St George's Centre

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St George's Centre.

St George's Centre was a former school, and now a community information and activity centre on the Isle of Portland, Dorset, England. The centre is situated in the area of Reforne, within the village of Easton. It is found close to the Grade I listed St George's Church. St George's Centre has been a Grade II Listed Building since September 1978.[1] At this same time, the centre's community hall, formerly the school assembly hall, also became Grade II listed. The hall was built circa 1880, and is an important element in the overall composition of the centre.[2]

History[edit]

A former school which was opened 5 April 1857, the building was constructed by contractors Hansford and Waight, at a cost of £775. The original school building benefited from a large compensatory sum (£20,000) received by the Parish, paid by the government for the loss of Portland's Great Common for the Verne Citadel and Breakwater schemes. The building had educated many thousands of schoolchildren for 112 years, until it closed in 1969. It was designed originally to provide education specifically for the children of Tophill. Within the Straits area of Easton, on the site of the Portland Tophill Library, once stood Portland's first school - Maister's School - established in 1720. It was Portland's only free day school for over one hundred years, until 1857 when St John's School in Fortuneswell was built along with St George's School. Both schools had south-facing archways and were large, and well-equipped.

Following the closure of the school, the building suffered from years of neglect, weather and vandalism, although it still retained its original character. In December 1981, The Island of Portland Heritage Trust was formed, and the trust's initial target was to raise a total of £25000 in 3 months. This was to purchase the building from the Crown Estate Commissioners. The target was achieved via local appeal and the conversion of the school into a Community and Craft Centre began. With financial assistance from the Manpower Services Commission, a project team was appointed, featuring both a building team and a research and development team, who initiated the major creative and material development work involved in the project.

This project had creating over 50 jobs for the unemployed, who would work on various community programmes, whilst the Trust, in conjunction with the West Country Tourist Board opened the Portland's first Tourist Information Centre to encourage visitors to appreciate the wildlife and the natural beauty of the island's landscape. In 1984, it was carefully restored by the St. George's Trust as a community centre with added workshops. At that time characteristic 'contemporary artefacts' were sealed in the new bellcote before it was set in place. The building remains largely unchanged since it was first opened as a school. Today the centre remains a registered charity.[3] The trust continues to own the building, and the charity relies largely on hall hire and workshop fees to cover the maintenance and overheads.[1][4]

The activity and information centre today provides facilities for a whole range of local activities, including arts and crafts, bingo, the Royal Manor Workshops, a play school and a dance group. The complex is used extensively by many local organisations.[5] The building's halls consist of the Peter Trim Community Hall, Girt Hall and the Skylark Studio. The Peter Trim hall features "church"-type windows and a beamed roof supports Portland stone block walls. Girt Hall is the largest in the building and Skylark Studio is a smaller room off Girt Hall for small meetings and workshop style events.[6]

In March 2012, it was revealed that the building, via the Island of Portland Heritage Trust, was set to benefit from a major fundraising drive, after Dukes Auctioneers of Dorchester sponsored the fundraising event. This antiques valuation event was to raise funds to pay for structural repairs and the restoration of the arches which front the centre. The front arches had stood the test of time until recently when Albion Stone spent £17,500 on restoring the original stonework to its original condition in keeping with listed buildings and conservation guidelines.[5]

Design[edit]

The two storey building is designed with rubble and ashlar dressings, and has slate roofs. A wide, flat H plan, with schoolrooms to centre behind arcade. Leading to the later school hall is a gabled doorway. The long schoolrooms are set back behind a one-storey 6-bay arcade of flat four-centred arches to slate lean-to roof, covering wide paired plank doors, and plank doors on returns, giving access to wings. There is one 4-pane centre-hung light to each group; centre has blank wall beneath a pointed, lead-covered bellcote, renewed in 1984. On each end of the classroom unit is a deep and lofty stack in brick. There are several lean-to units at the back. The interior features two particular classrooms which were refurbished in 1984, and comprise one space with timber screen divider; a six-bay roof with composite rod and rafter trusses, and heavy doubled timber trusses below the bellcote. There is a stone fireplace at each end of room.[1]

In 1997 the YMCA Centre at Reforne was completed, and it was carefully crafted in Portland stone to complement the style of St George's Centre next door.

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 50°32′49″N 2°26′27″W / 50.5469°N 2.4407°W / 50.5469; -2.4407