Weston Museum secures £1m for refurbishment
PUBLISHED: 12:00 16 March 2015 | UPDATED: 12:45 16 March 2015
A £1MILLION lottery grant has secured Weston Museum ‘for future generations’ – and the ‘hard work starts now’ to give the building a complete makeover.
The museum has been awarded the cash by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to refurbish and modernise the Burlington Street site – which is expected to cost £1.5million in total.
Weston Town Council originally asked the lottery for £750,000, but has been granted £1,096,000 for the project.
The museum will close on April 18 and not reopen until 2017, during which time all the artefacts will be stored and conserved at the Heritage Centre in Taunton.
The museum has been at its current home in the former Gas Company workshops since 1974 – but has since seen very little investment.
The town council took over the premises in 2011 and councillors realised the place had needed work, so established a museum working party.
At a town council meeting on Monday, the group’s chairman John Crockford-Hawley said: “This is the largest project the town council has undertaken and it compares in scale with something that unitary authorities do.
“Our North Somerset colleagues did not think it was worth their while taking on a museum in Weston, but you (the town council) decided you would pick up the project.
“We have rescued the museum and it will be handed down to future generations. We can say this is the result of your foresight, when other politicians decided not to be so supportive.
“It is a big job but it is all terribly exciting. We have collections which are of national importance – this is not a potty little museum, it is made of outstanding stuff. The hard work starts now.”
In 2013, an initial Heritage Lottery Fund grant of £72,000 was given to create a business model.
Messrs Chedburn & Dudley, Somerset architects with experience in converting historic buildings, and design consultants Imagemakers were commissioned to draw up plans.
The 1970s staircase will be replaced by modern stairs, a new lift and two bridges, to improve access throughout the building. New exhibition galleries will be created, with interactive features.
Unseen rooms will be opened to allow more of the collection to be viewed and a secure gallery will be created for high-security national exhibitions. There will also be education and community meeting facilities as well as new shop and café outlets.
Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund South West Nerys Watts said: “This is a transformational project for Weston.
“Telling the story of Weston from pre-historic to present day, the revitalised museum will chart Weston’s rise from small Somerset village to one of England’s best-loved holiday destinations.”
Cllr Crockford-Hawley said: “It’s been a truly rewarding experience in which team effort has triumphed.
“It will be sad to see the museum close for two years but rest assured there’ll be a magnificent wow factor on re-opening.”
The town council is now looking at further phases of museum development.
A currently inaccessible second courtyard, which contains an original 1860s mews cottage façade, is earmarked for a phase two project, while the third stafe will involve revamping the adjoining Clara’s Cottage.
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