Thursday, 28 March 2013

In the Archives: The Lanthorn

Because Livingston was a new town, it was afforded the opportunity to achieve traditional objectives with new methods. One such objective was buildings for community use. The Development Corporation did not have to build such buildings, but it did have a one off pot of money to spend on causes it thought worth while. Community buildings were the remit of the the various local authorities involved in Livingston (before 1975 this was Midlothian County Council and West Lothian County Council, and from 1975-1996, Lothian Regional Council and West Lothian District Council - the complicated arrangement of local authorities was one reason it was difficult to achieve many community based objectives in Livingston - no one wanted to pay for something they didn't have to!)

One new idea tried in Livingston was to build a community centre which would be built by the various agencies in Livingston for the benefit of the public and used by them all.

In 1971 a Working Party met to discuss community facilities for the newly created area of Dedridge, Livingston. The Working Party consisted of representatives from Livingston Ecumenical Experiment, Midlothian County Council (in 1975 split into Lothian Regional Council and West Lothian District Council), East Calder District Council, the Livingston Development Corporation and the Scottish Education Department. The broad membership of the Working Party reflected the desire to create in "The Lanthorn" a facility that could provide for the needs of the entire community in one interconnected complex - a unique idea at the time. Later, the Congregational Church and the Catholic Church became involved. The final facility included two chapels, as well as a branch library and rooms for community use, including a sports hall.

The building was designed by G R M Kennedy and Partners, Edinburgh and  funded by the Livingston Development Corporation, Lothian Regional Council, West Lothian District Council, the Congregational Church, and The Roman Catholic Church. The building was completed and first used in 1978.

The word "Lanthorn" is the old Scots for lantern, symbolising, in this case, light and warmth. The Lanthorn is still used as a library, has a cafe and has various rooms for public use although the Catholic Church later pulled out.

Documents wise, in the archive we hold the papers showing the sale of the ground by the Development Corporation to the Regional council so that it could build the Lanthorn; minutes of the trustees of the Lanthorn (which included councillors, members of the churches, and members from the Development Corporation); minutes of the working party, and other technical papers discussing the best way to provide community facilities in Livingston - archives are kept so that we can show why something was done, and how it was done. The papers we have on The Lanthorn show how something new was tried with this particular community centre. Whether it was successful or not it is a different question - it is, at least, still in use today.

Here are a few images of the Lanthorn:

Foundation stone ceremony at the Lanthorn

A model of the Lanthorn before the building commenced

We hold many pictures of visits by groups to the Lanthorn - I picked this mainly because of the prodigious flares on display!

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