An ambitious project to breathe new life into one of the county’s most historic buildings has taken a big step forward.
The scheme to re-open the ruined 15th century pele tower at Cresswell has been awarded £93,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).
Once restored with a new roof and refurbished interior, the fortified landmark is intended to be a key tourist attraction in the area as well as a new community facility.
Project organisers plan to install electricity in order to host exhibitions among a range of events.
The HLF money will help with the development phase of the project before more substantial funding is required for the reconstruction and fitting needed to bring the building back into full use.
As well as welcoming the grant announcement, community project manager and local resident Barry Mead said: “This is the culmination of a huge amount of work carried out by many individuals to whom I am extremely grateful.”
He added that the completed attraction would also give villagers “volunteering opportunities and heritage skills”.
Spectacular views of Druridge Bay are available from the top of the tower. The whole site can currently only be reached via an unpaved track, so access will also be improved as part of the scheme.
Local county councillor Scott Dickinson, who is also business chair for the authority, congratulated campaigners on receiving the HLF award and said he was boosting the project with £3,000 from his council capital allowance – matched by a further £3,000 of heritage funding.
“I am delighted to keep the momentum going on this important heritage scheme because the Cresswell pele tower is a significant local landmark and has the potential to be a major draw for the increasing number of visitors to England’s most beautiful county, as well as a stunning community facility,” he said.
“Barry and the team are doing a fantastic job and the council administration is delighted to be fully supporting them by investing in this important local regeneration.”
Visitors to a recent open day were able to examine plans for the pele tower. They were on display in the village hall.
The HLF is the body that distributes a share of the income from the National Lottery to projects aimed at preserving and making accessible the country’s heritage.