The tantalising prospect of Bourne Town Hall opening to the the public again 200 years after it was first built is real.
A Bourne Town Hall Steering Group is poised to start the process of making the grade II-listed building, originally designed by Thurlby-born architect Bryan Browning and built in 1821, a property once again “to be used for the benefit of the people of Bourne”.
Up until March 2013, Bourne Town Hall had been the centre of civic and political life in the town for nearly two centuries when town, South Kesteven District and Lincolnshire County Councils were all based there.
But the death knell was signalled with arrival of the £600,000 Bourne Corn Exchange, Community Point and Library which has served as the town’s community nerve centre ever since.
Coun Philip Knowles, former mayor of Bourne and a member of the steering group, said: “Twenty months ago, a management committee was set up to work with Lincolnshire County Council to try and develop a plan for Bourne Town Hall.
“As trustees of the hall, the council had thought about selling the building until members became convinced that they couldn’t because the original deeds said that it had to be held on trust for the benefit of the people of Bourne.
The council had thought about selling the building until members became convinced they couldn’t because the original deeds said it had to be held in trust for the benefit of the people of BourneCoun Philip Knowles, former mayor of Bourne and a member of Bourne Town Hall Steering Group
“So the county council decided that if it was going to make something come of the building, it would hold talks with Bourne Town Council, Bourne United Charities, the Len Pick Trust (which seeks to improve the quality of life for the people of Bourne) and Bourne Civic Society.”
Out of those talks emerged a plan to transform the two-storey hall into multi-purpose venue for arts, entertainment, exhibitions, markets, with disabled access, bar and markets area, retractable seating and the original clock from 1821 restored back to working condition.
Charles Housego, of the Bourne Town Hall Steering Group, said: “The plan is to try and get everything back to how it was when it was a sessions house, with the hall’s original Georgian features, galleries, beams, ceilings and plasterwork set to remain.
“The initial time frame for the project is to try and get the legal processes completed by the end of the year in order to start setting up a charity to take over the building.
“But until we’ve got the building, we can’t start fundraising so that is the plan for 2017.
“Fundraising is the critical part because the faster the project can be funded, the faster we can deliver it.
“We’re taking the project step by step and the support for it is incredible.”
Plans to reopen Bourne Town Hall were made public at two open days over successive Saturdays in September and October.
Coun Sue Woolley, county councillor for Bourne Abbey, said: “It’s just so exciting to think that there are people willing to make this project a reality.
“The hall is in the middle of the town and is unlikely to be knocked down.
“But it does need opening up and we have a fantastic group of people who are determined to make this happen.
“This has got to be good for Bourne and it has the potential to be good for the surrounding businesses as well.
“It’s just so desperately exciting that, for me, it makes my heart sing.”
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Theatre, cinema and bar plan for town hall