Ironbridge Museum Awarded £1.14m From Culture Recovery Fund

Longwarehouse, Ironbridge

The Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust in Shropshire has been awarded more than £1.1 million Government funding to help it get back on track after being hit hard by the pandemic, with visitor revenue down by almost £3 million last year. The Trust, a registered charity, saw around 340,000 fewer visitors than expected last year due to restrictions and closures introduced in response to the pandemic. And with 80 per cent of its revenue coming from visitors and the Trust costing £6 million annually to run, bosses said the funding will be a ‘lifeline’.

The funding announced on 2 April 2021 – £1.14 million – is part of the Government’s  £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund to help organisations in the arts, culture & heritage sector recover and reopen. It will allow the Trust, which runs 10 individual museums in and around the Ironbridge Gorge World Heritage Site, to get back onto an even keel over the next three months as visitors are allowed to slowly return.

More than £300 million has been awarded to thousands of cultural organisations across the country including the Trust, in the latest round of support from the Culture Recovery Fund, the Culture Secretary announced today. Trust boss Nick Ralls said after surviving the most challenging 12 months in its history, the funding news was extremely welcome.

“The last year has been difficult for everyone, and as a tourist attraction and an independent charity, we’ve been hit hard,” said Mr Ralls, Trust Chief Executive. Some of our attractions have been closed for more than 12 months now, and while we have a robust recovery plan in place to ensure each of our 10 museums has a strong future, severely reduced visitor numbers over the last year have left our reserves severely depleted. Given that 80 per cent of our revenue comes from ticket sales and visitor spending, this funding is a lifeline and will help us replace some – but not all – of that lost income, giving us some much-needed stability. This financial boost is not only vital for us, but for the wider community and local tourism economy – the local hotels, cafes and B&Bs that rely on trade from our visitors to survive.”

Mr Ralls revealed that some of the money will be used to install a new lighting system at Blists Hill Victorian Town that will allow the outdoor attraction, which is running at a reduced capacity, to open for longer during the autumn and winter, with an exciting programme of evening events planned for later on in the year. “Being able to offer people the chance to see Blists Hill lit up in the evening with our new lighting will add a new dimension to the special atmosphere people know and love. Culturally, we’re proud custodians of the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution and we’re one of only 32 World Heritage Sites in the UK. We’re responsible for 35 historic buildings and structures in the Gorge and that the maintenance and keeping these buildings secure comes with considerable costs. There’s a real sense of history as you come through the Gorge, its importance cannot be underestimated and we’re very conscious that we have a duty to our visitors, the region and the nation to ensure we’re able to give people the best experience possible when they are with us – and this funding will ensure we’re allowed to continue to do so.”

The Trust recently announced it would be reopening Blists Hill to visitors at weekends only, kicking off on April 17 – 18, with a special celebration of steam weekend. Tickets need to be pre-booked ahead of time at http://www.ironbridge.org.uk. The ever-popular Furnace Kitchen, Coalbrookdale will also reopen on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays for takeaway and outdoor table service from April 16 onwards.

“We can’t wait to welcome people back through our doors and we know our visitors are desperate to get out and about again. Being immersed in culture and heritage lifts the spirits and has an important part to play in the wellbeing recovery of the nation.”

Culture Secretary, Oliver Dowden, said: “Our record-breaking Culture Recovery Fund has already helped thousands of culture and heritage organisations across the country survive the biggest crisis they’ve ever faced. Now we’re staying by their side as they prepare to welcome the public back through their doors – helping our cultural gems plan for reopening and thrive in the better times ahead.”

Sir Nicholas Serota, Chair, Arts Council England, said: “Investing in a thriving cultural sector at the heart of communities is a vital part of helping the whole country to recover from the pandemic. These grants will help to re-open theatres, concert halls, and museums and will give artists and companies the opportunity to begin making new work. We are grateful to the Government for this support and for recognising the paramount importance of culture to our sense of belonging and identity as individuals and as a society.”

The funding awarded in Round 2 is from a £400 million pot which was held back last year to ensure the Culture Recovery Fund could continue to help organisations in need as the public health picture changed. The funding has been awarded by Arts Council England, as well as Historic England, National Lottery Heritage Fund and the British Film Institute. 

Coldharbour Mill Seeks a New Chair of Trustees

Coldharbour Woolen Mill, Devon. Image courtesy of the Coldharbour Mill Trust.

