Redfern’s Cottage, Uttoxeter’s unique, independent museum has launched its ambitious redevelopment programme which will transform it into a major visitor attraction and cultural centre for the town and surrounding region.

The launch follows the award of a major £643,800 grant for the museum from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the largest ever sum of money it has allocated for a project in East Staffordshire. (Previous allocations have all been under £50,000).

The re-development work has started just five years after the museum was rescued from closure by the charity, Uttoxeter Heritage Trust. It has run the museum ever since with the support of a group of dedicated volunteers.

The museum’s unique collection of artefacts, archives and photographs is being placed in store while work is undertaken to conserve parts of the 17th Century building. The archives will be digitised and new storage facilities built.

The Trust has appointed three heritage professionals as their project team to undertake the programme management and development work over the next 18 months.

Laura Wigg-Bailey has been appointed as project manager to ensure that the project’s ambitious targets are met. As a Heritage Consultant, she has wide experience of working in the museum sector. As the museum’s curator for the past five years, she has has been responsible for conserving and developing the museum’s collections.

Estela Vallejo has taken over as project curator. She has wide experience gained in arts and cultural programming across Europe and India, lately she has been helping out as a volunteer at Middleport Pottery. Estela will be responsible for care of the unique collection of artefacts, archives and photographs as well as the new exhibitions and interpretation for visitors.

Ruth Buttery has been appointed as Audience and Sustainability Manager. She has been responsible for the major success seen at Sharpe’s Pottery Museum in Swadlincote which she has transformed into a dynamic, financially sustainable museum. She will be responsible for developing an enhanced programme for local schools, more events to attract young families, shoppers and tourists as well as building relationships with local community groups and people interested in the heritage of the Uttoxeter area. This is seen as key to marketing Redfern’s Cottage successfully and securing its long-term future.

The Trust is in the process of commissioning architects, building contractors, conservators and marketing professionals to work alongside the project team and the museum’s dedicated band of volunteers.

Work to develop a new visitor centre and improve access to the building will begin in the New Year.

The completion of the 18-month project will see Uttoxeter placed firmly on the tourism map.