Courtesy of the Bridport and Lyme Regis News
YEARS of hard work, dedication and determination have finally paid off and an iconic building has been officially reopened following a £2m restoration.
A host of esteemed guests and supporters attended the opening of Bridport’s Literary and Scientific Institute on Friday.
The Bridport Area Development Trust (BADT) – a group of local volunteers – has been working for many years to restore the much-loved building and bring it back into community use.
The institute, known by many as the old Bridport library, had fallen into disrepair having been empty since 1997. It was even places on the national At Risk in 2002.
BADT has been determined to return the building to community use following the long period of neglect.
Friday's event included the launch of a book written by Dr Tim Connor, which tells the story of the institute’s history since it was built in 1834.
BADT chairman, Trevor Ware, welcomed guests and speakers and explained how the LSI made its journey from endangered building to a state- of-the-art space for business, with generous support from charities and personal donations.
BADT is a charity led, and run, by volunteers and the LSI will need to self-finance through income from the facilities as well as through fundraising.
The campaign to save the condemned building began some 14 years ago. The restored and converted Grade Two* Georgian institute has 'finally emerged into the 21st Century as a unique building.'
The purpose of the new-look LSI is to offer permanent, temporary and drop-in working facilities as well as event, training and meeting spaces.
The main room is occupied by The Alembic canteen, which serves locally-sourced meals and provided refreshments to guests at the opening. The Alembic is open to the public six days-a-week.
West Dorset MP Oliver Letwin attended the opening and spoke enthusiastically about the building, describing it as 'a wonderful mixture of the modern and the old brought together in a most sensitive way.'
The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) was represented by Evelyn Stacey, who explained the HLF had been keen to support the project as it providing learning opportunities.
Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), a business-led private and public sector partnership, secured a contribution from the Government’s Local Growth Fund.
Chairman Jim Stewart said: “Dorset LEP is delighted to have been able to support the development of this impressive new workspace which is helping to meet the needs of existing businesses, whilst enabling new ones to grow. It is fantastic news for both businesses in the west of Dorset and for the wider local economy, and we wish it every success.”
Bridport mayor Anne Rickard spoke of the significance of the LSI project to Bridport.
Cllr Rickard said: "This wonderfully renovated building is a sheer delight and we must remember that this is actually the third very large project of its kind undertaken within Bridport for which Heritage Lottery Grants have been awarded. This says so much for our town, in having buildings which are worth looking after, and being able to create the ability to deliver such a wonderful outcome.".
Sir John Elphinstone and his sister Janet, direct descendants of the Warburton family who originally financed the institute in 1835, were in attendance, and were 'delighted' to see what the building has become.
Mr Connor's book is available from the LSI and Waterstones, with proceeding going towards supporting the institute.