Coldharbour Mill Trust is seeking someone with a solid background and understanding of the heritage sector to take on a leading role on their board of trustees, who support Coldharbour Mill in their charitable mission. As the current chair retires this year – this provides an exciting opportunity for someone to join the committed board of trustees in creating a sustainable future for this heritage attraction.

Until 2020 the listed Coldharbour Mill in Devon had been on target to meet the objectives of their strategic plan and had done so in the previous two years. Then the pandemic hit and it was touch and go for their survival. However the Chief Executive, Martin Halse and a number of volunteers managed to secure over £300,000 of funding through to March 2021, with further applications in progress.

The impact of the pandemic has resulted in a complete review of the strategic plans for Coldharbour Mill and during the course of 2021 they are embarking on the charities biggest ever consultation on the future of Coldharbour Mill to ensure its resilience and relevance to stakeholders old and new.

The chair will be the leading voice of our board whose responsibility it is to secure a bright future for this nationally significant historic site. The Chair will lead the Board and the organisation externally at an exciting time in the 230 year history of the Mill as we prepare for the next 200 years. The Trust is now taking applications for the post of Chair. More information can be found at: Chair of Trustees – Coldharbour Mill Museum

Help Keep Bursledon Windmill’s Sails Turning

Bursledon Windmill after removal of its sails in 2020. Image Courtesy of Hampshire Cultural Trust.

For over 200 years, Bursledon Windmill’s sails have turned over the village of Bursledon. Unlike many windmills built in the Victorian era, which featured cast-iron machinery, Bursledon Windmill, which is operated by charity Hampshire Cultural Trust, is a rare surviving example of a traditional tower mill with timber machinery.

Today, Bursledon Windmill is as much a symbol of local pride as it has been throughout its history, providing for the local community, supporting farmers and allowing villagers to mill their own flour. Surrounded by woodland, the windmill is more than just a local landmark: its ethos of supporting local people continues, providing a tranquil, safe space for visitors and residents to come together.

In May 2021 it will be 30 years since the windmill opened its doors to visitors, following major refurbishment work undertaken by Hampshire Buildings Preservation Trust.

Now the listed windmill faces a new challenge. The wear and tear that comes with being a working windmill has led to the stocks and sails being removed. Hampshire Cultural Trust is launching a campaign to raise money to support the vital work of repairing or replacing the stocks and sails so that they can be reinstated and the windmill can get back into full working order.

David Plunkett of Hampshire Building Preservation Trust commented, ‘Age and the ravages of the weather have taken their toll and repairs are now needed to get the sails turning once again. The Hampshire Building Preservation Trust support the worthy efforts of Hampshire Cultural Trust in progressing the fundraising and repairs.’

With the public’s support, staff and volunteers at Bursledon Windmill will continue to keep local heritage accessible and open to everyone, sharing heritage skills and techniques.

More information about Hampshire Cultural Trust’s campaign to keep Bursledon Windmill’s sails turning, ensuring this community treasure will be protected and restored for generations to come,  is available at https://www.hampshireculture.org.uk/bursledon-windmill.

How to Publish Your Industrial Archaeology and Heritage Research – Free AIA Event

Want to know how to get your industrial archaeology and heritage work published and make an impact with your research? The Association for Industrial Archaeology Young Members Board are hosting a one hour seminar with speakers from Publishers Taylor & Francis alongside the Editors of the Industrial Archaeology Review on 23rd April 2021. This will be followed by a 30 minute Q & A where you get to ask the experts!

This free event is aimed at students and early-career professionals in the fields of history, heritage, archaeology, and engineering, but it will also be a great event for anyone, especially industrial archaeology and heritage volunteers, who wants to brush up on academic publishing best practice.

The event is free, but you will need to register. A link to the booking page can be found here: How to get Published and Make an Impact Tickets, Fri 23 Apr 2021 at 19:00 | Eventbrite

Help Decide Coldharbour Mill’s Sustainable Future

As Coldharbour Mill celebrates its 40th anniversary as a Museum, and approaches 225 years since the original Grist Mill and estate was bought by Thomas Fox in 1797, Coldharbour Mill Trust are consulting on the future of this nationally significant heritage site as part of its strategic review process.

The site has been described as “probably one of the best-preserved textile mill complexes in the country. It retains the full range of buildings and power system features which characterised the development of the 19th century textile mill with much of the machinery that was used at the site in the 20th century.” – English Heritage, Historic Buildings Report.

