A £36,000 grant has been secured to kickstart the process of renovating an historic Ledbury building.

Money from the Architectural Heritage Fund will finance the development stage of repairing the Barrett Browning Institute.

The building, which has stood proudly in the centre of Ledbury since 1896, was originally built by public subscription in memory of the poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning, who grew up in the town.

Funding was secured by a joint effort between Ledbury Places and Ledbury Poetry Festival.

It will pay for work including structural surveys, architect drawings, building specifications, planning applications and consultations, an energy performance survey and legal advice.

Ledbury Reporter: The iconic Barrett Browning Institute in LedburyThe iconic Barrett Browning Institute in Ledbury

A detailed three-year business plan will also be drawn up for the years 2023-26, with outline plans for a further two years.

When the development phase is complete, the groups will need to apply for major grant funding and launch a fundraising campaign in order to finance the capital works, which will include a new heating system, lift and production facilities for hosting and broadcasting live poetry events.

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With the project expected to take five years to complete, volunteers have been decorating the first two floors of the building so it can remain open for public events.

The Barrett Browning Institute is owned by Ledbury Places, a charity established to preserve a number of the town’s historic buildings. Ledbury Poetry Festival established its new permanent home, the Poetry House in the building last year.

Poetry festival returns with full programme

Mark Waller and Peter Arscott, chairmen of the two charities, said in a statement: “We are very excited about receiving this grant as it will provide a great opportunity to work together and develop a fantastic facility for Ledbury Poetry Festival and the community of Ledbury and the surrounding area.”

Ledbury Poetry Festival returns next month with a full programme of events looking at the interconnected, global nature of the pandemic and our mortality.

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Chloe Garner, the festival’s artistic director, said: “It is incredibly exciting to be able to return to a full Ledbury Poetry Festival programme.

“Celebration is a core theme, with music and comic poetry to lift spirits. Walking is another strong theme, lockdowns inspired many people to head outdoors. Plus events which take stock and reflect on the experiences of the past two years. Poetry is perfect for all this.”