A popular tourist attraction and filming location has been given more than £250,000 from Arts Council England.
Oakwell Hall and Country Park, in Nutter Lane, Birstall, will use the cash to improve visitor facilities and for a project in its Grade I listed Elizabethan hall, which will tell Oakwell’s story from the English Civil War, through to its Bronte connections and it becoming Kirklees’ premier visitor attraction and TV and film location.
Kirklees Council’s joint cabinet member for Health, Well Being and Communities, Councillor Jean Calvert, said: “The grant is a great tribute to Oakwell Hall’s long tradition of innovation and creative thinking.”
The £257,289 has been awarded by the Renaissance Strategic Support Fund from Arts Council England for the ‘Growing Oakwell: Beyond the Business Plan’ project.
It is supported by match funding from Kirklees Council’s Green Energy Fund, the Friends of Oakwell Hall and local paint manufacturers Johnstone’s, part of the PPG group, which has already funded Oakwell’s public programme and structural repairs to one of its chimneys.
Coun Calvert added: “Oakwell is at the heart of the community and it’s wonderful to see the continued support of local people, volunteers and businesses like PPG enabling this project to happen. Oakwell is such a well-loved site and this grant will improve facilities for visitors and contributing to the wider sustainability of the museums service.”
Work will also include refurbishment of the public toilets in the information centre, a complete shop refit and improvements to facilities in the Barn, which is used for weddings and events.
Oakwell will also lead a regional forum in partnership with other historic houses to explore the challenges of sustainability in the current economic climate.
Director North of Arts Council England Michelle Dickson said: ‘‘ The development of its activity will attract new audiences and their sustainability plans are a good example of working in partnership with other organisations to ensure the future of the wider museum service.’’ Oakwell is the most popular visitor attraction in Kirklees and welcomes more than 200,000 visitors each year. It was one of just four projects in Yorkshire awarded funding for 2014/15, and 57 across the UK.