Update – June 2019…
In spring 2019, the consultant’s Options Report (see key proposals below) was circulated for consultation to representatives of key heritage and cultural bodies in Berkhamsted. In response, popular proposals are a virtual “museum”, the Castle Visitor Centre, walking trails, St Peter’s exhibition space, and enhanced information on sites around town. In the middle ground stand the history festival (including film and image based); pop-up events, performances, and re-enactments; heritage themed art, photo, poetry and similar events and competitions; and a town model. Least popular are digital monoliths, and bronze monuments.
Five Topic Workshops (involving 45 people) have been held to consult and plan. These included Hub co-operation with St Peter’s Church on exhibition space; enhanced heritage events and activities; a Virtual Hub; using collections better; and schemes for more information around town. We are also researching how the Hub can work to benefit schools, and how to engage better with young people.
The Hub Learning Programme, a series of six study sessions delivered by the Curator of the innovative Amersham Museum, Emily Toettcher, starts in July 2019. The “new skill” areas to be addressed include finding and keeping volunteers; engaging young people; fundraising; researching local stories; promotion on a budget; and websites and online. The sessions are designed to be of benefit to many community and cultural groups, not just heritage ones.
An in-depth analysis of the collection of BLHMS items (nearly 29,000) stored at the Dacorum Heritage Trust was undertaken in April by Emily Toettcher. This first stage analysis gives much better understanding of what the collection comprises, and considers policies and procedures to do with collections development, care and documentation; digitisation; storage options; and key objects.
The next steps are to consult key stakeholders based on the workshops, a revised Options Report, and development work with consultants on the draft Delivery and Business Plan.
Key proposals in the Context and Options Report (prepared by the consultants Fourth Street Place Consultants Ltd):
- The heritage visitor centre at Berkhamsted Castle is a key proposal. During discussions in 2017 about heritage in Berkhamsted, this location was considered as giving most potential. This is something that has come a step closer with improvements in 2018, particularly the formation of the Berkhamsted Castle Trust, transfer of the East Field to the Trust, occupation changes at the Castle Lodge, and the preparation of a Conservation and Management Plan lead by English Heritage. A visitor centre would be a headline activity, but it is obviously one requiring sensitive and thorough planning, and very large capital and revenue funding. Therefore, preparing for this would take a considerable number of years of negotiations.
- Provided all the church authorities approve the concept, the consultants consider that St Peter’s Church is very suitable to include heritage exhibition space as part of a wider improvement scheme. This could be the other main physical location for the Hub, and is subject to the same sensitivity, financial requirements and timing issues as the Castle
- An Enhanced Heritage Trail, larger panels that explain the wider heritage context on suitable walls, plus small boards for specific sites, and possibly free standing “monoliths” in suitable locations. This would be linked to paper and online Trail Guides.
- As suitable locations for displaying items from the collections are limited, an online virtual “museum” is proposed, with digitised images of key heritage items. This could be accessible via several routes. Any online resource will need to carefully complement existing services.
- History festivals are considered as good ways of engaging a wide range of audiences. Bearing in mind the strengths of Berkhamsted, one option could be theming this around heritage film and historic images.
- Drama and re-creation performances illuminating past ways of life are a proven way of appealing to diverse audiences and can be woven into festivals or added to existing cultural events. Practically any location, from street to open space, can act as a pop-up “theatre”.
- Other enjoyable activities that will be investigated include heritage art, photography, or poetry and prose, and allied events and competitions.
- An architectural model of the town is considered a great way for adults and children to visualise the past.
- Permanent historic photo displays are already found in some Berkhamsted public buildings, but it is suggested these could be upgraded and enhanced.
- Bronze monuments to key local figures are often popular in the right location and lead to much sharing of images across the world. Some can be designed to be especially appealing to children.
- The concept of a having mini-exhibitions with collection displays in central public buildings with all-day public access has been considered by the consultants, but the scale of available, large enough, and suitable locations is not considered sufficient to make a worthwhile impact.
Update – February 2019…
The Project is now a third of the way through its investigatory research stages.
Fourth Street and its team of experts have undertaken various site visits, walks around the town, meetings with various stakeholders, and extensive background research. They have now completed their Context and Options Report for Berkhamsted Heritage Network and Hub. In the light of their experience elsewhere and the constraints of the existing circumstances in the town, the consultants set out what could be done, the stories to be told, the options to best get the heritage messages across, and the financial implications.
The lengthy report is now being sent out for consultation to various key organisations across the town in order to get their input, feedback, suggestions, and corrections. This will then be followed by further workshops and individual consultations.
Over the next few months therefore, the various options will be consulted on and refined, looking to find consensus and support where possible. As the History Society owns no property, any proposal affecting a building or site will need the willing and active involvement of the relevant owners. Once we have a robust set of viable options these will then be presented to the town for further wide consultation.
The next update will be at the Annual Town Meeting on Thursday 14 March.
Update – October 2018…
After receiving the HLF grant in April, the Project Group invited competitive Proposals, based on our Project Brief, to lead the Hub and Network investigations. We chose Fourth Street Place Consultants Ltd, who are heritage business planning consultants. They will work with a historic buildings consultant, interpretation and exhibition designers, and architects.
