Well it’s in! After months in the preparation, the trustees have submitted our application to Heritage Lottery Fund for the funds to complete our redevelopment project. It comprised hundreds of pages and we couldn’t have done it without our two consultants who have given us far more than we, and probably they, could have expected.
However it is too early to raise a glass to Jim Oribine and Lucy Godfrey as we must now wait until January before we know if we have been successful. There again, perhaps we should just raise that glass anyway! We have come a long way since we first asked for the views of the town’s residents on the sort of heritage centre they wanted and whatever happens now we have given it our best shot.
We all feel we deserve success in turning Mrs Webster’s building into the heritage centre and community hub that Wirksworth deserves. Assuming that we do win the award, we still have to raise our own share of the project cost before we can go ahead. When my husband and I first fell in love with Wirksworth, the icing on the cake was the fantastic atmosphere generated by the two weeks of art, music and drama of Wirksworth Festival – the like of which we had not seen before.
It is the biggest event of the year for the town and kicks off with the Art and Architecture Trail on September 10 and 11. The heritage centre will again be an arts venue that weekend so we are currently in the throes of reorganising Webster’s to accommodate the pen and ink drawings of Peter Wheatcroft. His cityscapes should look all the more futuristic in our olde-worlde beamed surroundings. Joan, our renowned cakemaker, will be head-down in her kitchen and it will be all hands to the pumps all weekend to staff the art display, the shop and the courtyard café. We can only hope the weather is good and that there are plenty of visitors with deep pockets and a need to rest their legs and enjoy some fine refreshment,
The financial report for the carnival/bank holiday weekend is now in and it was clearly a huge success for Wirksworth Heritage Centre. We had nearly 500 visitors who bought refreshments and other goods, which really swelled our coffers. This was very encouraging to all those who worked so hard over the three days.
Work is continuing on the collection, which is still housed in the old Silk Mill building. Our band of volunteers have all undergone training on the skills necessary for cataloguing, labelling and packing, conservation and environmental control of all the different kinds of items held there. This work looks set to go on for some time yet as there is so much history within the mill walls.
My own role, beyond staffing Webster’s, is entering details of items onto the standard museums database system, which gives me the opportunity to learn a lot more about the collection. Among the artefacts are those reflecting Wirksworth’s key role in the production of red tape for the civil service during the Victorian era. It always seems strange to me to think that Wirksworth’s mills churned out enough tape for the whole of the British Empire. Further work on the provenance of many items will soon be required as their source is unknown and many photographs are undated or of unidentified persons.
Visitor numbers in the town are increasing now we are in midsummer and we are opening Webster’s on Sundays in addition to the existing Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. A series of town walks is soon to be launched too, to show off the history around the town’s streets and ginnells. Perhaps I should call them jitties, as many of the local people seem to call them. Next month the trustees will be making their pitch to the Heritage Lottery Fund for funds to enable the redevelopment to go ahead, but we still need to raise money from other sources too. More on that, perhaps, next time!