PLANS to transform the disused railway station master’s house in New Milton into a heritage centre took a step closer to fruition amid a possibility that it could become a listed building.
Having secured the lease of the 19th century building in Station Road from South Western Railway, the town council has applied to New Forest District Council for permission for a change of use from a dwelling to a heritage centre/museum.
Cllr Keith Craze spearheaded the project after realising the town lacked an attraction telling the history of Milton Parish, and the council has been collaborating with the Milton Heritage Society.
As reported in the A&T, the scheme was christened No. 1 New Milton in recognition of the fact that the station master’s house was the first building erected in 1886 and the town grew around it.
Addressing the town council’s amenities committee, Cllr Craze said internal and external refurbishment of the house was expected to take a long time. However, it is hoped the free-to-enter centre will be ready to open to the public around April 2020.
The plan is to exhibit displays in each room of the house’s ground floor, and to create a learning centre in a large room upstairs for schools and youth groups to visit and use. This will also feature further heritage displays.
One section will consist of maps, images and artefacts showing the very early history of the area through to the arrival of the railway in 1886.
Another section will continue the history up to the end of the First World War, while others will cover the 1920s and 1930s, the Second World War, and up to the present day.
It is hoped visitors will be able to hear excerpts from oral history recordings made by local residents sharing their memories.
Although it will not be possible to provide disabled access to the building’s first floor, following advice from the New Forest Disability Information Service, a plan has been formed to help compensate for this.
Inspired by a similar scheme at Eling Tide Mill, it is intended to employ cameras on the first floor, with footage of the exhibits fed to monitors downstairs so less mobile visitors do not miss out.
A cost of between £57,000 and £58,000 has been quoted for the entire project, but Cllr Craze stressed there would be no impact on local tax payers.
“We’re not far off the figure we need to be at,” he said.
“The remaining figure is a mix of contributions from local companies and the residents’ association.”
He added that further funds came from the community infrastructure levy and contributions from South Western Railway and councillors.
The committee heard that before the museum can be created, full rewiring, replumbing and redecorating will have to be carried out in the building which has been unoccupied for about 10 years.
Having been neglected for many years, the house’s outside area is set to be rejuvenated and made into a dementia-friendly sensory garden, with the local Men’s Shed group having volunteered to build raised flowerbeds.
As well as this, the old café on the station’s Bournemouth-bound side will be returned to its former use as passenger waiting room, complete with an information hub where local businesses can advertise. There will also be guides to inform visitors about events and attractions in the town.
Cllr Craze announced that he and Milton Heritage Society chairman Nick Saunders recently met with New Forest District Council conservation officer Lynette Fawkes.
They were hopeful the building could gain listed status as it was agreed the matter would be reviewed once its refurbishment has been completed.
Pointing out the change of use application would soon come up at the town council’s planning committee, its chairman Cllr Steve Clarke said members would not be allowed to comment.
However, he urged residents to attend that meeting if they wish to speak in support of the project.
Further help is being sought from people and groups who can donate some time or money to the project or provide any maps, photographs or material that could be borrowed or copied for display.
Those who can help out in any way are asked to contact Mr Saunders by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 01425 618549.