Crawley Borough Council, in partnership with Crawley Museum Society, has been awarded £1.15m by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to provide a new museum in the town centre.
Work on the new museum, which will be located in The Tree and The Tree Annexe with a glass link between the two, is expected to start in April 2015 and take around 18 months to complete.
The successful HLF bid will see The Tree restored, renovated and fitted out as a new museum space. The project will see new specialist display facilities and equipment in The Tree and The Tree Annexe, educational material developed and lots of exciting opportunities ahead for volunteers and the public to get involved.
The Tree has great potential to improve heritage in Crawley, with its central location, architectural quality and greater size than the current museum in Goffs Park House. The Tree is a Grade II listed building and well worth preserving, originating around 1280.
Crawley Museum Society will operate the new service with financial support from the council.
The total cost of the project is £1.95m. Crawley Borough Council had already agreed to spend £763,000 to refurbish The Tree and bring it up to standard.
Planning permission, which was a stipulation of the bid, has already been granted.
Helen Poole, curator of Crawley Museum, said: “This news is a great Christmas present – we’re absolutely delighted to hear the news. The HLF’s financial commitment, on top of Crawley Borough Council’s support and input, will enable us to expand the museum service to take account of all the rich diversity and heritage of Crawley in a fine setting.
“It is a real asset to know that we have the HLF’s support in our quest to do this. Our final goal will be a long time coming, but in the meantime we shall keep going in the current museum. We invite everyone to come and see us there and talk about the future, which now looks very promising.”
Cllr Duncan Crow, cabinet member for Leisure and Culture, said: “This is absolutely fantastic news. We’ve been working closely with Crawley Museum Society to develop our bid over the past few years and are delighted that the Heritage Lottery Fund has approved this.
“The new museum will provide a massive boost to the regeneration and heritage in the town, giving the museum a much more central location from which to inform, educate and entertain.
“I would like to thank the Heritage Lottery Fund, volunteers and staff of the Crawley Museum Society, officers and staff of Crawley Borough Council and councillors who have supported us.”
Stuart McLeod, head of Heritage Lottery Fund South East England, said: “A new museum in one of the town’s oldest buildings will give heritage an enhanced role in the educational and cultural life of Crawley.
“It will provide increased opportunities for community-based events alongside both temporary and permanent exhibitions about the history of the town and its people.”
The initial Crawley Borough Council (CBC) and Crawley Museum Society (CMS) joint bid was lodged with the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) in June 2011.
The total bid was for £998,555 and covered the fit out and alterations, including specialist display facilities and equipment, to The Tree and The Tree Annexe in the High Street to make it a suitable location for a museum.
The current museum in Goffs Park House is cramped and only holds about 10 per cent of the society’s artefacts.
An extra £763,000 had already been earmarked by the council to refurbish the listed building and bring it up to standard.
In October 2011 CMS, in partnership with CBC, was given a first round pass grant by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to provide a new museum in the town centre.
The grant went towards developing the project to relocate Crawley Museum from Goffs Park House to Grade II listed The Tree and The Tree Annexe in the High Street.
A first-round pass means the HLF believes the funding can deliver high quality benefits and value for National Lottery money. It’s an endorsement of outline proposals and CMS and CBC then had two years to submit fully developed proposals to compete for the rest of the bid.
In March and April 2013 CMS and CBC consulted to hear the ideas and opinions of people who live, work or have an interest in the town. Public exhibitions, focus groups and an online survey all helped to inform the final bid document.
The final total bid was submitted in August 2013.