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 generous donations from Sutton Council and the Friends of Whitehall along with a successful bid to secure a £1.5 million Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) grant, the project currently under way, Know Our Place: Sharing and Saving Whitehall, gives Whitehall a new lease on life. The funding means vital repairs can be carried out and a programme of activities developed to encourage more people to use the museum and learn about their heritage. The project has three distinct elements – knowing, sharing, and saving – with the local community at its heart.
‘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.
Crucially, while the building is closed for these works, a programme of activity will be maintained to continually engage the community in knowing, sharing, and saving Whitehall. These include a comprehensive school outreach programme and Pop-Up Whitehall, a travelling museum with a selection of Whitehall’s attractions and heritage information to whet the community’s appetite for Whitehall’s re-opening in the summer of 2017. To learn more about the these activities and how to participate in please visit the Get Involved section of this blog.