The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has awarded a National Lottery grant of £520,000 to Axminster Heritage Limited for the final phase of their restoration to Thomas Whitty House and the creation of a modern interactive display exhibition. This will give Axminster a new, modern Heritage Centre attraction designed to appeal to residents and tourist visitors of all ages. Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, these extensive improvements to the existing Centre will tell the story of Axminster including its world famous carpet industry and include the provision of educational and research facilities.
This final phase of the AH project will considerably enlarge the Gallery display area and enable it to become a modern interactive attraction with wider appeal. The existing displays will be reinterpreted in order to do justice to both the heritage collection and the rich history of Axminster. In addition, the entrance carriageway and old Drill Hall will be restored, including the addition of a mezzanine floor for conservation and research work, storage and a new office. A new reception area will include a small shop and the visitor information point.
The Axminster Heritage Centre opened to the public for the first time at Easter 2016 and is managed and run by a very active and dedicated group of local volunteers. They provide a warm welcome and helpful information to visitors. This temporary visitor exhibition has proved very popular and trial craft courses, workshops, films and talks are well attended. Part of the HLF grant will pay to expand these community activities.
The new building work is expected to begin at the end of January, with completion in September 2018. The Centre, now closed for winter, will be open again as usual in March but with a smaller display whilst the work is underway. The new visitor displays will then be installed by February 2019 in time for the Centre to open at the end of March for the 2019 season.
While the Gallery is closed over the winter, supporters can find details of the ongoing events and keep up with the developments on the Axminster Heritage website www.axminsterheritage.org.uk and Facebook pages
Commenting on the National Lottery award, John Church, Chairman of the Trustees, said: “We are delighted to receive this support thanks to National Lottery players. Our start-up exhibition has been open to the public for two seasons and has proved very popular both with visitors and members of the local community. This award will enable us to more fully realise our vision – we want to help inform residents of their local heritage and contribute to Axminster’s regeneration by attracting more visitors to the town.”
Nerys Watts, Head of HLF South West, said: “Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, the restoration of Thomas Whitty House, and plans to transform access to Axminster’s heritage, have taken a vital step forward. We’re pleased to support this project which will build on previous National Lottery investment into the site and look forward to the benefits it will bring for Axminster’s heritage and the wider community.”
For more information please contact: Peter Ball, Axminster Heritage, Tel: 07747 636810
Axminster Heritage Centre, Thomas Whitty House, Silver Street, Axminster EX13 5AH
Tel: 01297 639884 E: firstname.lastname@example.org www.axminsterheritage.org.uk