Wonderhouse heritage project is scrapped following funding blow

Artist's impression of The Wonderhouse in Colchester

Artist's impression of The Wonderhouse in Colchester - Credit: Archant

A heritage centre project expected to showcase artefacts from the history of Britain’s oldest recorded town will not be going ahead as planned after representatives decided not to pursue further funding to complete the concept.

Following feedback from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), Colchester Borough Council decided to not make a second bid for funding to build The Wonderhouse.

Feedback from HLF told councillors that, in competition with a number of other projects, it was unlikely the bid would have been successful.

The building was planned to be on the site of the former bus station in Queen Street, and would have included six ground-floor shop or workspace units, with a digital collections centre on the first floor.

It would have allowed items currently being stored by the Colchester and Ipswich Museum Service to be available for public viewing and enable items which are too fragile or delicate to be on permanent display, such as watercolour paintings, costumes and natural history items, to be shown.

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In addition, it would have unveiled a piece of the town’s Roman Wall and Medieval Bastion that are currently hidden.

Many of the elements will now go forward in an amended format – one of which was to create a training museum, which is going ahead as part of a three-year trial.

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Seven trainees are now currently in place, working in the museums service as part of a structured training programme. The aim of the project is to train, enable and encourage staff for the future.

Tim Young, portfolio holder for planning, community safety and culture said: “Whilst it is disappointing that we won’t be going ahead with the full Wonderhouse concept, we hope to retain as many of the components of the project as possible.

“We recognise Colchester has been very successful at achieving external funding over the last few years and we are excited at the progress which has already been made with the training museum.”

The council is now looking at how the site identified for the Wonderhouse might be used.

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