Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Funding allocated for Plymouth's new History Centre

News that a major new History Centre to be built in Plymouth has received significant grant funding from the HLF. The following press release (abridged) has been issued by Plymouth City Council:


Plymouth is celebrating a truly historic moment after scooping earmarked funding* of £12.8M from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to create a major new historic and cultural attraction at the very heart of the city.

The HLF today announced the results of its major grants (applications of £5m and over) Board meeting which saw Plymouth approved to receive more than half of the cash needed (a total of £12,873,500) to create the much anticipated £21M 'History Centre' that will breathe life into the city's world-famous figures and most precious historic collections.

Nerys Watts, Head of HLF South West, said: "Plymouth's heritage is of national importance. These exciting and visionary proposals are the first step towards developing a new and much-needed Plymouth History Centre. They will showcase a host of wonderful artefacts, photographs, films and records, which will now be safely housed in one place, for both local residents and visitors to explore. We're very proud to be supporting the creation of this 'treasure trove' and applaud the Council's plans to make it widely available so people can explore both their own personal heritage as well as Plymouth's rich history.'

The History Centre, which will not be the attraction's eventual name, will unite five separate heritage collections into one single location including treasures from the Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery; Plymouth and West Devon Record Office; South West Film and Television Archive; South West Image Bank and the Local Studies and Reference Collection from the Central Library. Plymouth University is also an official partner through the engagement of Peninsula Arts and its world leading research and teaching in history and related disciplines.

The listed buildings on North Hill which currently house the Museum and Central Library will be refurbished, a new large extension added and the former St Luke's Church at Tavistock Place will also be renovated. Together this will create an attraction three times the size of the existing museum, which will include WOW spaces to showcase the staggering array of historic treasures that will be brought to life with interactive displays encouraging visitors to explore further.

An added dimension to the History Centre project is the development of the former St Luke's Church on Tavistock place, which will be restored to offer the largest gallery space in the South West. The aim is that this grand exhibition space will attract some of the most impressive and notable travelling national and international exhibitions to Plymouth.

Add the cash from the successful HLF bid to the Council's £5M investment and total funding for the History Centre currently stands at almost £17.9M. The remaining £3.1M will be sourced from other grants including European funding.

The History Centre project will receive an initial £940,300 grant from HLF to complete its development phase, which will involve a solid year of planning and consultation to work up the detailed designs for the buildings and exhibition spaces. Once the plans are approved, the remaining £11,933,200M will be released to undertake the build project, as well as transform three organisations into one major new attraction.

Maureen Selley, Chairman of the Devon Family History Society and one of the founders of the Heritage Consortium, said: "I am buzzing! Really buzzing! This work has taken place over many years by many people and we are thrilled it has at last been successful. I've been coming to the museum since I was two so it is a place dear to my heart. As I said to the HLF when they visited, the Plymouth History Centre is not a maybe, it's a must! Now with the Society and other stakeholders we'll actively support the development of the Plymouth History Centre."

To make the History Centre a truly community-led attraction, the Council and partners will be holding more consultation and engagement activities with the public to gather ideas and gain feedback that will be used as part of the development phase. More events like the Pop-up Museum, taking place in Drake's Circus next week as part of History Month, will be organised giving people the chance to get involved.

Some early ideas have been formed but the project team is keen to stress that much of the detail is up for grabs, and suggestions from the public are very welcome to ensure the Centre appeals to the widest possible audience.

Anyone interested in finding out more about the developing History Centre plans should visit the Love our past website, which includes some key dates for your diaries, examples of the city's show stoppers and an overview of what the History Centre is all about.

The planned opening date for the History Centre is by spring 2019.

NB: The full press release is at Also of interest is the Plymouth Herald story on the news at, and information and timescale on the presentation given at the recent Plymouth Local Studies Day is at

(With thanks to Maureen Selley - and congrats!)


Now available for UK research is the new second edition of the best selling Tracing Your Family History on the Internet: A Guide for Family Historians, whilst my new book British and Irish Newspapers is also now out. And FindmyPast - please reinstate the original Scottish census citations on your new site.

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