The Victoria Institute was founded to celebrate Queen Victoria's Jubilee. The first building was a public hall and reading room, with accommodation for a caretaker. The total cost of £1050 was raised by public subscription. Sir Thomas Storey opened the building on November 28th 1888 with a tea party and concert. In 1893 a new Public Library was opened at the Institute, and the Parish Council have used the building since 1894.
Until the end of the Second World War
In 1904 ‘incandescent lighting’ was introduced. The Caton Electric Supply Company connected to the Institute in 1916. In 1919 a fund was opened for the Tea Room and Cloaks extension, costing £873, which was opened in 1928 by Mrs Rathbone of Moor Cottage (Neville House).
A garden was donated to the Institute by Mr Gregson and the War Memorial was unveiled in 1922.
In 1939 the village accepted a proposal to govern the Institute through a Council of Management, with members drawn from representatives of local organisations.
From the ‘Fifties
By 1955, and for the next decade, the Institute was in financial trouble and the building in need of repairs. A number of money raising plans were put in place, for example the Parish Council agreed to pay £3 a year for the bus shelter site, and there was a drive to promote use of the rooms. Even so, resources to run the Institute were so short that Minutes of 1965 record obtaining a “good second hand toilet seat for the Ladies”.
Spurred on by local benefactors, a renovation fund was established and much work undertaken to raise money. A significant refurbishment project was completed in June 1973 at a cost of £6 208.
A forward look at continuing to improve the Institute’s facilities was taken in 1981 with a 5 year progress plan funded with assistance from the Parish Council. The many improvements to follow, double glazing, heating system, and alterations to the Kitchen, cost a total of £28 000. The amount was raised from the local community and grants from Lancashire County Council and Lancaster City Council.
A £183,000 grant funded capital project, in 1999, completely refurbished the main Hall and Billiards Room; and built and equipped the new information technology room facing onto the War Memorial Garden. To accommodate the extension, a section of the Garden was ceded by the Parish Council, and the present dividing wall between Institute and Garden built. The project provided level access throughout the building; freed up corridors by creating a separate entrance for the caretaker’s flat; a toilet for the disabled; an induction loop system throughout; nappy changing facilities and a public toilet. The IT room was equipped with fifteen computers; printer, fax, scanner and photocopier; and flexible workstations.
The Parish Council commissioned a superb celebration clock for the Millennium.
A further capital project was funded in 2004 with grants totalling over £91,000. The project built a spacious and welcoming reception room and resource centre with desk. Following closure of Caton Library in 2007, the village’s Community Library has used this space.
The project also completely refurbished the Tea Room, adding a new kitchenette annex and a large storage room.
At the time of writing (2012), it is 125 years since the first Committee was appointed with the principal duty of preserving the Institute for the use of the Parish. After all this time, the current Trustees are still abiding by that responsibility, and are working through a programme of refurbishment and re-decoration, a project also made possible by the support of local people. To reflect the history of the building, Trustees decided to rename two of the meeting rooms. The Tea Room is now known as the Victoria Room, and the Billiard Room as Sir Thomas Storey Room, after the local dignitary who both provided funds and presided over the opening Ceremony.
As the day to day work load increased it became necessary to support the volunteer Trustees, and an Administrator was appointed, with costs funded through the Parish Council.
In the Centenary Souvenir Booklet of 1988 it was noted that:
“The Parish Council has shown commitment to maintaining the Institute as the social heart of the community. The institute’s income is derived in hire charges and fund raising efforts by the Management Committee. Income just about meets day-to-day running expenses and without the Parish Council’s assistance, the Institute could have been struggling to survive. We hope villagers will continue to support their Institute for another one hundred years and more.”
The same words could be written today.
With thanks to Chris Kynch, and authors of the Centenary Souvenir booklet