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New Milton heritage centre plan for old station master's house back on track

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PLANS for a £100,000 heritage centre in New Milton are back on track with building work at the town’s disused railway station master’s house set to start in the autumn.

No.1 New Milton, so called because the venue was the town’s first building in 1886, has faced numerous delays since being spearheaded about three years ago by Cllr Keith Craze, who is now mayor.

The ongoing pandemic has been a factor, as well as some uncertainty over funding which has since been resolved.

Keith Craze (left) and Milton Heritage Society treasurer Alan O'Sullivan outside the station master's house in October 2019
Keith Craze (left) and Milton Heritage Society treasurer Alan O'Sullivan outside the station master's house in October 2019

Cllr Craze told the A&T: “I’m pleased to let people know that matters are moving forward in terms of renovating the building and creating the heritage centre.

“We are looking for the works to be completed by late November, enabling us and Milton Heritage Society to have full access to the station house for additional works prior to opening hopefully in spring next year.”

The attraction will include exhibits in each room of the ground floor, with a learning centre in a large room upstairs for schools and youth groups. This will also feature further heritage displays.

The station house in the early 1900s
The station house in the early 1900s

As reported in the A&T, New Milton Town Council secured a 12-year lease for the station master’s house on a peppercorn rent from South Western Railway (SWR).

It also gained New Forest District Council permission for a change of use from a dwelling to a heritage centre.

Local historical group Milton Heritage Society, chaired by Nick Saunders, is involved in the project to create a free-to-enter attraction telling the history of the area.

Cllr Craze also confirmed SWR is contributing a “significant amount” towards the project’s total expected cost of up to £100,000. Funding will also come from the National Railway Heritage Society.

With further amounts coming from developers’ contributions and local donations, New Milton’s taxpayers are set to foot up to £20,000 on a match-funding basis.

SWR had received two contractors’ quotes within the budgeted cost, Cllr Craze said, and renovation of the building was expected to start by early October for completion within two months.

As the provision of disabled access to the first floor is not possible, cameras are set to be employed to feed footage of exhibits to monitors downstairs so less mobile visitors do not miss out.

It is hoped a grand opening event will take place in March or April next year, with a local celebrity attending to cut the ribbon.

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