Whitehall Museum in Cheam village is to be given a new lease of life as a community hub after Sutton Council secured a grant of £1.5m from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).
Whitehall is a rare example of 16th-century domestic architecture. The Grade II* listed building, with its distinctive white-painted exterior, provides an unrivalled glimpse of local life in the Tudor period.
Sutton Council wanted to find a way to renovate the building and make it more of a destination for heritage tourism. Its officers put together a compelling 200,000 word bid, along with securing planning permission for the renovations, which led to the HLF approving the proposal.
The grant means vital repairs to the building can be carried out and a programme of activities will be launched to encourage more people to use the museum and learn about their heritage. The Know Our Place: Sharing and Saving Whitehall project will have a number of themes.
A local history network will be created so people can learn, discuss and pool knowledge about their area. A reminiscence project, ‘The Locals’, will celebrate the Friends of Whitehall as they approach their 40th anniversary and the former residents and staff of Orchard Hill Hospital, Carshalton, the last long-stay NHS hospital in England to close. Displays based on these projects will be exhibited at the museum.
A new schools programme will tie in with a local curriculum exploring local history, environmental awareness and sustainability, comparing the carbon footprint of a Tudor home to a modern house.
Repair work to the building will involve tackling a damp problem and removing some intrusive 20th-century fixtures while other original features are restored. While this work is underway the museum will be closed, during which time a pop-up museum with a selection of Whitehall’s attractions and heritage information will be shared with borough residents at local fairs and community events, whetting the community’s appetite for when the restored building reopens.
Currently lack of space in the building restricts the number of volunteers who can help run the museum but the restoration work will create additional space so that more people can become involved in the future. Additional meeting space for local groups and for school visits will also result.
Cllr Jill Whitehead, Chair of the Environment and Neighbourhood Committee at Sutton Council, said:
“The redevelopment of the Whitehall Museum is of major significance to the borough. The museum is one of our oldest buildings and to secure a Heritage Lottery Fund grant of £1.5m is a magnificent achievement.
“It shows how, at a time of budget cuts, we are working hard to attract other funding streams to bring economic benefits by developing Sutton as a great place for business and leisure.
“I want to thank the Friends of Whitehall for donating £10,000 to the redevelopment. I also want to thank all of the council officers for the supreme effort they put in to secure the bid by collating the application.
“When the redevelopment is completed in 2017, Whitehall Museum will be the historical hub of our borough, attracting more and more people to spend time and money and learn more about our heritage.”
Stuart Hobley, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund London, said:
“Thanks to National Lottery players we have been able to support this project that revitalises an iconic building as a vibrant hub for the local community of all ages and at the same time saving and sharing its fascinating heritage. Whitehall Museum is a treasure trove of Sutton’s local history, one which I hope many more people will now discover.”