• Sat. Jun 22nd, 2024

North East Connected

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Work gets underway at £1.5M Heritage Centre

Work is now underway at Land of Oak & Iron’s flagship £1.5M Crowley’s Heritage Centre, at Winlaton Mill in Gateshead, which could bring more than £500,000 into the local economy annually as a landmark tourist attraction.

The centre, which is expected to open in 2018, is part of the National Lottery funded Land of Oak & Iron project hosted by Groundwork NE & Cumbria, which explores and celebrates industrial, cultural and natural heritage of the Derwent Valley and surrounding area. The charity will run the centre as a social enterprise, reinvesting any profits back into its local activities.

The centre will offer a range of exhibitions and interactive sessions, a café and gift shop, alongside a business incubator space, providing local people with long-term employment opportunities and offering an outlet for regional food producers and businesses.

In addition to investment from Groundwork and its partner Gateshead Council, much of the funds for the £1.5M building project came from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) thanks to money raised by National Lottery players.. Further funding from the Rural Growth Network programme Strategic Economic Infrastructure Fund (SEIF), and other smaller organisations has supported the project to reach its total.

In order to meet budgetary demands and support the charity in its ambition to create a lasting legacy, which will benefit the community, Esh Group and Dyer Engineering are providing plant hire and labour at cost price. David Marrs, a retired local authority Chief Executive with a passion for local history, is project managing the construction and giving his time voluntarily.

The design of the centre was chosen in consultation with the local community, with hundreds of people choosing Northumbria University Architecture student Matthew Glover’s waterwheel-inspired design concept. It pays homage to the centre’s namesake, Sir Ambrose Crowley, who established revolutionary water-powered iron works nearby in the late 17th Century.

Kate Culverhouse, Chief Executive at Groundwork NE & Cumbria said: “It is fantastic to finally break ground on at Crowley’s Heritage Centre. It has been a long time in the making, with many parties involved in supporting us to achieve our ambition of leaving a last legacy for the Land of Oak & Iron project.

“The industrial heritage of the North East is an important part of our story. We transformed the UK into an industrial powerhouse, helping to manufacture the components that kept Britain’s wheels turning throughout the industrial revolution. In this latest incarnation that same industry will again benefit local people; bringing money in to the area, promoting the wider region and, perhaps most importantly, creating valuable jobs.

“I can’t thank our partners and local people enough for helping this dream to come true. The final design is amazing and I can’t wait to open the doors later next year.”

John Rundle, Chairman of the Land of Oak and Iron Board, said: “I am proud that Land of Oak & Iron is making bold steps towards supporting local people and our economy through a celebration of the area’s authentic heritage.

“It is important that Land of Oak & Iron creates long-term benefits for the area, which we are already doing by giving access and opportunity to experience the authentic, unprocessed and honest heritage, history, heroes and habitats of our area. Crowley’s Heritage Centre creates a central location, which will celebrate all of these things and much, much more.”

Cllr John McElroy, Gateshead Council Cabinet Member for Environment and Transport, and Land of Oak and Iron Board Member, said: “This is a landmark day for this project, which, once completed, will be a great new attraction for local people, as well as drawing new visitors to the area and providing a welcome boost to the economy.”

Ivor Crowther, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund North East, said: “Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, we’re delighted to support the Land of Oak and Iron project. Crowley’s Heritage Centre is set to be a fantastic gateway into the story of the North East’s industrial and natural heritage and will benefit local people and economies, promote the wider region as a place to visit and creating valuable jobs.”

Graeme Parkins, Managing Director at Dyer Engineering, said: “We are a proud North Eastern business, with all of our work being undertaken in the region by our local workforce. We appreciate the importance of the area’s industrial heritage as much of what Dyer Engineering does was pioneered here many years ago by the people and organisations that Crowley’s Heritage Centre will celebrate.

“It is our pleasure to be able to provide Groundwork and Land of Oak & Iron with our support and expertise. I hope that in many years’ time, Dyer Engineering will hold a place amongst the esteemed industrial mammoths celebrated there.”

By Emily