SOUTHEND’S former central library is reopening as the town’s new civic art gallery after a year-long revamp.

The Seventies glass and concrete building in Victoria Avenue will reopen on Saturday as the new Beecroft Art Gallery after a £300,000 refit.

The new gallery will open with an exhibition of bathing suits from the 1940s to the 1960s and paintings of local scenes.

An official opening takes place in September.

Manager Clare Hunt said: “It’s a great building and I have learned to love it more and more since I have come here.

“There are nice modernist features. No expense was spared when it was built.

“It is a high-quality building and as a gallery it looks really good.”

Pride of place in the gallery is a painting of Walter Beecroft, the Leigh solicitor who bought the Station Road hotel as a temporary display space, intending to establish a permanent gallery elsewhere.

Graham Longley, deputy leader of Southend Council and councillor responsible for culture, said: “We hope as many people as possible will be able to come along and enjoy the Beecroft Gallery’s fabulous works of art on display.

“This new location is ideal for the Beecroft’s pictures and other artworks. We have the room to host the region’s only dedicated costume exhibition collection.

“It is a wonderful way to share our borough’s art heritage.”

The Beecroft’s new bigger home means a third more artworks can be displayed.