Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Holkham to invest £4.5m in new exhibition and visitor facilities

A Site Layout Plan of the proposed
Ground Floor - credit Hopkins Architects LLP
Proposed interior of events building
- credit Hopkins Architects LLP
Plans for a major transformation of the former stables and redundant pottery buildings at Holkham will create exciting new and improved facilities for visitors to the hall and park. Working with one of the UK’s leading names, Hopkins Architects, the project will create many new features.

The plans include a new café and restaurant which will double the amount of indoor seating.  The current café is no longer able to accommodate the number of visitors coming to Holkham Park, which is estimated to have risen by more than 50% over the past four years.

A larger shop will extend the opportunities to showcase the local suppliers and producers who provide most of the gifts and items for sale in the shop. The conversion of the former pottery into an indoor events facility will create a space capable of seating over 250. This will enable the estate to host weddings and conferences, which will extend the visitor season beyond the busy summer months and support local accommodation providers in low season.

The longstanding Bygones Museum which is owned by the Bygones Charity (Registered No. 801090) will close and be replaced by a new exhibition telling the story of Holkham’s unique farming heritage.

The exhibition is being designed by Drinkall Dean and will become the focal point of the estate’s ambitious education programme which now employs a full time education officer and works with over 50 schools. The aim of the new exhibition will be to show how the land is linked to food production and will explore themes of nutrition and cookery, which are increasingly relevant to young people.

Since the Bygones collection began in 1979 it has accumulated thousands of donated items varying from agricultural machines to mechanical toys and household implements. Some of the objects in the current exhibition will be reused but the estate is looking for a new home for many of the objects that have been collected over the years and is currently in the process of contacting the many people who have donated items over the years to see if they would like them returned.

Objects that cannot be re-homed will be sold and the proceeds retained by the charity to further its educational objectives which are “establishing and maintaining an exhibition centre at Holkham, Norfolk for educational purposes, with particular reference to the achievements and influence of the agricultural reformers, Coke of Norfolk and ‘Turnip’ Townshend of Raynham and to the provision of facilities for the demonstration and study of agricultural evolution with special emphasis on East Anglia.”

Dick Joice, a progressive farmer whose own collection formed the nucleus of the Bygones Museum farmed on both the Holkham and Raynham Estates and would certainly approve this far seeing Holkham enterprise for the 21st century.

David Horton-Fawkes, estates director at Holkham said: “Holkham was the crucible of the Agricultural Revolution and the four course rotation, and there can be no story which is more relevant to Norfolk and Holkham.  The whole project will create considerable building work for 15 months, but we believe the final result will provide a fantastic new visitor experience which has been designed to rival anything found in any other stately home in the country.”

The estate has worked closely with English Heritage and North Norfolk District Council to ensure all the plans for the mainly Grade II listed buildings will be in keeping and that there will be minimal impact on areas of major historical importance.

While building work is underway, the hall will be open at its normal opening times and temporary facilities will be used in 2015 for ticketing, the café and gift shop. 

Anyone who originally donated an item and may be interested in having it returned should email enquiries@holkham.co.uk or telephone the Estate Office on 01328 710227 by the end of November 2014.

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