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The centre, housed in a 17th century mill that was once home to 70 antique and vintage dealers, has been completely refurbished and its structure strengthened. It will reopen on Monday, November 4, as a "lifestyle business," according to owner Glynn Evans.

Former leaseholder Clare Myers has not returned and Evans has installed an experienced retail manager, Sharon Currie. The White Lion Antiques Centre in Hampshire is also owned by Evans.

After the fire in November 2015, Evans had hoped to reopen Bourne Mill a year later but a dispute arose with insurer AXA on its valuation of the repair costs. According to Evans, the shortfall was "more than half a million pounds".

Eclectic mix

Currie says the mix of dealers in the refurbished centre will be more eclectic than in the past, which together with an enhanced cafe "should draw a bigger crowd in”.

“We are swaying away from making it a fully antiques emporium,” Currie says. “Glynn owns the White Lion which has many antiques dealers but here in Bourne Mill we will mix retro, vintage, 'upcycled' items and contemporary art with antiques.

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Centre manager Sharon Currie hails from the retail sector.

“What you will get in Bourne Mill, as you do in other commercial antique centres, is one-of-a-kind items, across periods, that you won’t find in the high street." 

Currie says that having been closed for four years, the centre's customers will help decide what dealers become established in the centre. 

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Never too young: Flo, grand-daughter of dealer Jane Boniface, sprucing up one of the building’s period fireplaces (no longer in use). Boniface is one of the original centre dealers returning to sell vintage, retro and quirky items having “lost everything” in the 2015 fire. “We missed the centre so much and it’s like coming back to an old friend,” Boniface says. “People will come out of curiosity to see the centre’s restoration and hopefully to buy.”

'Lifestyle business'

Evans describes the reborn Bourne Mill as "a lifestyle business".

After proudly rehanging the old 'Bourne Mill Antique Centre' sign on the mill's frontage when ATG came to call, Evans says the centre "won't be the straight antiques business I acquired 30 years old. It will be a blend of old and new, but always with an appreciation of history.

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The centre has room for 70 dealers with cabinets for £40 rental a month, shared rooms and small, single occupancy rooms for £200 per month. Large room pitches cost £800 monthly rental.

"Tastes are changing and I can remember when there was nothing but antiques here. But just before the fire, antiques were outnumbered by collectors items, 1930s and post war-era rudimentary items, which have come back into favour."

Returning dealers

Currie says that 50 dealers have signed up, selling vintage clothing, retro items, antiques, watches, taxidermy, modern art and up-cycled goods. A local charity for people with learning disabilities, Enterprise 19, has been given floor space to sell work it produces. 

Retro and vintage dealer Jane Boniface is one of those returning to stand at the centre, along with fellow former Bourne Mill dealer, Rosie Norfolk, who sells antique furniture. 

"I lost everything in the 2015 fire," Boniface says, "but I've missed the centre so much and feel confident the building has been made safe." 

Evans says that most of the damage to the building "was done by the water – roughly 10% was the fire".

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The 17th century mill house retains its low beams but restoration organised by centre owner Glynn Evans (pictured) included strengthening the building’s structure with new oak beams, painted black to match the surviving original beams.

The inside of the building was "stripped back and treated to dry it out, but we couldn't be too severe to avoid collapse. We've used fire retardant materials and have done anti-fungal work. Electricity and gas are back in and the fire alarm and CCTV are about to be installed."

The centre will be open seven days a week, with free parking behind the building.