Funding boost for Irchester's Chester House Estate with £719,700 to launch attraction

The grant has been awarded by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

A Northamptonshire heritage site has unlocked treasure of its own after being awarded a share of the latest tranche of the Government's £1.57bn Culture Recovery Fund.

Chester House Estate, near Irchester, has been allocated £719,700 by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to kickstart the attraction.

The grants are the final awards from the first round of the £1.57bn Culture Recovery Fund, which includes £13.5m in kickstart grants awarded to projects to revive heritage sites across England.

Chester House

Jack Pishhorn, business manager at Chester House Estate welcomed the funding.

He said: “The money from the Culture Recovery Fund has been vital in enabling us to deliver a project that is going to be an incredible asset for the local community as a free to enter attraction and for the preservation of heritage across the county.

“We’ve completely changed the business plan for the site, incorporating exciting elements that will have a huge impact on the post Covid-19 recovery for the area and we have had wonderful feedback on the plans for the community already.

"A huge thanks to the National Lottery Heritage Fund and DCMS for their ongoing support.”

The events barn

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden announced the grants.

He said: “From restoring Georgian lidos and Roman baths to saving local screens and synagogues, our Culture Recovery Fund is helping to save the places people can’t wait to get back to, when it is safe to do so.

“All over the country, this funding is protecting the venues that have shaped our history and make us proud of our communities, whilst safeguarding the livelihoods of the people that work in them.”

The £14.5m Chester House Farm is set to open its doors in three phases with the first buildings opening next month.

An artist's impression of the ARC

Paid for by Northamptonshire County Council and the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the ambitious multi-million pound renovation, restoration and building project is nearing completion with the recruitment of staff and volunteers under way.

The multi-function complex, set in 85 acres of historic grounds overlooking the River Nene, promises to have something for everyone and as well as containing the site of a walled Roman town and its suburbs, the farmhouse and newly-refurbished buildings will offer a wedding venue, artisan courtyard, shopping venue, cafe farm shop, children's play area, conference facilities and bed and breakfast accommodation.

In March, the county's extensive state-of-the-art Northamptonshire Archaeological Resource Centre (ARC) will open to staff and researchers who will start the laborious process of cataloguing the thousands of boxes of artefacts from county excavations.

Wicksteed Park in Kettering also received a financial boost with a Capital Kickstart Fund award of £302,700 to fund previously-planned restoration and refurbishment work around the park.

Ros Kerslake, Chief Executive, National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “These are all ongoing major refurbishment and restoration projects, funded by us, which have been threatened by the pandemic.

"From the oldest surviving outdoor swimming baths to a Victorian pier, and from a much-loved park to an historic abbey, these are all places that will enrich hundreds of lives when they reopen.

"We are delighted this extra funding from the Culture Recovery Fund will ensure that these exciting projects will go ahead.”

In addition, the BFI has awarded £5 million in grants to 33 cinemas, including two major independent companies operating cinemas across England.