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Museum Redevelopment Enters New Phase

The Somerset Rural Life Museum project has entered a new phase with the completion of building works for the 2.4 million redevelopment.  Hand-over of the site from Ken Biggs Contractors Ltd has just taken place and work will now begin on the museum installation and fit-out.  This very popular Somerset visitor attraction belongs to Somerset County Council and will be managed by the South West Heritage Trust as leaseholder. It is due to re-open to the public in the spring of 2017.


Improved gallery spaces and visitor facilities


For the past fourteen months contractors have been repairing and adapting the Victorian farmhouse and the cowsheds to provide greatly improved gallery spaces and visitor facilities. A new Community Learning Space for educational activities and community use has also been created.  Museum collections will be better preserved thanks to insulation, double glazing, and a new heating system, and there is also a new lift. Landscaping has improved the setting of the museum, including the magnificent 14th-century Abbey Barn.


Telling Somerset's remarkable story


Tom Mayberry, the project leader and Chief Executive of the South West Heritage Trust, said: “We’re delighted to have reached this milestone in the project and very grateful to everyone who has made the work possible. Our goal is to preserve the essential qualities of a much-loved museum at the same time as finding new ways to tell the remarkable story of Somerset’s rural history.’’



Project representatives at the museum for the site handover. Left to right: David Heeley of the Museum Friends, Tom Mayberry of the South West Heritage Trust, Russell Lillford of Somerset Building Preservation Trust, Alison Templeton of Somerset County Council, Peter Renshaw of Viridor Credits Environmental Company, and Chris Poolman of Ken Biggs Contractors.

Cllr David Hall, Deputy Leader of Somerset County Council said: “It’s excellent news that the Rural Life Museum will soon be taking its place again as a major destination for Somerset people and visitors to the county. Somerset is fortunate to have such a wonderful heritage, and the museum will be one very important way to celebrate it.”


John Lockwood, CEO of Viridor Credits, said: “We were pleased to support this project with £750,000, one of the largest awards ever made by Viridor Credits from the Landfill Communities Fund.  I wish the Trust well in the final stage of the redevelopment of the Rural Life Museum and look forward to spring 2017 when all can see Somerset’s rich rural heritage displayed to best advantage.”


Friends and outreach


Throughout the closed phase community engagement has continued, and a group of volunteers and others, including the Friends of the Somerset Rural Life Museum, have been supporting the work. Outreach to schools and families, and a project blog, have also helped to keep the museum in the public mind as the redevelopment continues.


With grateful thanks


The project has been funded by Viridor Credits Environmental Company, the Heritage Lottery Fund, Somerset County Council, the Garfield Weston Foundation, the Friends of Somerset Rural Life Museum and other generous donors. It has been led by Somerset Building Preservation Trust and the South West Heritage Trust working in partnership with Somerset County Council. The architects are the Bristol firm Architecton Ltd and the main build contractors Ken Biggs Contractors Ltd of High Littleton.


Keep up to date


For more information about the redevelopment of Somerset Rural Life Museum visit the project blog.


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