West Bay Methodist Church Visitor Centre

chapel June 2014The Methodist Church in West Bay (the Chapel on the Beach) which has been closed for a number of years, is in the process of conversion to a Visitor/Interpretation Centre and opened for 250 hours during August and September.

The Methodists stopped using the building in 2006, and no other religious denomination could be found to continue its use as a place of worship.  The building is now owned by the Bridport Area Development Trust, a volunteer-run community organisation committed to restoring historic buildings and bringing them back into use.

Since the closure of the Harbour Museum at the Salt House, West Bay has lacked information/interpretation about the history and development of the resort and the unique environment of Lyme Bay.  The new Centre at the Methodist Church will fill this gap with permanent displays and temporary exhibitions on a range of subjects.  Although most of the pews have been removed, many of the attractive features of the Church have been retained.

In addition to the main interpretation, which includes some great photographs, there are temporary displays provided by the Bridport Museum Trust and the MARINElife charity.  The Trust would particularly like to hear from people with information, memories, photographs and other material about West Bay.

WBMC Summer 2014 exhibition

View towards screen and entrance during public opening and exhibition in Summer 2014.




Exhibition of Institute Plans, 4th June

LSI front 1The Bridport Area Development Trust (BADT) has recently submitted Planning (WD/D/14/001181) and Listed Building (WD/D/14/001182) applications for its proposals to restore the Literary and Scientific Institute (LSI), formerly the town’s public library.

There will be a public exhibition of the plans and proposals at Bridport Town Hall on Wednesday 4th June, from 10 am to 2 pm.  Members of the public are invited to come along and discuss the plans with members of the BADT project team including the architect, Paul Richold of Architecton Ltd.

Once registered, the plans will be also be available for inspection in the planning office at Mountfield and on the Dorsetforyou planning website.

Charles Wild, Chairman of the Bridport Area Development Trust which is working to save the Institute, said,

“Although it has been closed and empty for seventeen years, the Literary and Scientific Institute is as important to Bridport’s story as the Glasgow School of Art (shockingly damaged by last week’s disastrous fire) is to that great city.

“There is a direct connection between the two institutions, through the involvement of Fra Newbery, who trained and taught at the Bridport School of Art housed in the LSI building in the late 19th century.  Newbery became Director of the Glasgow School and was mentor of its great designer and architect, Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

“We hope people will come along next week and look at our plans to bring the LSI back to life.”

Institute applications submitted

The Bridport Literary and Scientific InstituteProposals for the restoration of the Literary and Scientific Institute took a major step forward this week with the submission of a final (Round Two) application for Lottery funding.

The application to the Heritage Lottery Fund has been under preparation since the Bridport Area Development Trust received a Round One “pass” in late 2012, and has required the production of detailed architectural plans and other reports and plans to support the bid.   The outcome of the application will not be known until the HLF Regional Panel makes its decision in September.

At the same time Planning (WD/D/14/001181) and Listed Building (WD/D/14/001182) applications have been submitted to West Dorset District Council.  Once registered the plans will be available for inspection in the council planning office at Mountfield and on the planning website. 

The BADT will hold a public exhibition of the plans at Bridport Town Hall on Wednesday 4 June, from 10 am till 2 pm.

Dan Cruickshank at Bull Hotel to support Institute project

Dan Cruickshank speaking at the Bull Hotel

Dan Cruickshank speaking at the Bull Hotel

TV presenter, author and architectural expert Dan Cruickshank gave a spellbinding talk on Bridport’s architecture to a full house in the ballroom at the Bull Hotel, Bridport, on Thursday 21 November, as the centrepiece of a fundraising event to support the Literary and Scientific Institute restoration project.  The evening also included supper for 80 and a well-supported charity auction.

The Bridport Area Development Trust, which is leading the project to restore the LSI, would like to thank Dan Cruickshank for his support in coming to give his presentation, Richard and Nikki Cooper for hosting the event, as well as all their staff, helpers and friends who made the evening such a success (especially Ali and Alex), all those who donated prizes for the charity auction and raffle, and local businesses and producers who made contributions, including Philip & Julia Colfox  (Symondsbury Estate), Eddie Colfox. Mark Hix, Boo and Guy Mallinson, Rex Johnson (Rex Johnson Furniture), Ellen Streatfeild (Denhay Farms), Andrew Oldham, Adrian Paterson and Louise Johnson-Hill, Rawles Butchers, Mike Wade (WadeWaxworks), Kestrel Boyle, Cheese Cellar, Chris and Maddy Chibnall, Cilla & Camilla, Country Seats, Denhay Farms, The Electric Palace, Footeprints, Fruits of the Earth, Furleigh Estate, Gemma’s Flowers, Groves Nurseries, Jessica’s Cakes, Jaxsons Deli, Leakers Bakery, Naturalife Wholefoods, River Cottage HQ, Samways Fish, Simon Dunn Chocolatier, Waitrose, Washingpool Farm, Wessex Wines, Wincanton Fine Foods Company, also all those who bought tickets for the sell-out event and made generous bids in the charity auction.

