Florrie back to her majestic best

Specialist conservation contractor William Anelay has handed over the restored boys' club the Florence Institute in Dingle, Liverpool to its community trust owners.

The Grade 2-listed Victorian building overlooking the Mersey was built in 1889 by former Liverpool Mayor Bernard Hall as a tribute to his daughter Florence who died at the age of 22.

For decades the brick and terracotta building on Mill Street served the people of Liverpool and is Britain's oldest surviving purpose-built boys' club. The Florrie helped foster the talents of boxer Alan Rudkin, comedian Sir Jimmy Tarbuck and musician Gerry Marsden before closing in 1988 and falling into disrepair.

York and Manchester-based building restoration contractors William Anelay won the £4.8m contract to restore the Florrie for the Florence Institute Trust, set up by local residents in 2005.

The project architects were Purcell Miller Tritton LLP and project manager Buro Four. The programme of works started in summer 2010 and were completed in March 2012. The project was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund matched with grants from the European Regional Development Fund and North West Development Agency.

Restored Florence InstituteThe building will reopen in April and be used for hosting weddings, award ceremonies, conferences and receptions in the Grand Hall. There will also be a gym for indoor sports events, a small cafe, a heritage centre with computer facilities, a library and small business units.

Gary Shea, Anelay's site manager, said: "Arson and vandalism had taken its toll on the building and left it disused and structurally compromised for over two decades. There was a strong element of risk given the building's perilous condition.

"The initial enabling works paved the way for transforming the building back into a valuable community resource.

"The ground floor of the finished building comprises of a large 220 sq m gym facility with library, heritage centre café, kitchen and toilet facilities as well as a number of small business units.

"On the first floor there is a large 320 sq m main hall which will be used for functions with a stage lift constructed alongside associated bar facilities. There's also a balcony area and steps up to the observatory upon which a new copper cupola has been restored.

"Restoring the main hall has been a complex operation with five huge roof trusses installed to replace the existing, heavily damaged beams that had led to roof collapse and water ingress. Internal birdcage scaffolding allowed these works to take place safely with a temporary external roof covering installed over the winter months.

"One of the preconditions of being awarded this project was to provide employment and training opportunities for local people to work alongside our specialist joiners and a partner company Lowery Roofing with around 70% of the workforce coming from the locality, including second year joinery apprentice Adam Scott."

William Anelay is also working on the Central Library restoration in Liverpool. The Florrie achieved a 'very good' BREEAM rating, for best practice in sustainable building design.

Denise Bernard, chairman of the Florence Institute Trust, said: "For years, the Florrie became a blight both visually and physically on the landscape for local people and after an arson attack left it considerably damaged it became clear that something had to be done. Some people wanted the Florrie to be razed to the ground but thankfully the appetite was there to save her.

"By the spring of 2012 the Florrie will once again be playing a pivotal role in this vibrant and diverse community."

Gary James of Buro Four Project Services added: "The success of this project has been made possible by every member of the team working hard to get the building finished on time. The people of Dingle, Toxteth, fringe communities and from across the City, will soon have a fantastic facility that will cover a wide range of uses and will undoubtedly inspire future generations to achieve their own personal success stories."

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