£5 million Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery story project wins Lottery funding

By Culture24 Staff | 20 November 2009
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A photo of a building on a pier

The Penarth Pier Pavilion project (above) has won initial support from the Heritage Lottery Fund after a three-year campaign. Picture: Let's Make It Happen

A £5 million scheme telling the story of Birmingham through a vault of ancient treasures has won a Lottery windfall which will fund the entire venture.

Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery will rejuvenate its History Collections and open them up to more than 500,000 visitors a year after the Heritage Lottery Fund announced the grant for the Birmingham – A City in the Making project.

"This is magnificent news for the Museum," said Gallery boss Rita McLean. "It recognises the need for a project that will be of long term benefit to the gallery and its visitors."

"This is an exciting project that will further improve a world class museum here in the heart of Birmingham," said Councillor Ray Hassall, Cabinet Member for Leisure, Sport and Culture.

"We're talking about a unique collection of objects dating from 1500 to the present day. The collection represents our manufacturing tradition, the diverse communities found here in Birmingham and the continuing growth of our great city."

A picture of a painting of an intellectual middle-aged man sitting in a drawing room

The Charles Dickens Museum in London will benefit from enhanced displays. © The Charles Dickens Museum

Five other historic sites across the country have also been awarded "initial support" by the HLF, revealed in a fanfare marking 15 years since the Fund began.

It will back Stonehenge's £5 million bid towards the much-trumpeted new visitor centre at the stones, and another national symbol, Charles Dickens, is at the centre of a £1.77 million boost for the Museum named after him at his former home in London.

"Interest in Dickens has never been higher, and nowhere can one find a more vivid and personal sense of what he was like and how he lived than in his first London house," said actor and writer Simon Callow, speaking in support of the plans.

"I am delighted to hear news of the HLF's support for this innovative project which would include the expansion of the museum’s educational work."

An overhead photo of ancient stones on grassland

The new visitor centre at Stonehenge has been widely heralded this year. © English Heritage

A £1.6 million bid to transform a dilapidated Grade II-listed Pavilion on Penarth Pier, in South Glamorgan, will receive backing and £100,000 in development funding to save the art deco building from decay.

Campaigners are hoping to turn it into a picturesque community and heritage centre as part of the coastal town's regeneration.

Penarth Arts and Crafts have spent three years drumming up support for the renovation of the 80-year-old building, and are aiming to secure 60% of the £2 million costs from the HLF.

The Vale of Glamorgan Council has already spent £1 million to preserve the iconic Pavilion, and the team are hoping to open the building in early 2011.

Torre Abbey, the 12th century former monastery and Georgian country house in Torbay, has been handed £124,000 and a provisional go-ahead for a future award of £3 million.

Featuring a Medieval gatehouse and a "Spanish Barn" used to hold prisoners of war after the Spanish Armada in 1588, the Abbey has been enhanced by a £6.5 million rebuilding programme, and its latest application for funding involves restoring its leaking 18th century lead roof, window, door and wall repairs and work on the archaeologically-important ruins in the grounds.

A computer-generated picture of a building on a pier at night

The plan for Penarth Pier is part of a regeneration scheme in the South Glamorgan town

"The continued restoration of Torre Abbey is one of the largest heritage projects in the whole of the West country," said Councillor Dave Butt, Cabinet Member for Community Services.

"It will allow this important site to continue to play a significant role in promoting tourism and creating a sense of local identity."

Dr Michael Rhodes, Head of Museum Services for Torbay Council, said the first phase of developments had been "a great success" which had increased visitor numbers.

"The overwhelming majority of visitors say the Abbey is good or very good and regard it as value for money," he explained.

"However, they would like much more information about the history of the house. That is why we want to create historic rooms and provide more information in the form of touch screen guidebooks, audio guides and museum panels during this second phase of works."

A photo of children trying on armour in a museum

Colchester Castle Museum has won an initial £265,000 development package. © Colchester Castle Museum

Another iconic stronghold, Colchester Castle in Essex, has earned £265,000 towards a final target of £1.9 million for an overall project costing £3 million.

Organisers said the displays and architecture of the Norman building, which hosts important collections of local Iron Age and early Roman finds, were in "urgent need" of refurbishment.

"We are so delighted with the news," said Museums Manager Peter Berridge.

"This first round pass enables us to move forward into phase two of our plans to develop the Castle, its collections, stories and visitors' facilities."

Robyn Llewellyn, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund East of England, said the pass was "an important step towards the future development" of the Museum.

"Alongside safeguarding the internationally important collection, the plans will enable the museum to tell the story of Colchester, from the archaeological discoveries detailing the Roman Circus to its present role as a garrison town," he added.

"Although this announcement does not guarantee that a second-round award will be made, HLF will offer the museum service full support in taking their application further."

"Our £4 billion investment has made a huge impact on the landscape of the UK's heritage," said Dame Dame Jenny Abramsky, Chair of the HLF.

"I can think of no more fitting way to celebrate 15 years than by supporting some of our most precious heritage."

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