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Tonbridge: Pop-ups open in Old Fire Station

By Annabel Rusbridge-Thomas

It's stood empty for more than 35 years, but this week the Old Fire Station in Tonbridge was full of life.

The historic building, which was operational until 1983, became layered in dust after its closure but new owner, Richard Collins, has given it a new lease of life.

The 42-year-old announced earlier this year that restaurants, bars and other business owners would be opening pop-up shops in the Castle Street site.

Richard Collins is re-vamping the Old Fire Station

Mr Collins, who beat more than 40 bidders to the site at an auction a year ago, has spent the past few months developing it.

The successful businessman said: "I saw the building when I first moved to Tonbridge and I knew I wanted to buy it. It's been a dream of mine to turn it into something great. It's basically a big community space now.

"The building was built in 1901, it's been community owned for a long time I am just the guardian of it. This isn't about making a profit, yes great if we do, but it's about people enjoying themselves."

Richard has spent months working on the Old Fire Station. Picture: John Westhrop

The Old Fire Station opened its doors for the very first time on Wednesday.

Mr Collins admitted the paint had just dried and work was only completed that morning, but it didn't stop him welcoming some of the town's most familiar faces for a sneak peak at the exciting things to come.

Restaurants, bars, artists and tailors are among those setting up shop in the beautiful building in the next three months.

Food by Dan Hatton, who will be hosting a pop-up

Among the bunch is former Professional MasterChef contestant, Adam Handling, much-loved Tunbridge Wells drinking spot, Fuggles Beer Cafe - which will be situated in the station on dates throughout October, November and December - and high-end tailoring business, Hardman and Hemming.

Also involved are The Bakehouse at 124 in Tonbridge, Sankeys of Tunbridge Wells, Bentley cars, master tea blender, Alex Probyn, Michelin Star chef, Daniel Hatton and sculptor, Guy Portelli.

Mayor of Tonbridge and Malling, councillor Owen Baldock, said he's thrilled to see the building come to life after so many years.

Cllr Baldock tries oysters from Sankeys in Tunbridge Wells

Living with his family close by, Cllr Baldock remembers the station when it was still operational and believes the new pop-up idea is a great step forward for Tonbridge.

Mr Collins said he hopes the pop-ups will be a great success and has many more plans for the building in the future.

For more information and full event listings search Old Fire Station on Facebook or follow @firestationtn on Twitter.

Old Fire Station launch in Tonbridge 2015

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Food by top chef, Daniel Hatton Aston Martin has collaborated with the Old Fire Station The Mayor of Tonbridge and Malling, councillor Owen Baldock tries on a fireman's brass helmet Oysters and champagne from Sankeys in Tunbridge Wells The Mayor of Tonbridge and Malling tries an oyster from Sankeys in Tunbridge Wells
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