13 July 2008

£6.6M Refurb Planned for Preston Hall Museum, Stockton

Preston Hall Museum is housed in an 1825 mansion house and its grounds host a part of the historic Stockton to Darlington Railway. Courtesy Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council

The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has shown its support for a major facelift planned for Preston Hall Museum, Stockton-on-Tees, with an earmarked grant of £3.7million.

Housed in an 1825 mansion house, the popular museum has proposed a massive project to preserve its physical structure and overhaul its displays to make the most of its significant historical collections. The overall cost has been estimated at more than £6million, which will also be contributed to by Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council.

The grand building is Grade II listed, and was largely remodelled and shaped in the 19th century by its then owner Robert Ropner, a local businessman and shipbuilder. It was acquired by the council in the 1940s and turned into a museum in 1953.

Plans include safeguarding the fabric of the building, remodelling the interior and providing a host of new facilities and access to collections.

“Following detailed visitor focus groups and feedback, we are really excited to be working on a plan for bringing Preston Hall firmly into the 21st century using the latest in curatorial techniques such as live displays and interactive events,” said Jane Hubbard, Museums Service Manager.

“We are looking at a whole range of new exhibition topics to inform, educate and enthral our visitors from shipbuilding to the history of social and domestic life, the Stockton and Darlington Railway to an appraisal of local heroes.”

The hall in 1900. Courtesy Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council

The museum houses a massive collection of some 65,000 objects, from armour and militaria to a reconstruction of a Victorian street and fine art. The art collection includes the famous Georges de la Tour painting, The Dice Players (one of only two of the 17th century painter's works in the UK), and Mustering the Warrior Angels by JMW Turner.

It is set in large grounds where a track bed from the original Stockton to Darlington Railway survives. All these things will be brought to life not only with new displays but also an engaging programme of live interpretation and activities, including costumed actors in the Victorian street and traditional craftspeople giving visitors a taste of the past.

The context of the hall and its estate will also be given attention in the new styled museum, from aspects of social history to household economy and staffing in the Victorian era.

“We are delighted to be able to support Preston Hall,” said Dr Keith Bartlett, regional manager for the HLF in the North East. “Not only is it a much-loved museum in Stockton but it is a significant heritage landmark in the North East, and the home for collections of national importance. The support of the Heritage Lottery Fund will ensure that the building and its collections can be enjoyed by everyone as they learn about their past for many years to come.”

The HLF grant is a ‘Stage One Pass’, meaning that the money has been earmarked by the HLF for the project, but is not yet guaranteed. Stage Two involves a more detailed application to be developed to secure the grant.

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