Heritage society one step nearer to establishing museum for town

The Downham Heritage Society has been given a Heritage Lottery Fund Grant of £386,300 to help them build a new Downham Heritage Centre. Chairman Dave Flower (front) with committee members and volunteers in the former fire engine bay. Picture: Matthew Usher. The Downham Heritage Society has been given a Heritage Lottery Fund Grant of £386,300 to help them build a new Downham Heritage Centre. Chairman Dave Flower (front) with committee members and volunteers in the former fire engine bay. Picture: Matthew Usher.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014
8:00 AM

Heritage campaigners are one step closer to realising their dream of establishing a museum for their town after gaining a £386,300 lottery grant.

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The Downham Heritage Society has been given a Heritage Lottery Fund Grant of £386,300 to help them build a new Downham Heritage Centre. Chairman Dave Flower in front of the former fire station. Picture: Matthew Usher.The Downham Heritage Society has been given a Heritage Lottery Fund Grant of £386,300 to help them build a new Downham Heritage Centre. Chairman Dave Flower in front of the former fire station. Picture: Matthew Usher.

For the past 20 years, the Downham Market and District Heritage Society has worked tirelessly to establish a lasting tribute to the area’s history.

After a number of setbacks, it was finally given the iconic Old Fire Station in Priory Road – but needed the money to renovate it.

After more than two years of applying for funding, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has agreed to fund more than half of the £650,000 project, with part of the money going towards a part-time education officer and part-time administrator.

With other funding applications in the pipeline, it is hoped the award of the HLF grant will give other funders the confidence to give money, so the heritage society can reach its fund-raising target.

Chairman Dave Flower said: “On the day we were told we had got the HLF money, it was like a new life for the heritage society. We had finally achieved what we set out to do.

“I’ve always been confident that we would get what we wanted. I felt someone in the team had to remain confident as a form of encouragement, as there were times when it was very stressful.

“A lot of hard work was put in by very few active members, without whom we wouldn’t be where we are.”

The vision for the new facility is now to create not just a museum but an education resource which residents, community organisations and schools can use. It will contain a permanent exhibition featuring the story of Downham Market, told using replica artefacts and interactive screens.

There will be a large space where supporting exhibitions can be held and the education officer can use for activities.

Saul Penfold, a heritage consultant working on the project, said: “The main theme we decided on was community togetherness.

“It will be a hub, as well as a destination in its own right. We decided it would be about the evolving community of Downham. Heritage is not just about history, it is about the cultural identity of us all.

“The heritage centre will reflect the journey the town has been on but also where it is going.”

He added that primary school pupils were consulted about what they wanted to see in the museum because “children are key to this project and we’re very keen to get them to contribute to the ongoing story”.

Are you organising a community project in Downham Market? Contact reporter Andrew Papworth on 01553 778681 or email andrew.papworth@archant.co.uk

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