Know Our Place: Sharing and Saving Whitehall
Whitehall Historic House is a rare example of Tudor architecture on a domestic scale, with architectural additions spanning from its 16th century core through to Victorian times. The Grade II* listed building, with a distinctive white-painted exterior, is part of the identity of Cheam Village, providing a rare and unrivalled glimpse of life in the local area over the past 500 years. As such, Sutton Council was keen to renovate the building, increasing accessibility to promote Whitehall as a destination for heritage tourism and the surrounding community.
Fortunately, due to a successful bid in 2014 which secured a £1.9 million National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF) grant, and generous donations from Sutton Council and the Friends of Whitehall, the project, Know Our Place: Sharing and Saving Whitehall, was developed to give Whitehall a new lease on life. The funding meant vital repairs could be carried out, newly designed interpretation and exhibitions could be developed and installed, and a programme of activities to encourage more people to use the museum and learn about their heritage could be produced. The project has three distinct elements – knowing, sharing, and saving – all with the local community at its heart.
Following the completion of all essential repairs, and the installation of the new interpretation displays, Whitehall reopened to the public on the 16th June 2018 (images and details here). The funded project is due to run until the end of 2020, during which time the projects extensive activity plan will be completed, which includes events and activities, educational work, and the development of lasting legacies for the project.
Further information about the development of each element of the project is detailed below.
‘Knowing Whitehall’ immerses people in their heritage, placing Whitehall at the centre of a community interested in local heritage and providing them with the resources and inspiration to take their interest further through personal research. By bringing the lives, passions, and times of past residents to life, we hope to inspire engagement, empathy and curiosity in our modern visitors and a sense of legacy and continuity within Cheam’s evolving community. In celebrating our knowledge of Whitehall’s history and inhabitants, we are also opening a window onto the wider Borough’s past.
‘Sharing Whitehall’ establishes Whitehall as a place of opportunity within the community, a place for making connections both historical and social, which will expand and enrich community activity and identity. It includes helping people to learn new skills, gain valuable experience, take part in social activities and events and opportunities for people to take part in their community and influence the service. Key audiences will be our neighbours and the local community, children and their families, young adults and older people at risk of isolation, though we also aim to attract more visitors to the museum from further afield. In addition to the development of improved and inclusive activity, improved flooring and the addition of a lift to the first floor remove some of the physical barriers to sharing Whitehall.
‘Saving Whitehall’ secures a sustainable future for Whitehall, ensuring the building is well managed and maintained and that it attracts regular visitors and tourists providing a regular income. Initial works will tackle a damp problem in the building and removing intrusive 20th-century fixtures while original features are restored. The renovations will also see the opening of additional spaces not previously accessible to the public. These spaces as well as two new unobtrusive additions to the building will allow more space for staff and importantly for increasingly involved volunteer and comprehensive community programmes. These internal adaptations not only increase the utility of the building, but also provide greater and more sustainable opportunity for visitors to learn about and explore heritage through newly developed permanent and temporary exhibitions.
While the building needed to be closed for these works, a programme of activity was set into place engaging the community in knowing, sharing, and saving Whitehall. Our new exhibitions tell the stories of Cheam and the local area through the eyes of the people who have lived and worked locally. Our renovations, including the installation of ramps and a lift, open up the architecture and history of the building in ways not previously possible. Whether it be for a nostalgic look at the characteristic timber framed architecture, a calming cuppa in the tea room and gardens, or entertainment for all ages at any of our exciting new events and activities, we look forward to welcoming you back to Whitehall!
About the National Lottery Heritage Fund
The National Lottery Heritage Fund inspires, leads and resources the UK’s heritage to create positive and lasting change for people and communities, now and in the future. It is the largest dedicated grant funder of the UK’s heritage. Since 1994, they have awarded over £8bn to more than 44,000 projects across the UK.
For more information on the the National Heritage Lottery Fund, visit their website.