Heritage Midlands & East Anglia

£2 million refurbishment project will restore much-loved town hall

Great Yarmouth Town Hall is to be transformed in a £2 million refurbishment project that will see the building returned to its former glory.

Built in the 1880s, the town hall is a classic example of Victorian gothic architecture and dominates the view of Hall Quay. In order to rectify the damage caused by harsh weather conditions and unsympathetic repairs over the last 125 years, an intensive refurbishment is currently underway.

Councillor Barry Stone, Deputy Leader of Great Yarmouth Borough Council, said:

“This is a Grade II listed building and it’s part of the town’s heritage. It’s our responsibility to look after it on behalf of the people of Great Yarmouth. Even though it’s costing us a lot of money, the work should leave it in good order for at least several generations to come.”

Head of Wellbeing Services at Great Yarmouth Borough Council, Jane Beck, added:

“We are going to make much more use of the civic rooms and it will enable us to give up other buildings. Previously we used to rent five buildings and we have managed to give up Maltings House, Trafalgar House and the old fire station. It’s saving us hundreds of thousands of pounds a year.”

The project began in October 2011 and the first phase is now complete. Main contractor for the project is Quinn Construction Service and the architects are Jeremy Stacey Architects.

Phase One saw the restoration of the assembly room, which in turn involved the removal of the stage, the implementation of a bright colour scheme and the buffing and polishing of the original wooden flooring. The room will be divided into pods and used as office space for Great Yarmouth Borough Council staff who are not permanently based in the building or who need to use a hot desk.

In addition to the restoration of the assembly room, three rooms below the minstrels’ gallery have been created for video conferences and private meetings, whilst there is now a new staff kitchen.

The old courtroom, which had been unused since the 1990s, has also been refurbished and has in turn become the new council chamber. Original features such as the wooden benches have been retained, whilst new technology – including electronic voting, microphones and cameras – has been installed, along with new carpets and seating.

David Frowde, Architect for Great Yarmouth Borough Council, commented:

“We’re doing a full re-roof of the Town Hall and we are sorting out some stonework problems, some lead work and other various pieces that have deteriorated over the years. It’s a really major refurbishment project for us.

“It’s a really exposed site, particularly on the west where it faces directly onto the river. We’ve also had a problem of correcting repairs that have been done in the past, where materials that were state-of-the-art years ago are found to be no longer appropriate. It’s really been quite a complicated project for us.”

Managing Director of M.S Oakes, Mark Oakes, said:

“Everything that’s done here is very traditional, using top quality materials. It’s a pleasure working for something like this – it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity and it won’t be done again for a very long time.”

Phase Two will see the strip-out of the old 1930s council chamber in order to create a new meeting room. In addition, the currently unused supper room will be converted into office space. In the central area, the toilet block will be demolished and a new passenger lift will be installed.

The restoration of Great Yarmouth Town Hall is scheduled to be completed in time for town’s Maritime Festival on 1st September 2012.

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