A Pocklington-based venture has received a massive cash boost from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
The vision to reunite Pocklington’s Burnby Hall building with the adjoining garden and visitor facilities took a step closer with the confirmation that the Burnby Hall Gardens and Stewarts Museum Trust has been granted £53,500 by the Heritage Lottery Fund’s Resilient Heritage programme to support a feasibility study into the project.
The gardens trust first approached East Riding of Yorkshire Council in 2017 to discuss the possibility of taking over Burnby Hall and developing it into a community and heritage centre alongside the famous gardens.
The council, which currently uses the hall building as social work offices, agreed to investigate a community asset transfer arrangement, subject to it being proved to be financially sustainable.
This led to an HLF application to the resilient heritage programme; and the grant will now see heritage consultants appointed to survey the building, consult with key individuals and organisations, and produce a detailed report and recommendations on the structure, management and viability of the project.
Paul Lee, chairman of the Burnby Hall Gardens and Stewarts Museum trustees, said: “This is really great news, but is just the first step along a long road. We have to prove that Burnby Hall can be a profitable facility, and the feasibility study is pivotal to demonstrating that.
“It would be brilliant to reunite Burnby Hall and the gardens. We believe the hall can be transformed into something really special for Pocklington, and become a focal point for community and visitor activities.
“It’s an ambitious plan that has already taken a lot of work and cooperation, which will need to continue if it is to become a reality.”
At the centre of the vision is the creation of a museum and heritage centre that could keep the recent archaeological finds from Burnby Lane and The Mile in the town.
Another key aim is to make greater use of the current community hall on the end of the building, and develop it into an improved venue for conferences, weddings, meetings and functions.
In the first half of the 20th century Major and Mrs Stewart turned Burnby Hall and its grounds from a modest home on the edge of Pocklington into an impressive country house, garden and lakeland estate.
After the Major’s death in 1962 the gardens were taken on by the trust and developed into the popular attraction which current receives over 50,000 visitors a year.
The house was bought by Pocklington Rural District Council and converted into its headquarters, before being inherited by subsequent unitary authorities.
Mr Lee added: “We’ve had excellent support from East Riding council, and from David Wilson Homes and Persimmon Homes, who currently own the archaeological finds.
“The Heritage Lottery Fund has now recognised the exciting possibilities of our project and we are determined to take it forward.”
The Gardens Trust has been working in conjunction with Phil Gilbank and the Pocklington Heritage Partnership for over a year to investigate keeping the recent Iron Age and Saxon finds in the town.
The partnership wants to go further and create a heritage centre that tells the story of all eras of Pocklington, the surrounding district and the Wolds for visitors and locals, including schoolchildren.
To achieve this will require the creation of an accredited museum, capable of showcasing and preserving such internationally important artefacts.
It is hoped that the feasibility study will be completed before the end of the year, and that it will facilitate the next stage towards developing and funding the project.