The Bridport Area Development Trust today issued a press release containing the following text:
More than 17 years after the Library moved out of the building, Bridport Literary and Scientific Institute (LSI) is being given a new lease of life thanks to a project developed by local charity, Bridport Area Development Trust (BADT). Earlier this month BADT, together with Dorset County Council and Sir John Elphinstone, whose great grandfather originally gave the building to the town, went to the High Court where a vesting was made that ended years of uncertainty about the legal status of the building. At the hearing the freehold of the building was vested in BADT, so it can be restored and maintained as a community asset for the future.
This landmark ruling followed news that the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has awarded a grant of £1,421,500 towards the project, and a further grant £300,000 has been confirmed by English Heritage. Mike Carter, Chair of the LSI working group, said: “We are absolutely delighted with the outcome of recent funding applications, and with the decision of the High Court. An enormous amount of time and effort has been put into the project to be able to reach this point and we are very grateful to the hundreds of local people who have helped us to make it happen.”
Nerys Watts, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund South West, said: “This fantastic project will seamlessly combine the restoration of a Grade II* listed building whilst also providing it with a sustainable future. The plans we’re supporting today will see the creation of a multi-use space that’s open to the public including heritage interpretation space, a café, rental space for small creative enterprises and education, training and meeting rooms. Projects such as this are a wonderful use of Lottery Funds bringing wide-ranging community, economic and heritage benefits.”
Ruth Garner, Heritage at Risk Principal for English Heritage in the South West said: “This impressive grade II* listed building with a fascinating past can once again become ‘the jewel in the crown’ of Bridport’s heritage. Our substantial grant will fund vital stone conservation work and major roof repairs. We congratulate the BADT on gaining the freehold for the building. Their enthusiasm and determination to get to this point has been remarkable and we look forward to working with them in achieving their excellent objectives for the building and, ultimately, removing it from our Heritage at Risk register.”
Christopher Scally, Joint Commissioning Manager for Dorset County Council, said: “We’re really pleased that the future of this important building has been secured and are grateful to the volunteers of BADT for their hard work over several years. It’s going to be very rewarding to see this listed building given a new lease of life and once again adding to the town’s social and economic well-being.”
What will it be?
The project is the result of extensive community consultation and conversations over more than ten years, to identify and develop a viable future use for the building. The plan that BADT has developed has come from an exploration of the historic uses of the building and a desire to reinterpret its original aims and purposes to meet the needs of the town today and in the future without public subsidy.
Crystal Johnson, Activities Coordinator, said “Historically the building has always been closely linked to training and education, supporting the development of the local economy but also looking to add to the cultural offer of the town. In this vein we have developed good relationships with local colleges and training providers, with our thriving local net industry and with organisations focussing on local economic development and support. We will be working with these bodies to develop fit for purpose training facilities, work hub, meeting rooms, and small start-up office spaces in the building. Alongside this we will be exploring the history and heritage of the building and delivering a programme of related activities, workshops and talks. There will also be facilities that local groups can use for meetings, talks and events. A café on the ground floor will cater for users of the building but also provide public access to the most historically significant space within the building.
We are very excited about the potential of this project to deliver something completely new for the town, we know there are large numbers of people setting up or looking to develop their own businesses in the area and the LSI will provide a unique and aspirational venue to support this local growth. In addition we are working closely with other heritage organisations in the town and through these partnerships we also hope to raise the profile and really celebrate our incredible cultural and industrial heritage.”
The Literary and Scientific Institute is a grade II* listed building and has been on English Heritage’s At Risk register since 2002. The project will completely restore the building, and also improve its facilities to ensure that it is fully accessible for everyone. Mike Carter said, “The building is in a very poor state and there are some significant structural issues that need to be addressed. We will be working closely with English Heritage, listed building officers and an experienced professional team to ensure that the restoration is sympathetic to its historic character and safeguards the building’s future.
We will be finalising the legal and funding agreements over the next few weeks with a view to starting the project in May. Initially there is a lot more detailed planning that needs to be completed before work can start on site so we are aiming to begin work on the building later this year. We anticipate that the restoration will take just under two years and hope to be able to reopen the building in early 2017. It is not an easy project due to the complexity of the restoration and the extent of work that needs to be undertaken to restore the building. The building has been slowly decaying over the past 17 years, we hope that everyone will bear with us for the next couple of years as inevitably there will be some short term inconveniences as we work to save this incredibly important building for the town and its future generations”.
The total cost of the project will be approximately £2.4m, but the majority of this funding is now confirmed, and includes support from HLF, English Heritage, Challenge Fund, Pilgrim Trust, Headley Trust, Dorset County Council, West Dorset District Council, and Bridport Town Council. Crystal Johnson said, “there is still about £140,000 to raise but we feel we are now on the home straight. We will be continuing with our fundraising efforts through the project delivery and we would welcome additional support or assistance. If anyone is interested to get involved, even if they could only offer and hour or two, we would love to hear from them. We are holding an informal meeting to talk about the plans for fundraising at The Stable on Monday 27 April – please do drop in between 5.30pm and 6.30pm”.
If you would like to get involved in the project or join the mailing list please contact Crystal by email, Crystal@bridportadt.org.uk