2 December 2013 - This story is in archive

A project to transform St Albans’ Grade II* Town Hall into a museum and gallery has received a huge boost with the announcement of a Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) development grant. The announcement of first phase development funding of £282,000 is a tremendous start for the City project.

The development

This first-round pass means St Albans City and District Council can lead development of detailed plans for an inspirational home for the Museum of St Albans (MOSTA). MOSTA is currently based in Hatfield Road, St Albans.

The Town Hall is one of the best known buildings in St Albans. Its image has been used in paintings and photographs to represent the heart and spirit of the City. We now have the exciting opportunity not only to return the building to its former glory, but also to create an iconic centre piece for the City.

The development funding will be used to develop the first stages of the project. This work will help us progress a second-round application to the HLF for a further £2.5m towards the cost of refurbishing the Town Hall.

The total project cost is estimated to be £6.75m. The balance is being provided by the Council and fund raising by the St Albans Museums and Galleries Trust.

Must-see attraction

The project aims to deliver a must-see Hertfordshire attraction, showcasing St Albans' unique medieval heritage and space for the University of Hertfordshire's contemporary art gallery. It will replace an outdated museum and improve interpretation of our social history collection. It will also significantly enhance cultural life in the City and attract many visitors each year.

Exciting plans have been drawn up to provide a facility for the whole City, a central hub to hold events and to welcome visitors from all over the world. Visitors will have the opportunity to discover over 2,000 years of St Albans' remarkable history and experience innovative and contemporary museum interpretation and displays. They will be able to explore the delights of the historic Town Hall, Court Room and Prison Cells and enjoy our rich and complex history and contemporary art in new and exciting ways. There will also be a fantastic new basement gallery.

The refurbished Town Hall building will act as a gateway for exploring the City's other attractions. St Albans' Verulamium Park was the site of the third largest city in Roman Britain and now hosts Verulamium Museum with its Roman artefacts and Hypocaust building. Near by is a wonderful Roman Theatre, the beautiful St Albans Cathedral and medieval streets and Clock Tower for visitors to explore.

The St Albans Museums and Galleries Trust is working with the Council and the University of Hertfordshire to take forward this exciting project. In the New Year, the Trust will launch a campaign to raise funds to help develop the new museum and gallery.

Opportunity

Mr Mike Gray, Chair of The St Albans Museums and Galleries Trust, said: "The development grant from the HLF is an amazing boost to our plans to create a new home for the Museum of St Albans. It will place it in the hub of the City. We will now work closely with our partners, including the Council and the University of Hertfordshire, to take forward fundraising for this project. The funds we raise for this fantastic scheme will transform an historic landmark building into an inspirational museum and gallery for the community."

Cllr Annie Brewster, Mayor of the City and District of St Albans said: "This is the most exciting opportunity for St Albans, a grand central site that will showcase what we are about, then and now. Businesses and retailers will benefit from the improved image of the Town Hall. I see no reason why we should not be attracting new and exciting exhibitions of the quality of Damien Hirst or David Hockney for example in the near future. Watch out for some creative fundraising ideas which I hope schools, businesses, retailers and individuals can get involved with. It will be for us all."

Cllr Mike Wakely, Portfolio Holder for Sports, Leisure and Heritage for St Albans City and District Council, said: "This development grant helps underpin our bid for the balance of the £2.8m which we are seeking from the HLF for this amazing museum and gallery project. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create a heritage centre that will attract visitors from across Hertfordshire and beyond to see St Albans' heritage. I want to thank the HLF for recognising the importance of this project and our partners for their hard work. Particular thanks go to the St Albans Museums and Galleries Trust and the University of Hertfordshire. The Trust will soon be launching a campaign to raise the additional funds required. Please get involved and help the Trust to preserve your heritage for future generations."

Robyn Llewellyn, Head of HLF East of England, said: "This is an exciting opportunity to introduce new uses into a handsome town hall. This funding is the first step to providing a central cultural hub for local residents and the thousands of tourists that visit every year eager to explore the unique story of this City. We are very pleased to be supporting this project and look forward to working closely with the District Council as they progress their plans further.

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