Published October 21, 2020 at 13:00
VISITORS to Whitaker Park in Rawtenstall cannot fail to miss that the £1.9million transformation of The Whitaker Museum has begun.
Waterfoot-based construction company B&E Boys started on site on June 29 and already the steel framework that will form the new cafe bar has been installed.
The former barn and stables will become an events and community space with a catering kitchen. It has been cleared inside, exterior walls have been reinforced and a new concrete base has been added.
Director John Boys said: “As you do with old projects, you uncover things you were not expecting to contend with.
“There was some dry rot in some of the beams and that has had to be replaced and new girders have been installed. Everything we have found inside that can be kept and preserved, will go back in once we have finished.”
This includes the original cast iron columns from the horse stalls and timber sliding sash windows.
The project is being delivered by Rossendale Council in partnership with The Whitaker CIC and is supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund with matched funding from the council of £189,950.
Council leader Alyson Barnes said: “In this time of uncertainty, the development of The Whitaker is a positive indication that there will be better times ahead.
“It will enhance the appeal of museum as a location for residents and visitors and it will have a positive impact for visitor numbers across Rossendale by working to promote other attractions and places to visit.”
While the construction work was taking place, workers discovered 150-year-old hand-made nails that have been given to The Whitaker to go on display. Over the duration of the build, more than 100 people will be employed and a lot of that workforce will live locally. Two of the workers were employed through Rossendale Works, an employability project run by Rossendale Council in partnership with Active Lancashire.
Managing Director of The Whitaker Carl Bell said: “It did seem to take a long time to start the work, but it is really flying now. After part of the wall came down a lot of internal works went on so it has not been as dramatic, but now the steel frame is up, even I am excited.
“We are really busy behind the scenes, linking with groups, schools and artists to make sure the new development is a real community effort.
“There’s a real and serious cloud over the country, let alone the area for obvious reasons at the moment, so good news seems even more important.
“I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the Lottery players for this chance to develop The Whitaker. Thanks to that funding, along with the recent support of Arts Council England, we will do Rossendale proud.”
Once work on the stables and barn is finished, work on linking the new facilities to the museum will take place.
Project Manager Charlotte Steels said: “Now the steel frame has gone in the work is really obvious and you can see how the cafe is going to offer people a fantastic view across the park and the whole of the Valley.
“Now we are hopefully on schedule to complete the works in April in time to open the new building and reopen the museum.”