Hastings Library re-opens in the Brassey Institute, Claremont

After works which have taken over two years to complete and cost over £9.5 million    more than £720,000 over budget    Hastings Central Library will re-open its doors to the public on Friday 2 March in the Brassey Institute on America Ground.

East Sussex County Council say that the premises have been completely refurbished as a “state-of-the-art” service with new furniture, more computers, free Wi-Fi and improved toilet facilities.

The children’s library, which has been based for years in nearby Robertson Passage, and temporarily housed functions of the main library during the period of works, will also move to the Brassey Institute.

The elaborately decorated building was originally designed in the style of Venetian Gothic by Walter Liberty Vernon for Thomas Brassey, then MP for Hastings.  Construction started in 1878.  A free public library was opened there in 1881 by Lord Brassey, as he had then become, and ownership of the whole building donated to Hastings Council six years later. It was awarded Grade II listing a century later in 1987.

The building had not been adequately maintained in recent years and was in severe need of overhaul.  Being listed, all of the repairs had to be undertaken using original materials and techniques. Then when existing paint and coatings were removed from the front of the building the underlying stonework was found to have degraded much more seriously than previously believed, a threat to the stability of the facade. Replacement of stone and repairs to both stone and mortar were required “to restore the structural integrity to the front of the building”, according to a Council spokesman last December explaining the huge overspend. “These are works that we had no choice but to carry out to make the building safe”

Critics have contrasted the overall cost of the refurbishment which the Council has been willing to shell out on this prestige project with its current proposals to close seven libraries across the county this year, including Ore, on grounds of cost saving. East Sussex CC voted earlier this month to reduce their annual budget by £17 million, and libraries are in the front line for cuts in order to make this possible. However the Council maintains that spending on the Brassey Institute building comes out of a capital fund whereas the closure of branch libraries saves “current” spending.

 

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