VISITORS to Reading’s Town Hall and Museum will notice the exciting transformation work that has started to take shape this month, including the complete refurbishment of the former 3Bs Café.
As well as the re-opening of the 3Bs Café, the big changes later in the autumn include the move of the register office’s ceremony room (for marriages, civil partnerships and naming ceremonies) to its new location in the former box room gallery of the museum.
Other major improvements this year include:
• The upgrade of all toilets by the reception and on the first and second floors;
• The reconfiguration of the reception desk area;
• Improvements to the lift lobby area on the ground floor;
• The completion of the new Story of Reading gallery;
• The creation of a new museum shop;
• The move of the Coroner Court into the Victorian gallery and the relocation of the Victorian schoolroom to the Abbey Gateway;
• General maintenance and improvements throughout the building.
The work is designed to minimise disruption to visitors and staff as far as possible.
Some preparatory work began last October and included the creation of the new Abbey gallery on the ground floor, as well as reorganisation of the museum’s loan boxes in preparation for the new register office ceremony room space. These boxes have been relocated to Darwin Close and the loan box service continues to be available as normal.
The project got fully underway in mid-April 2018 and is currently ongoing, which includes a new ceremony room for the register office, upgrading the ground floor lobby toilets and refurbishing the former 3Bs Café which will be rebranded and relaunched in the autumn.
Activities during July will involve work to the main entrance and reception area, during which time a temporary reception area will be set up.
Work from September will see the completion of a new Story of Reading gallery in the area of the existing café and a dedicated Coroners Court in the Victorian gallery. The project is expected to complete in early 2019.
The investment at the town hall links to the wider regeneration of the Abbey Quarter, including the newly re-opened Abbey Ruins and improved information points across the town centre.
Cllr Sarah Hacker, Reading’s Lead Member for Culture, Heritage and Recreation, said:
“These are exciting times for the town hall and museum, with some major improvements taking place which will enhance the facilities this venue has to offer. This links to the wider investment we have made in the Abbey Quarter, including the opening of the abbey ruins this month. We envisage the town hall and museum acting as a ‘gateway’ information point for visitors to the quarter and to the wider town.
“Whilst there will inevitably be some level of disruption to its existing use, we have been working closely with our contractors Lakehouse Contracts Limited, to keep any disruption to a minimum whilst the work is completed.”
Cllr Jason Brock, Reading’s Lead Member for Consumer Services, said:
“I’m delighted the work to create a new purpose-built ceremonial suite is progressing well. The move of ceremonies to the Town Hall will improve accessibility and also provide a great choice of backdrops for photographs, including the nearby Forbury Gardens, which is a short walk away.”
Dean Ball, Managing Director, Lakehouse Construction Division (the contractors carrying out the work at the town hall), said:
“Lakehouse is delighted to be working on such an important and historic building for the Council. This is a complex and challenging project, which will really demonstrate the collaborative working ethic of our business. Our regional team, based at Andover, are relishing the opportunity of working with Reading Council, end-users and specialist consultants on this key scheme for the town.”
An artist’s impression of the new register office’s ceremony room is available on request or can be downloaded from here: https://flic.kr/s/aHsmndHvYE
Background to the changes
The changes are part of the Council’s Asset Management Plan, which details how the Council’s is making the best possible use of its buildings to help reduce running costs and contribute to closing the budget gap by through the sale of buildings, as well as providing a better services to residents: www.reading.gov.uk/media/5706/item11-2/pdf/item11_(2).pdf
The relocation of ceremonies to the Town Hall will provide an attractive and historic setting with a choice of internal and external backdrops for photographs, including the nearby Forbury Gardens, which is a short walk away.
The purpose-built ceremonial suite will be on the ground floor and is fully accessible, and plans include providing a suitable drop-off for a wedding car at the main entrance to the Town Hall. New registration facilities at the Civic Offices will be a significant improvement in terms of the accessibility issues currently experienced by visitors to Yeomanry House.