Museum gets £1.7m lottery boost

PLANS to transform a top Suffolk attraction have moved a step closer after more than £1.7million was earmarked for its development.

John Howard

PLANS to transform a top Suffolk attraction have moved a step closer after more than £1.7million was earmarked for its development.

Staff at the Museum of East Anglian Life, in Stowmarket, were celebrating yesterday after hearing the announcement from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

Bosses will use the £1.771m windfall to refurbish the northern part of the 70-acre site.

It will include the restoration of the Abbot's Hall - a Queen Anne country house dating from the early 18th century which was extensively rebuilt during the Edwardian era.

The surrounding cottage buildings will also be saved from ruin and will become examples of rural worker's dwellings.

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The cottage gardens will be recreated in tandem with the hall walled garden to illustrate the difference between the rich and the poor.

Tony Butler, museum director, said: “This is fantastic. Once Abbot's Hall is restored we will have a glamorous centrepiece.

“The whole town has been anticipating the opening of the hall to the public and the lottery award will help us achieve that at last.”

The museum tells the story of rural heritage through a series of historic buildings and collections and features include a chapel, watermill, and blacksmith's forge situated alongside farmland and wetland meadow.

It is also home to a number of rare breeds from traditional regional livestock, including Suffolk Punch horses.

Robyn Llewllyn, Heritage Lottery Fund east of England manager, said: “We're delighted that we can support the development plans.

“As a result of this grant, the museum will finally be able to fulfil the potential of this fascinating site and provide lasting benefit to the local community and visitors to this remarkable museum.”

The HLF stage one pass award includes £68,600 of development funding to help draw together plans for the northern part of the museum site.

A stage one pass means that money has been earmarked for the project.

Competition at this stage is tough, and while this success does not guarantee funding, it is an indication of positive support, and funds for the scheme are set aside.

The museum can now progress to stage two and submit a further, fully developed application to secure the full grant.

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