Key backing for barracks heritage hub

Plans for a £15million heritage hub at Berwick Barracks have received backing from the leader of Northumberland County Council.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 09 March, 2017, 08:59
Berwick Barracks.

Grant Davey believes the Borders Heritage Hub could deliver ‘big benefits’ to the local economy.

And the Labour group leader believes the proposed North of Tyne combined authority deal could help make it happen.

Coun Davey has been at the heart of negotiations around a so-called ‘devo deal’ which would see Northumberland, North Tyneside and Newcastle collaborate on ‘shared projects’.

He says tourism, the second largest employer in the county, would be at the centre of the spin-off benefits with north Northumberland in line for a boost through ‘significant investment’ in a Borders Heritage Hub to include Berwick Barracks.

Coun Davey said: “We’re at detailed stages of the negotiations but we want to make sure that our priority which is creating jobs and boosting local economies across Northumberland are at the centre of priority projects which would be potentially undertaken by a North of Tyne combined authority.

“I’m batting for the whole of the county in these negotiations and the Borders Heritage Hub is a significant investment which would really benefit the local economy.

“Along with investment projects in the world-renowned Kielder Dark Skies observatory, we’re keen to make sure that we maximise our influence to push tourism up the regional agenda”.

“There’s big interest in the Border Heritage Hub and I’m confident that it’s a great project to prioritise.”

Consultants have estimated the barracks-based attraction could draw upwards of 60,000 visitors a year - six times the number of visitors it currently gets.

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Heritage and culture specialists Jura Consultants, which was commissioned to carry out the feasibility study by the Berwick Archive and Museum Action Group (BAMAG) and Berwick Town Council, believe that developing a heritage hub on the site could transform its fortunes.

The proposed project would involve bringing the Berwick Record Office and Archive onto the site and integrating and upgrading the three museums and two art galleries currently based in the barracks.

ew facilities would include a café, an enlarged shop and education facilities. There could also be studio and retail space for artists and artisans, new spaces for community use, and visitor accommodation for holiday lets.

The current museum collections – Berwick Museum and Art Gallery, the regimental museum of the King’s Own Scottish Borderers, and English Heritage’s own display, would be reinterpreted and expanded to tell the dramatic and often bloody story of north Northumberland and the Scottish Borders.

There would be improved display space for the internationally recognised Gymnasium Gallery and room for the town’s Art Gallery to bring more of its precious Burrell Collection out of storage and onto public display.

As well as the permanent displays, there would be a new emphasis on arts events, living history re-enactments, festivals and other activities that bring life and animation to the Barracks square.

Jura Consultants believes that a Heritage Hub along these lines would be feasible, and English Heritage, which currently manages the site, has welcomed the proposals.

The study was undertaken in two closely co-ordinated parts: a business case study by Jura Consultants, and a study by conservation architects Spence & Dower to determine whether the required facilities could be accommodated on the site. The feasibility study was funded by a £48,000 grant from the Government’s Coastal Revival Fund.