High Street and history benefit from heritage cash

Belford Heritage Group celebrates the �25,000 funding.
Belford Heritage Group celebrates the �25,000 funding.

A NORTH Northumberland heritage group has added its voice to praise for a recent funding boost.

Last month, the Gazette reported that Belford had received a £25,000 grant from the Big Lottery Fund’s Village SOS scheme on top of a £5,000 from the Northumberland Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Partnership (AONB).

The lottery funding is to be used for the development of a heritage centre and village trail which will provide a tourist attraction and improve visitor numbers. The AONB funding is to be used for a computer interactive display within the museum.

Fiona Renner-Thompson, the founder of Belford’s Hidden History Exhibition, said: “This is wonderful news for the village, for the restoration and revitalisation of the High Street and the preservation of our local history.

“Now we have the new community charity shop, jubilee wood and planned floral displays, the heritage centre will add to these attractions, making Belford really worth a visit.”

Five years ago, Belford received funding from the Scarmen Trust to assist with the restoration and regeneration of Belford’s High Street.

As part of this scheme, a survey was distributed, and an exhibition held to show the results. To add interest to the exhibition, old photographs were displayed.

These photographs sparked much enthusiasm, prompting residents to tell stories of Belford in past times to those manning the exhibition.

The organisers of the exhibition realised that, if these stories could be recorded, written up and displayed, here was the tourist attraction that people were saying was needed in Belford.

Within two months it was done and Belford’s Hidden History Exhibition was up and running. It initially was going to be for a month but was so successful it went on until October, bringing in many visitors to the village.

Four years and four very popular exhibitions later, the empty buildings on the High Street that were being used, were no longer available.

The organisers, part of Belford Community Group, looked around and realised that part of Belford Reading Room was never used so asked the trustees of the premises if it could be used as a permanent base.

Work is to get underway immediately to bring the Reading Room up to spec so that this year’s exhibition can be up and running as soon as possible.