Museum launches regeneration appeal

THE Museum of East Anglian Life is launching an appeal to raise £830,000 for a major restoration project.

John Howard

THE Museum of East Anglian Life is launching an appeal to raise £830,000 for a major restoration project.

The regeneration bid centres on Abbot's Hall, a Grade II-listed Queen Anne country house on the 75-acre site in Stowmarket.

Its walled garden, stables, conservatory, and two workers' cottages are included in a 10-year plan to regenerate the museum that attracts thousands of visitors every year.

The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) announced last month that £1.771 million has been set aside for the £2.6m project, subject to the balance being found by the museum's trustees.

They have until the beginning of next year to raise £830,000 and the chairman Michael Argent will officially launch the appeal next month .

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The striking building, once the home of the Longe family, is regarded as a first class example of the country house and farm estate that once underpinned East Anglia's economy and society.

Mr Argent, whose fundraising will include applying for further grants and appealing to businesses and individuals for donations, said: “It's a big challenge but we have a very active group of trustees and friends of the museum.

“The support of the HLF has been a massive boost and we're determined not to lose that financial backing which will help us to make major steps forward.

“We are at a developmental crossroads and we have the opportunity to move this small and independent museum forward to fulfil an important role in the preservation of our heritage.”

The museum and its buildings stand in the centre of Stowmarket with woodlands and riverside walks. Historic buildings and displays illustrate the region's rural, agricultural and industrial heritage with artefacts and exhibits from the whole of East Anglia.

It is also home to a number of rare traditional livestock breeds including one of Britain's best-loved heavy horses, the Suffolk Punch.

When the restoration is complete Abbot's Hall will have themed display galleries as well as function rooms for civic and public events.

The Victorian stables will be refurbished to provide a working feature with accommodation for several horses and the distinctive walled-garden will receive a makeover.

In Crowe Street, the two cottages occupied until the 1970s by staff employed at the hall will be restored to house a collection of period furniture, ornaments and soft furnishings offering a sharp contrast to the items that will be on display in the hall itself.

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