The Barnsley Mechanics Institute and Public Hall was originally constructed in 1877 to the design of Leeds based architects Hill & Swann, who were responsible for many civic and public buildings in the late 19th Century. With the institute aiming to improve the towns working classes’ access to education, specifically scientific and artisan training, its purpose was social and cultural engagement from the outset.
The public hall was home to Barnsley art school for 70 years up to 1948, then became a theatre in 1962 closing in 1998, whilst also being home to a public library, shops and events space along the way. Reopening in 2009 with a new theatre space and contemporary art gallery, since 1986 it has been Grade II Listed but is only partly used with its mosaic floors, ornate ceilings and areas of the interior remaining hidden from view.
Designs created by the HLM Culture team are for a multi-million pound restoration of the building to its former glory, opening up the whole building for people to enjoy and transforming it into a destination for the arts.
The HLM Culture team undertook an in-depth analysis of the building’s context, including planned developments within the town centre whilst working closely with Barnsley Civic Enterprise (BCE) Ltd – the Trust which owns The Civic, the community and wider stakeholders – a solution was then created that would preserve and protect the heritage of the town while exploiting the potential of this hugely important community asset.
As part of the restoration, the original Victorian entrance on Eldon Street will be reinstated, complete with a new bar, box office and foyers. The historic fabric of the building including the façade and canopy will be carefully cleaned
and revealed. There will be a new Studio Theatre in a double-height space with dressing rooms and rehearsal space as well as a flexible Events Space and extended Gallery, creating opportunities to offer more exciting
arts events, exhibitions and shows and allow for multiple performance rehearsals to take place at the same time.
Helen Bell, CEO The Civic Barnsley said: “Our redevelopment plan is designed to create an arts centre that is accessible for all; a central events venue that everyone can enjoy. People will be able to see shows, enjoy exhibitions,
attend dance classes and much more.”