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29 October 2014

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You are in: Suffolk > People > Features > Restoration at Bury Athenaeum

Athenaeum

Restoration at Bury Athenaeum

It's nine weeks into a twenty-two week restoration in Bury St Edmunds.

Turn a corner in Bury St Edmunds and you could find a slice of history being uncovered. The council are currently deep in heavy restoration at the West Front, the Theatre Royal and now, the Athenaeum.

St Edmunds Bury Council is spending six hundred thousand pounds on the Athenaeum building alone, which is currently used as an entertainment venue in the town. The renovation will see the building exceed it's current capacity and enable greater access for people with disabilities.

The grade 1 listed building is thought to have been constructed in 1703, in the Georgian period by Frederick Sands, the same architect who worked on Ickworth House.

The building restoration

"Contemporary reports describe the building as having a very elegant, decorative scheme, carried out by the best London craftsmen.  But as far as we can see it is just two shades of olive. We were hoping to find something more exciting," said architect, Hugh Bunbury. 

Perhaps the paintwork was not as they had hoped, but there have been some very exciting discoveries, including two wells and some pottery. The building, described as 'Georgian but with hidden depths' started life as a substantial timber house of three stories. "It may even have been an Inn, known as the Heart of the Hop," says Hugh.  

Inside the athenaeum

The restoration is a welcome move by the council to improve the facilities in the area.  "The Building needed to be refurbished at some stage and this was an opportunity to spend a bit more money on it and make it accessible to a greater number of people," says Councilor Paul Farmer. "The capacity of the building will be almost double. It’s something we see as an investment. This building has had a very varied history it’s had all sorts of uses and all sorts of subdivisions and reconstructions. In 1723 it was used for Public assemblies."

It is hoped that the renovation will prolong the life of the building, and ensure it's popularity for many years to come.

last updated: 16/07/2008 at 11:38
created: 30/03/2006

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