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Published February 22nd 2021
A new historical town to be created at living museum
A living history museum in the West Midlands is 'forging ahead' with the largest project in its history. The Black Country Living Museum in Dudley says major works on its major BCLM: Forging Ahead development will begin in the next few weeks. The project represents a £30 million investment in the local community, made possible with funding from a variety of sources including the Department of Culture Media and Sport's Capital Kickstart Fund. The Forging Ahead development will see 22 historic buildings and structures constructed on the museum site, which was used as a backdrop for popular television series Peaky Blinders. Forging Ahead, which is BCLM's largest single development project since it opened in 1978, also encompasses a new visitor centre and learning spaces. It will also include an industrial quarter which will showcase Black Country industry at the height of its post-war manufacturing prowess.
How the 'new' main street will look. Credit Black Country Living Museum
The centrepiece of the project is the 1940s-60s town, which will herald the social and political changes experienced by the Black Country during one of the most dynamic times in its history. The 1940s-60s town will include an NHS clinic, a record shop, a barber's, and Co-operative supermarket, and will create an immersive experience of everyday life during the period. Two of the most notable buildings to feature in the town are Woodside Library from Holly Hall in Dudley and the Elephant & Castle pub in Wolverhampton.
An impression of the Elephant and Castle pub. Credit Black Country Living Museum
The library will be moved brick-by-brick to its new home at the museum while the former pub will be re-created on the site. The project was originally due to commence early in 2020, but was delayed due to coronavirus. The museum's new visitor centre is scheduled to open from early 2022 and the 1940s-60s historic town and industrial quarter is expected to welcome visitors in 2023. The development will expand the museum's footprint by about a third and increase its capacity to welcome around 500,000 visitors per year by 2026.
The origjnal Woodside Library. Credit Black Country Living Museum
Andrew Lovett, BCLM Chief Executive, said: "Forging Ahead is now more important than ever to the future of Black Country Living Museum. Thanks to the investment we've received from the Culture Recovery Fund and our other funders, we're able to invest in growing the museum and bringing the Black Country story to new audiences. The modern Black Country with its rich global connections and diversity of people is the enduring legacy of the 1940s-60s. Forging Ahead provides a stage on which we can share new stories and celebrate the contribution of everyone who came to call the Black Country home during this remarkable period of our region's history. The project will help to create more than 140 new jobs in the local area and, by 2032, contribute an extra £102.5m of economic benefit."
Another view of the 1940s-1960s town. Credit Black Country Living Museum