Bull cheque presentation Dec 2013

Charles Wild, Chair of BADT, and Crystal Johnson, LSI project coordinator (both left), accept a cheque for £8190 from Bull Hotel owner Richard Cooper and Hotel and Events Manager Ali Pember.

The Dan Cruickshank event raised a tremendous £8,190 towards the restoration project’s fundraising target.

Richard Cooper, owner of The Bull Hotel said, “We were delighted to host this event.  The restoration of the Literary and Scientific Institute is an incredibly important project for the town, and one which we believe the whole community should get behind and support, in whatever way they can”.

Institute Conservation Plan out for consultation

The Bridport Literary and Scientific InstituteOne of the requirements for a successful Heritage Lottery grant application is the production of a Conservation Plan for the Literary and Scientific Institute.

The Conservation Plan is intended to provide a background understanding of the building’s historic development and significance, and to develop appropriate policies for its future care and management, to avoid harm to its special interest and to identify the significance of different elements of the building.

In the first instance the Conservation Plan will inform immediate proposals for the building’s re-use.  Beyond the scope of the restoration project, the Plan will serve as a long-term strategic tool for the building’s upkeep, and as a benchmark against which future proposals can be developed and tested.

A copy of the Draft Conservation Plan, which has been prepared by Alan Baxter & Associates LLP, will be available for inspection from 5 November 2013 in the downstairs council office at Mountfield, Rax Lane, Bridport.  Alternatively the document can be downloaded here.

LSI Conservation Area Plan Draft pdf, part 1

LSI Conservation Area Plan Draft pdf, part 2

LSI Conservation Area Plan Draft pdf, part 3

LSI Conservation Area Plan Draft pdf, part 4

LSI Conservation Area Plan Draft pdf, part 5

Comments on the document should be sent no later than Monday 2 December 2013, by email to lmmcintyre@alanbaxter.co.uk, or by post to

Lisa McIntyre

Alan Baxter & Associates LLP

75 Cowcross Street



History Talk at Bridport Town Hall

Henry Warburton, MP,

Henry Warburton, MP, founder of the Bridport Institute

The turbulent political background to the foundation of the Bridport Mechanics’ Institute (later Literary and Scientific Institute) was the subject of a talk by the historian Dr Tim Connor at Bridport Town Hall on Friday 25 October.

The talk looked at the extreme conservatism of Bridport’s ways of government in the early nineteenth century and at the forces for change, in which the agitation for Parliamentary Reform was foremost.  Dr Connor discussed the origins of the Mechanics Institute “as an idealistic attempt to remedy a social problem as well as a clever bit of electioneering.  After its opening, and the reform of the Corporation, the town had twenty years to get used to the new way of things, before the arrival of the railway.”

After his very well-received talk, Dr Connor answered a number of questions from a packed Town Hall audience.  All proceeds from the event have been donated to the Literary and Scientific Institute restoration fund.

Tim Connor has a particular interest in the architecture of churches and local historic buildings, including the Literary and Scientific Institute, and is the author of Wytherston – a History of a Dorset settlement.

Institute featured in Dorset Life

Dorset Life article page 1The BADT’s campaign to save the Literary and Scientific Institute (LSI) was the subject of a major feature in the October edition of Dorset Life magazine.  The article, by Tamsin Chandler, entitled “From ‘at risk’ to ‘at the heart of Bridport’”, recounts the history of the LSI from its foundation as a Mechanics Institute in the 1830s, its transition to a Literary and Scientific Institute and the success of the Bridport School of Art, through to its post-war existence as the town’s public library and subsequent decline to a nationally recognised “Building at Risk”.  The well-illustrated article is based on an extended interview with project coordinator Crystal Johnson, who outlines the BADT’s plans to restore the Institute as a high quality multi-use venue with a strong emphasis on education and training in the traditions of the building’s distinguished history.