Beamish Museum is on target to win a £10.75m grant that would secure its long-term future.
The money pledged by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) is the largest amount promised to a North East attraction in over a decade.
Work on a new 1950s area, a pioneering centre for people with dementia and overnight accommodation, could start in just 18 months time.
Up to 95 jobs and 50 new apprenticeships will also be created at the site in County Durham which has over 300,000 objects, vehicles and buildings dating from the Georgian period to Edwardian times. Beamish Director Richard Evans, who was appointed in 2008, said: “We are absolutely jumping for joy at this incredible news and to be honest we are all a bit stunned and can hardly believe it. We have been lucky enough to be supported in lots of different ways but none of the projects have been of this size.”
Beamish had 580,000 visitors last year with 297,000 coming to the North East from outside the region. “This has a huge impact on bed and breakfasts and campsites,” he added. “More than half come especially to visit Beamish so we know we are alongside four or five other top attractions like Durham Cathedral.
We also currently have a staff wage bill of £5m a year so we are of economic importance.” As part of the HLF’s initial support, £603,800 of development funding has been awarded to enable Beamish staff to finalise their plans and carry out a consultation with the public.
The grant-giving organisation will then consider a final application towards the end of 2015 for the full grant award of up to £10.75m. In its planned 1950s area, Beamish is set to install a block of four post-war Airey houses which originally stood in Kibblesworth, Gateshead.