Downham Market & District Heritage Society (DMDHS) has just received the very exciting news that the town’s Old Fire Station project has been awarded a grant of £71,656 by WREN, a not-for-profit organisation which administers funding donated from FCC Environment under the Landfill Communities Fund Scheme.
After a wide ranging consultation programme the Heritage and Learning Centre received £386,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund in November and since then has been working to gain further support for the project. More matched funding is still needed to achieve the final £90,000 required before the building work can commence, but the WREN award is a significant step forward. A local Appeal Fund, target £12,000, was launched by the Society in February this year and has now reached £4826.
The project aims to conserve and restore the town’s Old Fire Station which is a widely recognised landmark within and beyond Downham Market. Open 5 days a week, it will be a focal point for the rich heritage of Downham Market and the surrounding area. It will act as a hub, signposting residents and visitors to heritage sites and collections locally as well as showcasing the Society’s collections ranging from prehistoric to the modern day which have been donated by the people of Downham.
It will create a multi-functional community area with fully accessible toilets and a new kitchen together with full meeting area facilities. This space will be available to rent at affordable rates to local groups and will also provide opportunities for learning and discovery which will be at the heart of the project. This will include an exciting schools’ programme, themed activities and events and a changing exhibitions programme overseen by a Learning Officer and Administrator who will be employed part time to work with and train a core team of Volunteers.
The Heritage Society is convinced that this project has a lot to offer the whole area. It will stimulate learning, inspire future historians, be a centre for historical and family research, and by encouraging the tourist industry it will bring business into the town.
Peter Cox, managing director of WREN, said ‘WREN makes a difference to people’s lives by awarding grants to many projects across
the UK. The fact that this is a multifaceted building, incorporating not only a community building, but a heritage centre, makes it even more worthy for us to support’
Dave Flower, Chairman, DMDHS – ‘I’m getting really excited now that the project is progressing so well. I am confident that our team will succeed in raising the rest of the funding in due course. Having worked alongside the team responsible for the project from day one it is very encouraging to see that this major funding organisation has the confidence in us to give us this sizeable grant for which we are very grateful.’