A rare Tudor building in south London is to be given a new lease of life as a community hub after Liberal Democrat-led Sutton Council secured a grant of £1.5m from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).
Whitehall Museum is a rare example of 16th-century domestic architecture in the heart of Cheam Village. 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, and also more accessible. 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. Internal adaptations and two new extensions, including a new lift and stair, will significantly improve access into and around the building.
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.
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, Lib Dem Chair of Sutton Council’s Environment and Neighbourhood Committee, 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 the project would revitalise an iconic building as a vibrant hub for people of all ages in the local community and at the same time would save and share its fascinating heritage. He said Whitehall Museum was a treasure trove of Sutton’s local history.”
Detailed designs will now be developed by Curl la Tourelle Architects and it is anticipated that construction work will begin in the Spring.