Work begins this week to refurbish the historic Walworth Town Hall, all but destroyed by a blaze in March 2013.
The Grade II listed building on Walworth Road, which once housed the Newington Library and Cuming Museum, has been out of use since then.
A new Southwark Heritage Centre and Walworth Library, just a few doors away on Walworth Road includes many items from the old Cuming Museum alongside a new permanent heritage exhibition and a state-of-the-art library.
So the old town hall, which has been on the Heritage at Risk Register for nine years, is finally being restored and refurbished to become a flexible community hub.
The scheme is being delivered by developer, General Projects in partnership with Southwark council. When complete by the end of 2023, the town hall will reopen with studio and work spaces, ideal for start-ups and small businesses, alongside new community space on the ground floor of what was once the Newington Library.
The refurbishment includes a new third floor and mezzanine level within the former council chamber and a new ground floor entrance onto Walworth Square. There will be cycle storage; outdoor amenity spaces and the memorial garden, which runs along the Walworth Road frontage, will be relandscaped.
General Projects will operate the town hall, and a new independent management board chaired by local resident Manisha Patel with other members of the Walworth community, has been established to help shape the new community space.
This new community space will be operated by a third party to be chosen by the management board and will be available to the public all year round for a variety of uses such as meetings, events, talks, performances, arts and crafts, workshops and classes.
Conamar, a contractor with substantial experience in heritage projects, began the refurbishment on Monday 7 March. This will involve demolition works, structural frame installation, façade restoration, roofing and internal fit-out (including mechanical and electrical installations) before completion with the external landscaping works.
Cllr Helen Dennis, cabinet member for sustainable development said: “I’m delighted at this latest milestone in the restoration of Walworth Town Hall. This much-loved heritage building is the jewel in Walworth’s crown. Bringing it back into use, with both work and community space included, will give it new purpose and a new lease of life which means it can continue to be enjoyed by many more generations to come.”
Frederic Schwass, Development Director at General Projects, said: “After having spent the past three years working tirelessly with our devoted team and the council, we are delighted to commence the construction phase of the project. This milestone marks a critical step in bringing the iconic heritage buildings back into active use. Once completed, the new workspaces and community hub will provide a vibrant and diverse amenity for Walworth and its surroundings.”