What does the future of the St Michael’s Estate look like?
Well finally as of July 2023 we can at last be confident it will look very much like the aerial impression here; our scheme for the regeneration and development of St Michael’s has just been approved for the third time by the Western area planning committee of Dorset Council.
The long list of plusses for which we have been banging the drum for 15 years has finally been accepted unanimously by councillors:
- Regeneration which ensures long term social, economic, environmental survival
- Conserving the historic rope and net making buildings that are the heart of the estate
- Creation of a riverside walk linking the town through to West Bay
- New public realm areas benefitting the community through shared spaces and walkways
- Provision of much needed open market and affordable housing in a riverside setting
- Delivery of that rare commodity: a mixed-use development on a brownfield site
- Brand new modern commercial trading units in a traditional setting
All this won’t happen overnight; we still have several planning hoops to jump through and work is not likely to start for two years but there is now clear light at the end of what has been a long, dark tunnel.
Architect’s impression courtesy of Ferguson Mann Associates
St Michael’s Blue Plaques Bring Estate History Alive
Three commemorative blue plaques have been unveiled here at St Michael’s. It would of course be unusual to have one blue plaque on a trading estate let alone 3 but why have historic plaques on a trading estate at all?
St Michael’s has a proud track record of providing affordable commercial trading space to small businesses for 53 years. But we have always been conscious that the estate had an industrial life for hundreds of years before as a net and rope making factory employing hundreds of local people. We are also conscious of being the largest part of Bridport’s South West Quadrant conservation zone. The first plaque unveiled was to William Saunders Edwards and it was unveiled by his great granddaughter Amanda Streatfeild who still lives in the town. William broke the mould by taking nets from St Michael’s into the world of sport; lawn tennis- the All England Club and then to the Football Association for the first goal nets, then cricket nets, and of course almost every village hall in the country has a badminton net or two.
The second plaque to William Gale and his family was unveiled by His Worship the Mayor Councillor Ian Bark who said that just looking around St Michael’s it was obvious that this was once a thriving hub of industrial activity. ’These buildings still stand as a mark of respect to the entrepreneurs and workers who created and worked in them.” In unveiling the third plaque to commemorate the creation of Bridport Industries, Karen Hunt Chair of the Bridport Museum trustees, agreed with Councillor Bark that Bridport’s heritage is ‘not just about these buildings we see around but about the people who shaped them, worked in them and lived in the surrounding streets.’ We are proud to commemorate their contribution to St Michael’s and Bridport’s industrial past.
Farewell to Gentleman Clive
Clive Hayward, who along with his brother and their father Norman senior, was responsible for creating the trading estate from the remains of a disused netmaking and rope making factory in 1968 sadly passed away in 2019.
The family almost single-handedly took down old buildings and built new replacements and have maintained the buildings now for more than 50 years. St Michael’s now has a unique reputation and character and Clive made an outstanding contribution through his commitment which continued right up to a few days prior to his passing. As Norman Hayward commented to the local press and at Clive’s service: “His dedication to the estate and its tenants over 30 years was the main reason it has somehow survived through many ups and downs, in particular the diverse mix of traders that has taken its reputation way beyond West Dorset.’
Some 40 tenants travelled from Bridport to pay their respects at the service in Poole on the 29th January. A flag continues to fly at half mast over the Tower Building on the estate.