WORK has started to restore a 190-year-old building and transform it into a new visitor centre and café.

Greendale Construction Limited has started work at Swanage Pier Marine Villas as part of the Swanage Pier Trust’s restoration project.

The Grade II listed Marine Villas is a Georgian villa which originally contained new, fashionable cold salt-water baths but was soon converted into a private dwelling.

Although Swanage Pier itself has existed since 1859, the current pier was opened in 1897, with the Swanage Pier Trust acquiring it in 1994.

Government funding has previously enabled repairs to the pier structure itself and now, thanks to the Heritage Lottery Fund, Coastal Community Fund, Dorset County Council, Purbeck District Council, Swanage Town Council, trusts and foundations, a major restoration project has commenced. Greendale will undertake a general refurbishment of the existing two-storey Marine Villas.

The works will include the construction of a new, partially-glazed structure extension, forming a new seated cafe area, and internal structural alterations to facilitate the construction of new toilets, a commercial kitchen, and a platform lift to first floor office accommodation.

Rob Hooker, director of Greendale Construction Limited, said: “Greendale is delighted to be on board with this exciting and historically important restoration of the Swanage Pier Marine Villas. The work, which is due for completion in July 2018, will not only bring back to life this Georgian building but also bring in many new visitors to the area, who will be able to learn more about the history of Swanage Pier and the Marine Villas.”

Sympathetic repairs and alterations to the structure of the building will take place, with the introduction of load-bearing glass floor panels in order to allow the viewing of the historic saltwater baths below the ground floor.

New joinery fittings and doors, a reception, exhibition spaces and a shop will be created, as well as a complete redecoration internally and externally.