September 30 2014 Latest news:
West Suffolk reporter
Tuesday, August 19, 2014
The public are being asked what they would like to see at a new heritage centre at what is thought to be the oldest civic building in England.
Much work has been going on behind the scenes since the Guildhall heritage centre project in Bury St Edmunds received initial financial support from the Heritage Lottery Fund to the tune of £73,600.
The initiative aims to return the Guildhall, a Grade I-Listed building in Guildhall Street, to widespread public use after a programme of conservation and renovation works.
Project leader Mike Jackson explained that after the development funding was awarded much work has gone into architectural and business plans ahead of submitting a bid for the second round of funding, which it is hoped will boost the initiative by about £800,000.
Mr Jackson said as part of the preparation a wide consultation exercise was under way which asks people how they would like to use the Guildhall.
“Among the two top themes people wanted were first of all the building should be used to demonstrate in an interactive way the history of the town and the second most important thing everybody would like to see is the Second World War operations room. It’s unique now.”
He said the Royal Observer Corps operations room was now the only one left out of about 40 in the whole country.
He said the plans for the Guildhall, which has served the community continuously for over eight centuries, also include displaying the town’s local heritage collections, such as the Gershom-Parkington clocks. He said they are planning to incorporate some clocks around the building, rather than the whole collection at any one time. “It’s not going to be a museum. It’s going to be a heritage activity centre,” he added.
Mr Jackson said the aim is to submit the next Heritage Lottery Fund application in February, and, if all goes to plan, the centre could be open to the public at the end of 2016.
People can find out more about the plans for the Guildhall and express their views at a Heritage Open Day there on September 13 from 10am to 5pm. Also visit www.buryguildhallexperience.org.uk to take part in the consultation.