The Laxey Working Mens Institute was opened in 1876 as part of the Institute movement, which provided educational and social opportunities for working men. It was built for the mine workers “to free their minds from the slavery of ignorance”.

In 2004 the building was falling into serious disrepair and with the trustees unable to generate to funds to keep the building running, it was closed.
In 2007 a group of local volunteers stepped forward and took on the task of resurrecting the facility with the knowledge and conviction that the village of Laxey needed and deserved a place for people to meet, participate in activities and hold social events.

Between 2007 and 2011 the volunteers worked on the building and raised the funds to complete the restoration. The cost was over £230,000 and around half of this was donated by local people with the balance from grants and donations from charities including the Manx Lottery Trust, Arts Council, Manx Heritage Foundation, Gough Richie Trust, Elizabeth Clucas Charitable Trust, Lockington Marshal and others.

In 2013 a second phase started, which was the removal of a 1960’s leaking flat roof single storey extension to be replaced by a new build with kitchen, toilets and lift. This cost over £200,000 and was made possible following a generous bequest, which provided 75% of the costs. The balance was achieved via grants and charitable donations.

The Opening in 2011

The "Laxey Working Men's Institute and Public Reading Rooms" Situated on the New Road , was built in 1876 by the miners and the Flour Mill workers of the village as a recreation hall and reading room.

On 20th May 2011, Just four years after a restoration appeal had been launched, and 135 years after the original opening of the Institute, local resident and life long patron since the 1940's, Mr Bob Kinrade, gathered with dignitaries, benefactors and restoration volunteers to perform the official re opening ceremony, following the buildings complete restoration.

Over the years, many important events had been held there, including the first election of the Village Commissioners in 1895. Many miners strike meetings were held in the building, the sales of "chattels and household items" of those emigrating to find work were also conducted there. The bodies of the men killed in the Great Snaefell Mine disaster of 1897 were laid out in the Institute and the subsequent enquiry into the disaster was also held at the hall. The building had been used for many social events and meetings in the village and had at one time even served as a small cinema!

The Institute has served the village well for many years but more recently, it had fallen into disrepair until eventually it was closed to the public around 2002 as it had become completely derelict.
In 2007 a group of local volunteers formed who felt that the 'Institute' was an important and historic building with strong connections to Laxeys' Industrial and social heritage. Being one of only two Registered buildings in the village it was felt that it was worthy of preservation, that it was of 'national importance' to preserve and bring the building back into use as a community hall, and 'social heart' of the village, to once again take an active role in keeping our village a community.
Work schedules, planning and meetings had actually been going on behind the
scenes since early 2007.

We decided, our aim for the first phase was just to have a dry and sound shell that was weather proof, which would secure the building and stop it falling down.
Then, when it was watertight and sound on the outside, fundraising could start for a second phase of the inside restoration work sometime in the future.
In The first few weeks of the restoration, we turned up with wrecking bars and stripped out all the old celotex wall boarding that was holding the damp on the walls; we threw it out of the windows and had a big bonfire. This was great fun, even the fire helped to dry the place out.!

We realised that the first thing we had to do was stop the rain coming in!

In order to assess the scale of the works needed to the roof, we had to find a friendly scaffolder who could "lend us" some scaffolding, rent free, for a couple of years!!
We were lucky enough to do this, and once the scaffold was up, a local roofer inspected the structure for us free of charge,  and discovered that although it was in quite good condition, some major work was needed.

We were again lucky to obtain the "free" services of a UK based firm of structural engineers and historic building specialists, who just happened to be passing the front door on their way back to the airport from visiting the restoration of the Laxey wheel.

They were very encouraging about the possibilities of bringing the building back into use. They were impressed that some parts of the building were in such good condition considering its age and ingress of water over the years. Huge 'pitch pine' timber joists were used in the construction of the roof and 1st floor, and they were most interested in how the first floor had been constructed in a 'mining style' from underneath, with props and a ring beam around the edges, providing double support. The first floor is incredibly strong.
Once the roof survey had been done, and before the slates could be replaced, the roof timbers had to be sound enough to take the weight of the roof! With the ingress of water over many years, the main A frame joist ends were rotten, and in danger of imminent failure, causing a collapse of the roof. A professional company was engaged to splice in new timbers where necessary and brand new timbers were inserted where the damp had completely rotted them away over the years.

Next we needed to completely replace what was left of the old roof felt with modern breathable felt that would help prevent condensation being trapped in the building and causing future damp problems. Whilst the roof was being stripped we discovered that many of the slates were broken/cracked, brittle or powdery, we managed to reuse some and the rest were replaced with new Canadian slate, new red ridge tiles were used to finish what we believe is a lovely job!

Many thanks to the Isle of Man Government's conservation office, for their help, advice and financial support with this aspect of the project.

We are also very grateful to our local roofer, who worked for a minimum fee, with us labouring, and often for free in his own time replacing the roof and giving us invaluable advice and help on other parts of the project. Not only was the roof letting water in, but the walls were too! So, all the external render was hacked off the walls and the rotten wooden window lintels replaced at the same time.

Things just seemed to roll along then, and one by one the jobs were tackled and completed.
There were plenty of occasions when we faced what seemed like insurmountable problems or ran out of funds (This was almost a weekly occurrence)

Using professionals for the skilled aspects and helping out with labouring and manual tasks, we turned up every Saturday over the last four years to get the job done. Taking the advice of other volunteer projects such as the Peel centenary centre and Laxey's new football club house.  We steered it to completion.

Of course all this could not have been achieved with out financial backing, and We are so very grateful to all the people, from private individuals, to businesses and government departments and our anonymous benefactor who have very generously supported us; donating time, money labour and materials.

A beautifully crafted honours board (donated by The Manx Box Company)is on display in the downstairs meeting room, highlighting the many people and businesses who donated to the project. I personally also have to say a huge thank you to my fellow workforce volunteers, without whom, the building would still be an derelict eyesore in the village.

We squeezed every ounce of work out of the money that was donated, we wanted to create more than just a village hall, and with the help of funding we have managed to create an arts and entertainment space where events and exhibitions can be held.

So, four years later and the job is completed, With the help of the people of the village and the Island , this important building can once again be part of the community.

The Institute was built by the 'working men' of the village. The restoration team are all working men of the village (apart from Liz Godby, she lives in Lonan!), and with the help of so many people, and all those who have given to the Institute, we have brought this historic building back to life, to serve and become a social centre where people who live in the area can hopefully come out of their houses, meet up and become part of the community.
We now have an enthusiastic and committed management committee, who are actively promoting and organising events and live music to ensure that the building remains well used, viable and a hub of village life for many years to come.

Finally, just to read out an article that appeared in the Manx papers when the Institute was first opened in May 1876, (135 years after the reopening, almost to the week)

"The newly constructed Institute is situated on the New Road, it is a handsome building and was built by the miners and the workers of the village as a recreation hall and reading room to "improve the minds and educate" the working class men of the village, which would hopefully "emancipate their minds from the slavery of ignorance"!

If we'd have been clever enough to have known what we were letting ourselves in for, we'd probably never have started!

Many Thanks once again to all those who helped make this possible,

Richard Henthorn
©2021 The Institute - IOM Registered Charity No.1104