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Black Country Living Museum set for £10 million transformation

By Richard Guttridge | Dudley | Attractions | Published:

Hundreds of jobs are set to be created as a new 1940-60s town is built, expanding the attraction by a third.

An artist's impression showing how the re-vamped museum would look

Historic buildings will be brought back to life after the Black Country Living Museum was awarded almost £10 million to allow it to go ahead with a major restoration project.

The funding has been awarded by Heritage Lottery and will see the attraction expanded by a third as a new 1940-60s town is built.

Around 100 jobs are expected to be created at the museum and more than 400 during construction.

Iconic buildings will also reappear at the museum, including the West Bromwich Gas Showroom and Woodside Library in Dudley.

Some will be moved brick-by-brick, while others, including Wolverhampton’s Elephant and Castle pub, which was controversially demolished around the turn of the century, and Lye’s Marsh and Baxter’s Butchers, will be recreated from archive material and images.

WATCH: The news is announced at the Black Country Living Museum

The ambitious scheme will create a picture of the post-war region, telling the story of the Black Country up to the closure of the Baggeridge Coal Mine in 1968.

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A new visitor centre and car park and learning centre also form part of the plans.

The awarding of the funding is a major boost for the museum and Black Country tourism as a whole.

The upgrade is expected to attract an extra half a million people each year to the Tipton Road attraction and set it up for the next 40 years.

In total the project will cost £21.7m. A further bid for funding will be submitted next year and, if successful, construction is expected to be completed in 2022.

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How the museum looks now

The £9.8m awarded will allow experts to start working on the proposals ahead of the next bid for funds, which is expected to be successful given the Heritage Lottery’s show of faith.

Museum chairman Lowell Williams said: “We are excited to get started on this project, which has been three years in the making and kick-starts the museum’s masterplan for the next 40 years.

“It will not only allow us to complete our story, but also to create a truly world-class heritage attraction at the heart of the Black Country – something we can all be proud of.

“It will enable us to welcome in the region of 500,000 visitors per year, expand significantly, and most importantly improve our visitors’ experience. It will also create circa 450 jobs within our local area, so this is a really positive step for the communities we serve.”

Dudley's Woodside Library will be moved to the museum under the plans

Ros Kerslake, chief executive of the Heritage Lottery Fund, said: “Black Country Living Museum is one of the UK’s most popular open-air museums bringing knowledge of the country’s industrial past to a national and international audience.

“It also has a reputation for working brilliantly with local communities. These latest plans reflect an ongoing commitment to sharing the stories of those who lived in the area and who made it what it is today.

“Our funding, which is made possible thanks to National Lottery players, will help update the wider site making it a visitor attraction truly fit for the 21st century.”

The old Gas Showroom in West Bromwich will also be on show at the museum

The additions to the museum will allow visitors to explore how globalisation impacted trade and industry and the origins of the region’s richly diverse population.

Ninder Johal, board member at the Black Country Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), said: “This is fantastic news for the Black Country region and for our visitor economy.

“The Black Country LEP is working hard with partners to ensure the infrastructure is in place to support world-class attractions such as the Black Country Living Museum in expanding its visitor experience to increase opportunities for sharing the unique, and successful, story of the Black Country and its significance world-wide across a range of sectors.”

Richard Guttridge

By Richard Guttridge
Investigations Editor - @RichG_star

Investigations Editor for the Express & Star.

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