Carnegie library set for £1.8m restoration

PUBLISHED: 11:08 26 February 2020 | UPDATED: 13:28 26 February 2020

The Exchange in Erith has received National Lottery Funding to restore the entire Old Carnegie Building. Picture: Bexley Council

The Exchange in Erith has received National Lottery Funding to restore the entire Old Carnegie Building. Picture: Bexley Council


Erith’s Old Carnegie Library is set for a new lease of life after Bexley Council secured funding from The National Lottery Heritage Fund to restore the entire Grade II listed building.

The National Lottery Heritage Fund has committed £980,000 towards a £1.8million project that will transform the upper two floors of unused space at the Walnut Tree Road building into community workshops for textiles, woodwork, print, ceramics and gardening.

The main central hall will be refurbished for community-led activities, including markets, exhibitions, festivals, concerts and performances.

In February 2019, the council handed management of the building to The Exchange.

Since then there have been more than 25,000 visits to the building with people participating in a variety of community activities and enjoying its new café "The Bookstore".

Sarah Batten, Co-Founder of The Exchange, said: "The success of our National Lottery application is down to the Erith and wider community who have given us so much support over the past 12 months.

"With every visit to the café, every event attended, every kind donation or offer of support, it becomes more and more evident that this new future for the building can be achieved.

"There is still more work to be done, and funds to be raised, but we are confident that the beautiful historic building's future will be secured."

Since opening just 12 months ago, The Exchange has already undergone extensive renovation works to its ground floor, funded by London Borough of Bexley and the Greater London Authority.

These works have seen the lower ground floor of the Old Library rescued from ruin and transformed into a vibrant café, bar and restaurant - The Bookstore - which caters for around 1,500 customers a month.

Erith born Louisa Budds, who trained under world famous Michelin chef Marcus Wareing, is The Bookstore's Head Chef and has overseen the introduction of a diverse menu, focused around local ingredients, including weekly fish nights to celebrate the site's proximity to the river.

The Exchange is a not for profit organisation, so all profits from The Bookstore, along with all profits from products made in the workshops go directly into refurbishment work for the rest of the building.

Ms Batten added: "This is where The Exchange gets its name.

"It's a place where local people can discover new skills and by doing so contribute to the creation of a community that will bring a whole new positive energy to the area.

"We want The Exchange to become the beating heart of Erith.

"A place that enriches lives, that local people feel ownership of and that the local community takes a real pride in.

"The fact that tens of thousands have gone out of their way to discover and enjoy it in its first year speaks volumes. We're answering a real need with a unique, vibrant space that can bring joy for decades to come.'

Over the next 12 months, the ambitious renovation works will take place alongside an equally ambitious events programme incorporating both free and paid for events and including:

You may also want to watch:

· FREE: Family Craft Weekends, last Saturday of every month from 2-4pm

· FREE: Jazz Sundays, on the fourth Sunday of every month from 12-2pm in The Bookstore

· FREE: Open Mic nights, on the third Thursday of every month from 7.30-10pm in The Bookstore, to hear local talent from rapping and poetry to blues and folk

· FREE: Embroidery Sundays: stitch, connect and chat every Sunday from 11-1pm in our Textile workshop

· FREE: History tours of The Exchange, every Saturday from 3pm

· Life Drawing classes, every Thursday from 7-9pm, £8 per session

· Carnegie Ensemble concert, 24th April 2020, £10

· FREE: An exhibition of new design work inspired by the works of Bexleyheath resident William Morris, from 18th March in The Bookstore

· FREE: Mother's Day Weekend Plant Fair and workshops with Peckham partners L'Appartemente

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