Work to bring Bury St Edmunds Guildhall back to life to start in December

How it is hoped Bury St Edmunds Guildhall's former WW2 control centre will look ANL-150225-114115001

How it is hoped Bury St Edmunds Guildhall's former WW2 control centre will look ANL-150225-114115001

Work on an ambitious project to bring Bury St Edmunds’ Guildhall back to life is due to start by December.

The Guildhall Heritage Centre Project have been given the green light to begin work on the 1.5 million development by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

On top of a £669,000 grant from the HLF, campaigners have either raised or been pledged the remaining £831,000.

A sizeable loan from the Guildhall Feoffment and grants from the HB Allen Charitable Trust, Historic England, Town Trust, Bury Society and the Pilgrim Trust have supported the project.

Project leader Mike Jackson said: “It has taken four years of hard work to put everything into place.

“At times it has been quite a struggle and we’ve had quite a few hurdles to overcome, but we can now start on making the Guildhall a real facility for local people again.

“We have a lot of support from donors and also from local people and it really has made a big difference.

“The tenders have gone out and we hope to begin work by the start of December.”

Mr Jackson added: “Our start relies on a loan which we must address. If we are to avoid selling off valuable charity-owned assets we must keep fundraising.

“We already have a pledge of £10,000 from the Town Council which will keep up our momentum.”

The Guildhall – believed to be the oldest civic building in England – will transform its main rooms into galleries to tell the history of the building.

The rooms will also be able to host a variety of events and activities as well as a series of exhibitions enhanced by live re-enactor performances and digital technology.

The first phase of the revamp will be on the back roof which, in its current state, remains on the Heritage At Risk register. Upstairs, the former 19th Century council chamber will be shown as a Second World War Operations Room which it became in 1939.

“The operations room will be unique as it will be the only surviving one of 40 across the UK which has remained structurally intact,” said Mr Jackson.

Other works include a new kitchen and strengthening and restoring some of the ancient fabric of the building.

Work is set to be completed by the middle of the summer of 2018.