AN EMERGENCY loan of £125,000 has been agreed by two counils to support a funding shortfall in the major restoration project at the Museum of East Anglian Life, in Stowmarket.
Work is almost finished on the restoration of Abbots Hall at the museum but the shortfall of funds originally anticipated at £250,000 has now risen by a further £125,000.
On Monday, Suffolk County Council and Mid Suffolk District Council agreed a further loan to the museum after unforeseen costs in the restoration work were uncovered towards the end of last year.
The restoration of Abbots Hall, plus refurbishment of two estate workers’ cottages and the restoration of the hall’s Victorian walled garden, is costing £2.7 million. It received £1.771 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund and further grants from trusts and funds of £539,000, including a donation from Comic Relief. Suffolk County Council and Mid Suffolk have granted a total of £220,000 and had also agreed a no-interest loan to cover the original shortfall, which will be repaid over a five year period.
A report to Mid Suffolk ‘s executive committee said that while work was proceeding well and was nearly finished, there were insuffucient funds to pay bills after January and no other funds were available to meet the latest shortfall.
If further funds to cover the latest shortfall are agreed by HLF in March, the councils would have first claim for an early part repayment of the loan,
Tony Butler, director of the museum, said that the project had been orginally on budget with some funds left over, but as building and restoration work progressed more funds were needed. In particular, wiring within the hall was in a poorer state of repair, as were the cottages. In one of them, the chimney had to be demolished as it was no longer attached to the building’s walls.
“There was enough money, more money than needed if the project had gone to budget but a number of unforeseen circumstances meant we went over. Most of the problem have arisen in the last three months,” said Mr Butler. The project, being undertaken by Haymills, is nearly completed so that the buildings can be opened at the end of March or beginning of April.
The restoration of the hall, which was a private house, will provide nine exhibition rooms looking at the idea of home and belonging in East Anglia, with a history of the house, the role of its occupants and agriculture, a display of Romany artifacts and an exhibition of George Ewart Evans, the father of the English oral history.
One of the two Crowe Street cottages will re-create the home of the late Dorothy Wilding, a cook at Abbots Hall, who donated the contents of her home to the museum when she went into a home. This will display the era from the 1930s to the late 1960s.
The gardens are being restored and a link from Abbots Hall to the museum has been created through work with mental health service users who helped restored the garden.
The project has also rebuilt the former Round House, which stood in Bury St Edmunds Cattle Market.