Heritage campaigners in Downham have taken a major step towards their dream of creating a museum for their town after receiving a £386,300 Lottery grant towards the project.
Officials from the Downham Market and District Heritage Society have been celebrating the award from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), which will go towards the renovation of the town’s old fire station.
The society’s chairman, Dave Flower, said: “It’s wonderful news. We’re beginning to realise our dream.
For the past 20 years, the group has worked tirelessly to establish a lasting tribute to the area’s history.
After a number of setbacks, it was finally given the iconic Old Fire Station in Priory Road – but the society needed money to renovate it.
Now, after more than two years of applying for funding, the HLF has answered its prayers by agreeing to fund more than half of a £650,000 project to get the museum off the ground.
Mr Flower said: “On the day we were told we had got the HLF money, it was like a new life for the heritage society. We had finally achieved what we set out to do.”
With other funding applications in the pipeline, it is hoped the HLF grant will also give other funders the confidence to give money so the society can reach its target.
The vision for the facility is now to create not just a museum but an educational resource which residents, organisations and schools can use.
It will contain a permanent exhibition featuring the story of Downham, told using replica artefacts and interactive screens.
There will also be a large space for supporting exhibitions and which a new part-time education officer can use for activities.
n Fundraising towards the fire station project is continuing and the group is hosting a table top sale to support the project later this month.
The event will take place on Sunday January 26, between 9am and noon.
Books, CDs, clothes and bric-a-brac will be among the items available on the day. Admission is free and refreshments will be available.