On the 8th October our first workshop was held with the consultancy team and key people from around the town from many of the main organisations who, we hope, will want to contribute to the Heritage Hub & Network in various ways.
Before Christmas 2018 Fourth Street and team will be undertaking detailed research and visits to specific key sites around the town. They will be holding meetings with a number of people who were at the workshop, and others, in advance of further consultations in 2019. They will report back in late December with a detailed analysis of various options for the Hub & Network for consideration and further work in 2019.
NB The main time for local consultations will be later in 2019, as there are a number of other stages we need to go through beforehand. So please be patient with us!
The Overview – March 2018
Why we want to create a Heritage Hub
The brown signs on the A41 announce “Berkhamsted – Historic Market Town”. Walking around you see Berkhamsted looks like it has a past – but there’s very little around town to tell you about it. You search Berkhamsted Tourism online and find flimsy sites with little content. You can’t find a leaflet or visitor guide. You just can’t easily find out
how Berkhamsted got to now
And it’s not much different for local people – how much do most of us know of the richness of Berkhamsted’s enjoyable heritage? Where can you go to find out how your forbears lived their lives, went to work, raised their children, and survived huge changes and challenges? How did the town, the surrounding villages and countryside get to look the way they do? Unless you’re a history enthusiast, our heritage is all too often hidden, disjointed, and hard to grasp.
As one young person said during our market research “We know more about London!”
What the Hub & Network project will be investigating
The time is right to join with local people and community groups in investigating how to bring this exciting past to life, for the benefit of locals and visitors alike. The Heritage Hub project team will join with partners to build a sense of “our place” by finding out:
- what residents and local groups feel would appeal to them to get delving into our local heritage
- the best ways of enthusing many more people, of all ages and backgrounds, including young people and families
- how the large collections of locked-away historic memorabilia can best be used to tell the stories
- how people representing local heritage buildings and countryside spaces can plan and work together in a Network, to make a much stronger impact collectively, for the benefit of all
- the feasibility and costs of establishing the Hub as a central support resource in a local heritage building (such as the Town Hall), and of mounting its key services – or whether sustainability and accessibility are better achieved by good online resources
- and whether there is strong enthusiasm to form an active team of Hub people and Network representatives to make it all work.
How the Hub is more than a museum
People have wondered if the Hub is simply a slightly weird museum, with some outreach. The answer is No! There are overlaps of course, but also crucial differences. The essentials are:
- The Hub and the Network are indivisible – there cannot be one without the other.
- The Hub and Network involve a team of people working together to enhance local overall heritage provision and boost its impact.
- The Hub and Network together embrace strategies to
- engagingly tell the very many stories of “How Berkhamsted Got To Now”
- increase the amount of on-site heritage information
- widen engagement with under-reached parts of the community
- be largely accessible all day/every day, rather than just a few hours a week
- encourage local individual and family collections and histories to be shared.
- Network partners could range from the major (e.g. our Castle, churches and schools) to smaller venues (e.g. coaching inns and historic shops).
- Network premises and spaces could provide venues for family events, arts and drama, small pop-up displays, workshops, school visits, signposting, info boards etc. The type and scale of provision would vary greatly.
- The Hub will include online resources to help access collections, events and activities. If a suitable Hub location space becomes available and is financially sustainable, it could provide a central, welcoming base for larger exhibitions, workshops, school visits and research, plus the start of themed trails, leaflets and more. This project will explore other viable options on the Hub’s physical/virtual spectrum, including sharing out displays and activities across a range of Network premises.
- Hub and Network services would reinforce, not supplant, the existing valuable activities, websites and social media of existing community bodies.
- The Hub and Network will cover the rich heritage and landscape history of Berkhamsted, Northchurch, the surrounding villages, the Commons and the Ashridge area.
HLF, Town Council and History Society funding – and how we’ll use it
We are extremely pleased that the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) have agreed that our ideas are well worth investing in, with a much-appreciated grant of c£61,000 through the National Lottery, thanks to Lottery players. This grant, together with additional financial support from Berkhamsted Town Council and Berkhamsted History Society, will enable wide consultations, detailed studies and governance training, all supported and co-ordinated by industry experts.
We hope to listen to the views of many people in 2018 and 2019 as we work though the various aspects to be explored. In particular, there will be extensive local public consultation in 2019.
How long this will all take
The project has been carefully mapped out to ensure that every important stage is completed in the right order, as plans for the Hub & Network take shape. The project will take over a year to complete, so we’ll be reporting back to the HLF and the town in late 2019. Once this investigation stage is completed, we will then assess and plan for the implementation stages.
Who is in the Hub Project Team
For Berkhamsted Local History & Museum Society: Jenny Sherwood and Norman Groves
For Berkhamsted Town Hall Trust: Pete Elsworth and Giles Clark
For Berkhamsted & District Archaeological Society: Peter Clayton
For Dacorum Heritage Trust: Roger Hands (and Peter Clayton)
For Rectory Lane Cemetery Project (the Friends of St Peters): James Moir
Ian Reay – Herts County Council and Berkhamsted Town Councillor
Linda Hattersley – Market Research and Communications Specialist
Norman Groves is our Project Manager
We will provide brief updates here regularly as our Project makes progress over the course of 2018/19.
You can email Norman Groves, Project Manager for the BHH Project here