Redfern’s Cottage, Museum of Uttoxeter Life, is celebrating the success of an ambitious community engagement programme which has seen support from local people increase dramatically, following the award of a £643,000 development grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund just 18 months ago.

The grant, the largest ever awarded to a project in East Staffordshire, has enabled the museum’s project team to work with a host of local organisations and run an enhanced and diverse programme of events, which has resulted in an increase in visitor numbers and new volunteers eager to help establish the museum as a community resource and regional visitor attraction.

In this first phase of the museum redevelopment programme, projects have included Reminiscence sessions in local care homes and the Holly Road Support Centre, an art project for people with mental health issues, an archaeological dig with Burton and South Derbyshire students and the restoration of a rare Bamford water pump with apprentices at the JCB Academy.

The project team has worked with local First Schools to design new educational resources which will be delivered within schools and at Redfern’s Cottage when it reopens;

and an extensive programme of events has ranged from kids’ school holiday activities, to talks to commemorate Uttoxeter’s WW1 heroes.

The programme has received widespread support from local people and the number of volunteers working at Redfern’s Cottage has more than doubled.

In addition, local businesses and organisations have responded well to an appeal from the Uttoxeter Heritage Trust, which runs the museum, to help raise match project funding of £63,000 required by the Heritage Lottery Fund. These include Waitrose and Staffordshire County Council. The Bamford Charitable Trust has also given a sizeable donation to the project.

The second phase of the project in 2017, will be the restoration and redesign of Redfern’s Cottage and, as it is a 17th Century building, this is proving to be hugely challenging.

Original, detailed plans which included an extension to the building, a catering kitchen and café, were found to be too costly to implement. This has led to some delay in starting the work as the Trust has had to revise the plans to make them more affordable and apply to the Heritage Lottery Fund for additional grant and an extension to the project duration.

“We were aiming to complete our building work by July 2017 but having hit a few bumps along the road, we now hope to launch the fully re-developed museum in December 2017,” said Project Manager, Laura Wigg-Bailey.

The delay to the launch has led to the decision to re-open the museum on certain days of the week from February 2017, to ensure that the community is still served by the museum.

“We are planning a regular programme of activities including curator talks, community archiving days and kids’ activities during the school holidays,” said Audience and Sustainability Manager, Ruth Buttery.

Chairman of the Uttoxeter Heritage Trust, Dave Parkes, said, “The support for the museum by the people of Uttoxeter has increased dramatically and we are thrilled by all the goodwill and time given by our dedicated volunteers. We sincerely hope that the town will continue to support us.”