Museum gets “green light” for Round 1 Lottery Bid
The Guildford Museum Project has passed yet another hurdle and submitted a Round 1 application to the National Lottery Heritage Fund on Monday 2nd March asking them for £4m towards the new Museum project. A response is expected in June.
NLHF passed the “Expression of Interest” submitted in February and the project was invited to submit a full Round 1 application. This is a significant step forward and a credit to the Council and the team of consultants headed by Julia Holbery Associates.
However, there is still a long way to go. Lottery applications are a lottery in themselves and nothing is guaranteed as Guildford has found out in the past. Many projects will be competing for the same pot of money when Guildford submits its Round 1 application.
Whatever happens we must not let momentum be lost. There are plenty of options and plenty of directions in which this project could go. The funding is a vital but so is the determination and imagination to put Guildford’s heritage service on a par with other major towns. Thankfully we have a council that is very much behind this project.
Guildford has been waiting a long time for a rejuvenated museum. In fact plans to develop it go back almost to its beginnings. The last major extension was over 100 years ago and was built in 1911 to house the rural life collection donated by the garden designer, Gertrude Jekyll. There were proposals after the First World War to build a new museum and library as a memorial to the fallen. Much later, ambitious plans for a Surrey Museum on the site of Farnham Road bus station were formally adopted in the Borough Plan for 1983 but never implemented. More modest attempts to build on the museum garden and add an entrance into the Castle Grounds also fell foul of planning and financial obstacles. Then in 1997 Matthew Alexander tried unsuccessfully to persuade the Borough to purchase The Chestnuts as a Lewis Carroll Centre when it came on the market. The current discussion started in July 2000 when the Arts and Recreation Committee supported “significant Council investment in the museum”. However, plans for an extension or Castle Grounds entrance were held up by construction of G-Live.
We now have the best opportunity in over a century to do something spectacular and give Guildford the heritage service it deserves. The next few months are critical and by the middle of the year we should know whether the Nation Heritage Lottery Fund will provide a grant. Only then can planning begin for the next phase.