Plans to transform derelict magistrates court in city centre revealed

Plans to transform the old magistrates court in Bristol city centre into a creative hub for young people have been revealed.

Creative Youth Network has secured £4.25m of funding from the National Lottery Heritage to rejuvenate the derelict and abandoned building in Bridewell Street, which has stood empty since the 1960s.

The charity says the new space, called The Courts, will be a place where young people from diverse background will be able to access enterprise workshops, mentoring, music studios and paid internships.

The £6.5m development will also provide more than 100 jobs once fully open.

Sandy Hore-Ruthven, CEO of Creative Youth Network, said the project would give young people from disadvantaged backgrounds the chance to break into the creative industries.

“We are delighted to have secured this inward investment for Bristol and the west of England and are grateful to The National Lottery Heritage Fund for investing in the future of our city and young people,” she said.

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“This project will bring a historic building back to life by giving young people from disadvantaged backgrounds the chance to break into an industry that is notoriously un-diverse.”

“The project is led by young people and brings together what we all love about Bristol: it’s creative, it’s community-led, and it’s reinventing a building that was for so long a symbol of Victorian era punishment into one that will help Bristol and its young people reach their potential.”

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She went on to say that the £4.25m from The National Lottery Heritage Fund was a ‘huge step forward’ but added they still need to raise a further £1 million in order to make the project happen.

“Anyone able to help us on this final leg of the journey should get in touch. We’d love to hear from you,” she said.

James Durie, chief executive of the chambers of commerce and initiative at Business West, said it was a ‘golden opportunity’ to support the local economy and young people.

A general view of the court rooms at the old magistrates court. Photo by Dan Regan 29/01/2018 Reporter – Michael Yong Copyright – Trinity Mirror (Image: Dan Regan)

Revitalising this iconic building with such an innovative approach will be a final piece in the puzzle of bringing this part of the landmark Bridewell Island site back into use,” he said.

“By providing new spaces for creative businesses and enabling some of our diverse and talented young people to work in the creative industries, at a time of time of huge challenge for our city and region through the Covid-19 crisis impacting us all, this is hugely welcome news and a major boost for our young people and the wider economy.”

The old court was first built in 1879 by Josiah Thomas, and later extended to operate as a criminal court.

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It operated until 1975, when it was replaced by the multi-storey building on the corner of Rupert Street, Christmas Street and Nelson Street.

The original Victorian cells are still in place, as well as four court rooms, with ornate ceilings.

Once the busiest court in the city, it is now a shadow of its former self with most of the courtrooms having fallen into disrepair.

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