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Work begins on Norwich Bridewell museum

PUBLISHED: 16:00 07 May 2010 | UPDATED: 10:18 02 July 2010

The Bridewell Museum before its revamp

The Bridewell Museum before its revamp

Steve Downes

The people of Norwich and Norfolk were promised an attraction with "broader appeal" today as it was announced that key building work had begun on Bridewell Museum in the city.

The people of Norwich and Norfolk were promised an attraction with “broader appeal” today as it was announced that key building work had begun on Bridewell Museum in the city.

The historic museum is in the midst of a £1.5m facelift - a few years after its future was under threat.

Norfolk County Council proposed the Bridewell Alley museum's closure, along with Strangers' Hall in Norwich and some public libraries, as it sought to make budget cuts.

All were saved after a public outcry, and Bridewell Museum is set for a new look when it reopens during autumn next year.

The revamp, under main contractor Draper and Nichols, includes a wheelchair-accessible entrance onto Bridewell Alley, a lift to the first floor and improved visitor facilities.

At the same time, museum displays are being refreshed to widen the focus from trades and industries to tell the story of Norwich, its people and their everyday lives.

This first phase of work, which will take place over the next month, involves creating a new hole where the entrance will go and beginning work on the lift shaft. Because of the nature, age and sensitivity of the building, archaeologists will be monitoring the work.

Derrick Murphy, cabinet member for cultural services at the county council, said: “The redevelopment will broaden the appeal of the museum and open it up to more people.

“I think schools, local residents and visitors to the area will all appreciate having the opportunity to learn about the history of the city in one central location.”

He added: “Investing in places like the Bridewell Museum and ensuring they are relevant and accessible to everyone can only help the bid to get Norwich named the first national City of Culture in 2013, which would be a great achievement.”

Local people were consulted on plans for the museum through a programme of focus groups. Students from Hellesdon High School were involved in an innovative consultation project and worked with architecture students from the University of Sheffield to express their ideas for the museum in 3D models.

The redevelopment was made possible by a grant of just under £1m from the Heritage Lottery Fund as well as funding from the county council, Norwich City Council, the Friends of Norwich Museums and other charitable donations.

t Have you got a story about culture in the city? Call Steve Downes on 01603 772495 or email steve.downes@archant.co.uk.

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