Stephen Fry and heritage lovers celebrate as Bletchley Park wins £4.6 million HLF award

By Culture24 Reporter | 05 October 2011
A black and white photo of women in a codebreaking centre during the war
Working in total secrecy, the largely-female workforce at Bletchley Park played a vital role in deciphering enemy communications during World War II© Crown Copyright - Reproduced with kind permission, Director GCHQ
Stephen Fry has spoken of a "monumental triumph" for an "amazing place" after World War II codebreaking academy Bletchley Park was awarded £4.6 million by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The award ends a 20-year campaign to reveal the true story of the Buckinghamshire site which played an instrumental role in the outcome of the war.

Bletchley Park Trust will use the money – announced on the 70th anniversary of Winston Churchill’s decision to spend heavily on the under-resourced communication cracking stowaway – to build a "world-class" visitor centre and exhibition in a derelict block. They will also restore three huts to create an impressive cultural attraction and education centre.

"This investment from the Heritage Lottery Fund will finally enable the Trust to do justice to this amazing place in tribute to the tremendous intellectual feat of those who worked there," said Fry, lauding the "extraordinary accomplishments" of the team which secretly broke the German cypher system, Enigma, and Adolf Hitler's own high command code, Lorenz.

"Not only did these people change the very course of history by helping to secure the Allied victory, thereby quietly and modestly providing us with the free world, they also gave birth to the information age which underpins the way we all live today. Today marks a monumental triumph for the Bletchley Park Trust."

The HLF said the grant would be handed over once £1.7 million in match funding has been raised. A campaign, Action this Day, has already been launched to allow the public to contribute.

"The complex story of Bletchley Park revolves around a group of dedicated men and women who quietly worked away with no expectation of public recognition," declared Carole Souter, of the HLF.

"Now, more than 60 years later, the Trust will bring to life fascinating tales of the groundbreaking work that took place in this sprawling country estate. I cannot think of a better use of Heritage Lottery Fund money than to support this project and, in so doing, honour the memory of all who were involved."

The Trust’s bid to earn funding for Bletchley has often seemed a frustrating one. In 2008, following an unpromising reception in the House of Lords, Trust boss Simon Greenish suggested that the "ageing and dilapidated" buildings needed more than a £330,000 grant from English Heritage.

More than 20,000 people signed a petition backing the potential restoration project in 2009, and former Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw pledged an emergency £250,000 award for urgent repairs a year later.

Their struggle echoes the plight of the codebreakers, who appealed to Churchill to provide funds for their vital work in October 1941.

The former Prime Minister is famously said to have ordered ministers to ensure the workers, two-thirds of whom were women, had "all they want on extreme priority".

Their subsequent success is widely credited with shortening the war by at least two years, fashioning notable breakthroughs in conquests including The Battle of the Atlantic, The D Day Landings and The Battle of Cape Matapan.

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