Westbury Arts Centre in Shenley Wood, Milton Keynes has received a National Lottery grant of £9,700 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for an exciting new project called “Opening the Box”.
Made possible by money raised by National Lottery players, “Opening the Box” will map the history of the building and natural surroundings of Westbury Arts Centre, a 17th century Grade II listed farm house. The farm is an important part of Milton Keynes’ history as it pre dates the formation of the New Town.
The history of the 17th century farmhouse and the heritage of the site will be fully documented including details of its flora and protected fauna. We know that the site dates back to the Domesday Book and it is believed that there may have been earlier Saxon occupation in the area which will also be explored in greater detail.
The National Lottery funded project will also include the building’s recent history as an arts centre. Oral histories will be gathered from people that have engaged with Westbury as well as those who knew it when it was a working farm.
Westbury is also home to a distinctive collection of flora and fauna including protected bats and great crested newts. Working with the MK Natural History Society we will survey our plants and wildlife, providing an opportunity for local schools to get involved in wildlife workshops based around our findings.
In order to achieve this we will be working with volunteers and staff, as well as other organisations including The Living Archive, MK Heritage and the Parks Trust. We will then be able to piece together the story of our beautiful site and share its largely unknown heritage with the people of the city.
In the spring of 2018 the centre will present the research and findings at a special exhibition which will be complemented by a history booklet. The exhibition will also include works of art inspired by the site’s history with contributions from many of the centre’s current residents.
Westbury is on the lookout for volunteers to help with this fantastic project. Working with the Living Archive, we’ll provide training in digitisation and recording of documents and images, ensuring that the project participants gain skills through their involvement with the project.
If you would like to get involved please contact Tryphena Foster at firstname.lastname@example.org or 01908 501214.
Caroline Malone chair at Westbury said: “We are delighted to be able to capture and record the history of our heritage venue. Working with members of the community as volunteers and sharing the outcome through digital media, print and through works of art made in response to the history, thanks to National Lottery players. The grant is of importance to Milton Keynes as a whole and it has enabled Westbury Arts Centre to make a significant gesture to the celebrations for Milton Keynes’s 50th anniversary.”
Stuart McLeod, Head of HLF South East, said: “We’re delighted that money raised by National Lottery players can be used to explore the rich and significant heritage of Westbury Arts Centre, particularly during Milton Keynes’s anniversary year. This project will give local people the chance to find out more about one of the city’s most historic buildings and learn new skills.”