When it comes to Britain’s rural heritage, there are few areas as steeped in tradition as Melton Mowbray.
The Leicestershire town is full of buildings pointing to its rich Iron and Bronze Age past, including dozens of scheduled ancient monuments, sites of special scientific interest, deserted villages and hundreds of listed buildings.
Battles raged in the town during the Civil War of the 16th century, and the surrounding landscape is synonymous with fox hunting, having been frequently daubed in red paint during the 19th century by members of the nobility celebrating successful hunts.
It is perhaps best known for culinary delights – the town still produces Stilton cheese, which originated in the vicinity, and in 2008 the militant Melton Pork Pie Association won a decade-long battle to patent the savoury Melton Mowbray Pork Pie to the town.
In the latest victory to preserve this heartland of the quintessential, the Melton Carnegie Museum has opened a new £1 million gallery under the theme of Changing Life in Rural Britain, complete with an impressive study area, community space and a central area double its original size.
Funded with a £969,000 Heritage Lottery Fund grant, the venue will host a hugely expanded range of activities and events for schools and groups, taking place down corridors Leicestershire County Council’s David Sprason says are packed with “amazing” displays.
“Melton Carnegie has been transformed into a truly remarkable community facility that the people of Melton can be proud of,” adds Sprason, whose authority provided the remainder of the money for the development.
“The funding from the Lottery has allowed the museum to capture all aspects of Melton’s past and present and showcase it to members of the public to enjoy."
These include insights into the evolution of the engulfing countryside and home and working life in the borough, as well as “topical subjects” such as transport, green issues and the economy.
A library, photo collections and archives made by residents feature in the study area.
“The new gallery not only does justice to the rich and vibrant nature of local life through the ages,” points out Emma Sayer, the HLF’s head in the East Midlands.
“It also provides ample opportunities for visitors, residents, schools, community groups and local history societies to engage more fully with their heritage through workshops, lectures and family-orientated hands-on activities.”
Admission free. Visit the museum online.