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28 January 2021

Historic England awards up to £616,000 to save historic Wisbech and Fenland Museum in Cambridgeshire

Historic England awards up to £616,000 to save historic Wisbech and Fenland Museum in Cambridgeshire

Historic England gives up to £616,000 to save Grade II* listed Wisbech and Fenland Museum in Cambridgeshire. This substantial grant will enable essential repair work to make the museum safe and watertight and to protect its historic interior. One of the first purpose-built museums in England, Wisbech and Fenland Museum is of exceptional significance.

Historic England has awarded a grant of up to £616,000 for the repair of Grade II* listed Wisbech and Fenland Museum in Cambridgeshire.

Dating from 1846-7, the museum was designed by architect George Buckler, who created a classical building influenced by the Greek Revival style. It was one of the first purpose-built museums to be designed in the country, making it of exceptional significance.

Original period details can be seen in the interior of the museum, particularly in its cornices, doors and fireplaces. The original bookcases and display cases all survive and it is thought that the gallery and staircase of the main display hall may also be original. Below later overpainting, historic paintwork or wallpaper has been revealed by modern paint peeling off due to leaks, which are also causing the cracking and loss of plaster.

The poor and declining condition of the building led to it being added to Historic England’s Heritage at Risk Register in 2018. Major problems with the roof and drainage, including cracked and slipping tiles and leaks, are causing internal damage to plaster and timbers and threatening the historic interior of the museum.

Historic England has previously grant funded a project development phase for the museum to enable a structural survey, temporary roof repairs to protect the building over the winter season and a specification for long-term repair work.

The grant of up to £616,000 from Historic England will enable long-term roof repairs to commence in spring 2021. Historic England is the major funder for this repair project, contributing up to 90% of total costs.

Tony Calladine, Regional Director for Historic England in the East of England said: “We’re delighted to support the urgently needed repair of Wisbech and Fenland Museum with this grant. As one of the first purpose-built museum buildings in the country, it is of national significance and also hugely important to its local community. We’re pleased to play our part in repairing this important building and ensuring that it continues to delight visitors with the fascinating collections for which it was created.”

The Wisbech and Fenland Museum is run by an independent charity committed to keeping the museum collection in the historic building for which it was designed.

Wisbech and Fenland Museum holds a substantial archive of parish registers, local government records, photographs and maps. Its library comprises 12,000 volumes in two distinct collections. The Reverend Chauncy Hare Townshend (20 April 1798 – 25 February 1868) donated to the museum a significant collection of over 500 documents of handwriting by the great and good of his day, including British and foreign monarchs, politicians, writers, academics and performers. He also bequeathed to the museum in 1868 the original manuscript of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations. The museum also holds artefacts owned by Thomas Clarkson (28 March 1760 - 26 September 1846) one of the main architects of the anti-slavery movement.

About Historic England

They are the public body that helps people care for, enjoy and celebrate England’s spectacular historic environment, from beaches and battlefields to parks and pie shops. They protect, champion and save the places that define who we are and where we’ve come from as a nation. They care passionately about the stories they tell, the ideas they represent and the people who live, work and play among them. Working with communities and specialists they share our passion, knowledge and skills to inspire interest, care and conservation, so everyone can keep enjoying and looking after the history that surrounds us all.

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