Fresh appeal for cash for Guildhall Project in Bury St Edmunds

Roof repairwork is under way at the Guildhall in Bury.

Roof repairwork is under way at the Guildhall in Bury. - Credit: Archant

A plea has been made for donations to help transform what is believed to be the oldest complete civic building in England into a heritage centre.

In July, an appeal was launched to raise £370,000 to help bring the Guildhall, a Grade I-Listed building in Bury St Edmunds, back into use.

But since then only £20,000 has been raised towards this figure, which is needed to match funding towards a Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) bid that was submitted last month.

The total cost of the project is about £1.6million, not including the £170,000 repairs to the roof, which are currently under way.

Those behind the initiative say the plan is for the centre to be a “varied and interesting” experience for visitors, with the use of virtual reality and re-enactors.

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It would include presenting the World War II operations room as it was at the height at the war, a ‘time gallery’ in the entrance hall, giving people the chance to view clocks from the Gershom-Parkington collection, and temporary exhibitions.

Project director, Air Vice Marshall Mike Jackson, said Bury St Edmunds Town Council had pledged £10,000.

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He said: “We have certainly had the backing from the town council and that came really from that meeting in the Guildhall in July and we have had other people supporting us. We have had several donations since then - four or five since then - but we need to build up speed a bit more.”

The Guildhall, which has not been open to the public for 40 or 50 years, had served the community continuously for more than eight centuries, with its uses including a meeting house, a court of law, an infirmary, and during the Second World War it became a regional headquarters for the Royal Observer Corps.

Air Vice Marshal Jackson said about £450,000 had been identified for the Guildhall Project, but added: “We really do need help and we have got quite a way to go yet.”

He hopes the cash will come together by March, which is when they will hear back from the HLF about whether their application has been successful.

To support the fundraising appeal contact Sarah Grieveson, fundraiser for the project, on The Guildhall Project is led by the Bury St Edmunds Heritage Trust, supported by the Guildhall Feoffment and St Edmundsbury Borough Council.

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