Cllr Richard McCauley – Labour’s Cabinet member for Regeneration and Planning – has hailed the progress made to restore one of St Helens’ most iconic buildings, as external work nears an end.
In October 2021, a £1.526m project – funded by St Helens Borough Council – got underway to renovate the Gamble Institute in Victoria Square which has been closed to the public since 2017 due to structural issues making lower levels of the 125-year-old building unsafe.
Key improvements include masonry repointing, terracotta repairs and work to the roof. All windows have been replaced and a stunning stained-glass window, which many visitors to the Gamble will remember, was taken away to be professionally cleaned and repaired before being reinstalled.
Commenting on a recent site visit, Councillor Richard McCauley, Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Planning, said: “Rich in heritage, the Gamble is the jewel in the crown in St Helens town centre and it has certainly got its shine back following this extensive external refurbishment.
“The quality of work is clear for all to see and has been done to a very high standard, from the detail of the brickwork to the terracotta mouldings – it looks absolutely fantastic and I’m sure residents will agree.”
The project, undertaken by Bury-based firm, H.H Smith & Sons Co Ltd, was overseen by site manager, Barry Stenson, from Nutgrove.
Speaking of his pride to have worked on such a large-scale project in his hometown, Barry said: “It’s been very interesting to work on and see what the building was like before and what it will look like once all work has finished.
“The architecture is second to none. I don’t think any firm in the country would be able to replicate building something like this today. It’s certainly lasted its time and it should last another 125 years with the work we’ve done.”
External work is expected to be completed by the end of July, with internal upgrades required before the Gamble Building can reopen to the public.
As previously reported, the council will submit bids for £40m worth of Levelling Up round 2 funding for across St Helens North and St Helens South and Whiston Parliamentary constituencies, with the St Helens bid focussing on supporting restoration of the Gamble Building – bringing it back into use as a modern vibrant library and introducing other sustainable uses to become a thriving community hub in the heart of the town centre.
Councillor McCauley added: “This week, residents will start to see scaffolding coming down, however we’re not quite there yet and will now put together a programme to deliver the necessary internal works before The Gamble can reopen to the public. I hope that government will support our Levelling Up bid, as St Helens, has been identified as a priority place but we have also made some financial provision in the council’s medium term financial strategy for internal improvements to The Gamble Building as a demonstration of our own commitment to this incredibly important asset.
“We know as part of the future use of the building that residents want to see a library return and we are working hard behind the scenes, not only to provide a library but also a truly wonderful space and other facilities that all parts of St Helens will enjoy and be proud of. As this is such a significant development which ties in with our plans for St Helens town centre, we will ensure residents are kept fully abreast and look forward to sharing updates as things progress.”