the town that the project won’t happen. But Duncan is keen to reassure people that it’s merely delayed, and this is not unusual with historic and complicated listed buildings.

“Additionally, we have work across the country and we have had to fit the gym around other projects. And that is another reason for the delay,” explained Duncan.

“At the moment we have only a few lads working there but we will be full-on in the summer. At that point we will have a better idea of exactly how much longer it is going to take.

Duncan’s family business is Craft & Sons. It specialises in the restoration of period properties in the UK. He and his family returned to the UK from France in 2017.

He added the Southport project was “particularly complex” due to the “abundance of historic features”.

He said: “We have uncovered so much historic fabric, particularly lime plaster. Material costs are probably 20% more and the job is simply a lot more Labour intensive.

“This was a project of passion for us. There is always a risk when transforming listed buildings that it ends up being more complex than you hope in the first instance.

“When we first revealed this project we said at that time we wanted to make sure we got it right. It is important that we restore everything in an appropriate way; not just board over and skim with gypsum based plaster.”

When he first spoke to LBN in 2022, Duncan said the opening of the  “bouldering gym” in Southport would be the realisation of a decades-old dream.


Southport, Duncan Craft
Work is under way to convert a Grade II-listed former auction house in Lord  Street into a climbing gym
Southport, Duncan Craft
Duncan says the cost of the project has risen to around £1m
Southport, Duncan Craft
Preserving the lime plaster on the Grade II-listed building has been a key challenge
Southport, Duncan Craft
Duncan Craft hopes the facility will open later this year or early 2025


He said at the time: “I went to boarding school in Hertfordshire. We had a teacher called Chris Holmes who would take us on weekend climbing trips to Yorkshire.

“I signed up because it involved missing school on Friday, but I really got into it and have been passionate about climbing ever since.”

READ MORE: Sefton still £10m short on Southport Pier project

“My  family and I spent 10 years living in Chamonix, in France, in the heart of the Alps which is  a great area for skiing and climbing. When we came back to the UK I decided opening a bouldering gym was something I really wanted to do.”

“High streets across the country are evolving, and Southport is no exception. Lord Street is an historically important street whose buildings are monuments which testify to the vision, industry and productivity of our  Industrial Revolution.

“They, however, need to find their place in modern Britain. We hope our bouldering gym will in part achieve that.”

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