THE work of two Northumberland volunteer heritage groups which are making the most of their local history will be showcased at a national launch event today .
The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), with TV historian Michael Wood, is launching Sharing Heritage, a new funding programme to help people across the UK explore, conserve and share the history and character of their local area.
With a commitment from HLF of £3m each year, grants between £3,000 and £10,000 will be available to groups to discover their local heritage.
Invited to the launch at the People’s History Museum in Manchester today are the Bedlington Our Heritage and Coquetdale Community Archaeology groups, both of whom have received HLF funding for their current projects.
The Coquetdale group is excavating the 13th Century Barrowburn mill on the upper reaches of the Coquet. It will be returning to the remote site in July for a third exploration session.
The mill, which processed cloth, was operated by monks from Newminster Abbey near Morpeth whose records show they carried out construction between 1226 and 1244.
Last year’s underwater dig by group members in waders revealed a 5m-long masonry wheel pit – the best preserved surviving example of its type in the country – as well as a large wooden structure on the river bed.
Christine Butterworth, chairman of the 120-strong group, who lives in Rothbury, said: “The project has given us an understanding of what was happening in the valley at a crucial period in history.
“The discovery of a site known only from ecclesiastical records has been very exciting for us.”
The Bedlington project is investigating the town’s history from the 11th Century St Cuthbert’s Church to its role in the Industrial Revolution through its iron works and mining heritage.
Malcolm Robinson, chairman of the Bedlington Development Trust, said: “It’s about far more than nostalgia. Bedlington has no leisure facilities or heritage centre, so the project is the ideal opportunity to provide content and create a sense of civic pride.”
Ivor Crowther, head of the Heritage Lottery Fund North East, said: “This new scheme will bring the giant jigsaw of local stories together to create an unprecedented picture of our past.
“In the North East, as elsewhere in the UK, heritage means such different things to different people, and this investment will offer a wealth of opportunities for groups to explore and celebrate what’s important to them in their local area.
“We are looking forward to receiving an exciting variety of applications under this new programme, reflecting the breadth of heritage across the North East.”
Michael Wood, HLF’s champion for Sharing Heritage and speaking today at the launch, said: “We have already seen just how much people want to be able to delve into their local history and what those fascinating explorations can reveal.
“I can’t wait to hear about the surprising stories that will come out of this new scheme. It’s the people who own history and this is a great opportunity to share that history.”
An online application pack is available at www.hlf.org.uk/sharingheritage and for telephone enquiries call 020 7591 6042.