It had been increasingly difficult for heritage attractions such as Coldharbour Mill to secure resources to maintain their heritage sites pre-pandemic, a trend which had been seen all across the UK. Having been faced with the challenge of guiding the Trust through a pandemic and into a world which will be very different Coldharbour Mill’s Board feel it is important to review the direction of the Trust to develop a long-term and sustainable future whilst balancing this against the change in the heritage landscape that has been seen in the last year.

Coldharbour Mill. Image courtesy of Coldharbour Mill Trust.

The process involves a wide range of stakeholders including the general public, staff, volunteers, visitors, neighbours, community, special interest groups and any other stakeholders who are asked to take 5 minutes to complete a short questionnaire.

Jackie Dawkins, Chair of Trustees for Coldharbour Mill Trust said ‘In order for Coldharbour Mill to thrive and deliver a sustainable future, we need to diversify and find new ways of increasing participation and generating income. We want to develop the Mill with the support and involvement of the community, our supporters, our visitors and anyone who already has or could have a connection with the Mill’.

Coldharbour Mill Chief Executive Martin Halse is asking the public to give their feedback via a questionnaire on the Mill’s website by Sunday 11th April. The results will then be used to inform the Trustees decisions for Coldharbour Mill’s future direction.

You can have your say by going to www.coldharbourmill.org.uk.

Spode Museum Trust ‘From Clay to Treasure’ Project: Consultant Opportunity

Spode Museum Trust (SMT) is looking to appoint suitably qualified consultants to carry out work relating to the Spode collection and Spode Works site, as part of its project ‘Spode Museum Trust: From clay to treasure’. Spode was a world-renowned pottery that produced iconic bone china in Stoke-on-Trent from 1767 until the factory’s closure in 2008. Caring for the Spode collection – a fantastic archive of design – is the passion of SMT. However the bulk of the collection is off-site and inaccessible.

SMT, with a grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund and in partnership with the National Trust, is hoping to identify a future for the collection within the historic factory buildings which allows better conservation and access, delivers greater public benefit, and is sustainable. The project consists of five separate, but interlinked work packages. Three of these work packages are now live:

  1. Conservation and Curatorial

Conservation and curatorial expertise will help establish the relevant significance of the collection and provide a snapshot of its needs, with a view to informing options for its future conservation and management

  • Options Appraisal

The consultant will build a picture of the current visitor profile and experience, potential audience and wants and needs; benchmark competitors and comparators; and report on spatial constraints and opportunities.

  • Evaluation

To measure the success of the project, identify lessons learnt, and improve ways of working during and beyond the project, the Evaluation consultant will be required to develop an appropriate methodology for project evaluation and gathering/sharing of learning throughout the project.

Chair of Spode Museum Trust, Richard Gray said; “The Spode Museum Trust is working with the National Trust and Sara Hilton Associates to deliver this Feasibility Study, so the world class collections once again within the historic factory site can secure new, powerful contemporary relevance and contexts.” 

Interested candidates should contact Ellie Ralphs ellie.ralphs@nationaltrust.org.uk for the full detailed briefs of the work. The deadline for submissions is 5pm on Friday 16th April 2021.

Re-Using Industrial Buildings – Two New Textile Mill Case Studies

Brierfield Mills, Pendle, Lancashire. Image courtesy of Historic England.

One of the most important building conservation principals is that to save a historic building you have to give it a use. Examples of such re-use can showcase the community and heritage value of historic structures. Thus, two new case studies on the successful reuse of historic industrial buildings added to Historic England’s ‘Mills of the North’ webpage do exactly that.

The first case study is the Grade II listed Conditioning House in Bradford. This building was built by Bradford Corporation in 1900-2. It was used to quality check and control the moisture content of textiles by means of laboratory examination and certify their true weight and length. As such it was the only property of its kind in England. This unique building is being converted into a mixed use development with apartments, a residents’ gym, and office space. Scheduled for completion later in 2021, it aims to create a thriving new neighbourhood in the heart of the city. More details here: https://historicengland.org.uk/get-involved/protect/mills-of-the-north/success-stories/#e2bc8444.

The second case study is Brierfield Mills, Pendle, Lancashire, a Grade II listed cotton spinning complex built in 1868. The mill was purchased by Pendle Council in 2012, soon after it closed, with funding from the Homes and Communities Agency. The local M.P., Andrew Stephenson, has been heavily involved in securing a £32m redevelopment programme. He gives his view on how this regeneration scheme is transforming the area, with new apartments, leisure facility, adult learning centre, creative arts studio and canal marina. More details here: Latest Success Stories | Historic England

The ‘Mills of the North’ webpage also includes details of the successful regeneration of the water-powered Queen’s Mill in Castleford Mill, an 18th to 20th century flour mill, and the Grade II and Grade II* 19th century Hunslet Flax Mill in Leeds.

Industrial Objects in Need of a New Home

The Birmingham Museums Trust, as part of their National Portfolio Organisation-funded ‘Science Collection Research, Rationalisation and Redisplay’ project (2018-2022), have recently approved a small group of objects for disposal from their collection. These are a Cornish boiler, a steam turbine condenser, and an injection moulding machine.

The items (see below) are currently advertised on the Museums Association ‘Find an Object’ service here: Find an Object – Museums Association

Cornish boiler of 1904 made by Nu-Way Heating Plants of Droitwich
Mid-20th century condenser
Reed-Prentice 10D injection moulding machine

If any Industrial Heritage network members are interested in acquiring these items, or have any questions about any of the objects, they are very welcome to email Felicity McWilliams at BMT directly via: Felicity.McWilliams@birminghammuseums.org.uk.

Industrial Heritage Sites Receive Share of Heritage Capital Kickstart Fund

Three industrial heritage sites were amongst 22 heritage projects to receive further pandemic financial support in February 2021. The grants, awarded through the National Heritage Lottery’s Heritage Capital Kickstart Fund, will help revive heritage sites impacted by coronavirus (COVID-19). Regeneration and maintenance projects that were planned before the pandemic, and are facing delays or increased costs, can now resume for the successful organisations. The Heritage Capital Kickstart Fund is distributed by The National Lottery Heritage Fund on behalf of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. It is part of the government’s £1.57bn Culture Recovery Fund package.

Ros Kerslake, Chief Executive of The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “These are all ongoing major refurbishment and restoration projects, funded by us, which have been threatened by the pandemic. From the oldest surviving outdoor swimming baths to a Victorian pier, and from a much-loved park to an historic abbey, these are all places that will enrich hundreds of lives when they reopen. We are delighted this extra funding from the Culture Recovery Fund will ensure that these exciting projects will go ahead.”

The Black Country Living Museum receives the single largest grant, of £3,740,000, towards the largest development in its 46-year history to create historical areas spanning the 1940s–1960s, as well as a new visitor centre. The museum is currently operating as a vaccination centre, but when the development starts, it will create new opportunities for work and skills development in the local area.

The North Yorkshire Moors Historic Railway Trust receives a grant of £296,000 for their for their Yorkshire’s Magnificent Journey project. The project will see major restorations of the Goathland Station bridges, expansion of the railway’s conservation and heritage apprenticeship programmes, improvement to their lineside ecological conservation work, and improved access for disabled visitors.

The third industrial heritage site to receive an award is the Beamish Museum. They receive a grant of £975,500 to be used for the restart and completion of the major Remaking Beamish project, which includes a 1950s Town, 1950s Farm, and expansion of the 1820s area. The 1950s Town includes houses, shops, a café, cinema, and playground. Aged miners’ homes will provide a centre for people living with dementia, older people, and their families and carers.

Further details of the fund’s recipients can found here: £13.5million to kickstart 22 heritage projects | The National Lottery Heritage Fund

Friends of Flaxmill Maltings Online Talks

The Friends of the Flaxmill Maltings are offering online talks to interested bodies and groups. The Friends have been running tours and open days since their formation to make these internationally important historic buildings accessible so that organisations, groups, and individuals can explore, learn, participate in, and enjoy the unique and varied heritage of this site.

At the moment they are focusing on offering online talks for groups. This can be an overview talk or a suite of shorter talks about particular themes of interest to your group: architecture, social history, restoration. They take between 40 minutes to an hour, with the opportunity to ask questions.

The Friends of Flaxmill Maltings host these live via their Zoom channel, which is easily accessible to all invited by just clicking a link. So far they have given talks to Arts Societies, WI groups, U3A groups, museum volunteers, archaeological societies, and rotarians, as well as international groups.

Talks are free, but a donation is appreciated. If you are interested in a talk on Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings or a specific part of its history please email them on info@flaxmill-maltings.co.uk.  There are more details on their website here: https://www.flaxmill-maltings.co.uk/visit-and-talks .