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Black Country Living Museum to create retro town in £10 million expansion plan

The ambitious project has been given the green light thanks to lottery funding

Black Country Living Museum is about to undergo a massive transformation after being awarded almost £10 million by the Heritage Lottery.

It will see the creation of a new 1940s-60s town, complete with a pub, library and bowling green, in the heart of the Dudley museum.

Several important historic buildings will be taken down brick by brick from Dudley, West Bromwich and Wolverhampton and relocated within the attraction which has been the film set for some of the Peaky Blinders scenes.

Other iconic buildings that have disappeared will also be recreated using archive images and information.

Artist's impression of the 1940-60s town Black Country Living Museum

A total of £9.8m funding has been allocated and will form phase one of the £21.7m project BCLM: Forging Ahead - the museum's 40-year masterplan which will see it expand by a third, transforming the site with the new retro town and improved visitor and learning facilities.

The ambitious project is set to create 450 jobs in the area and will show what happened to the Black Country post war and in the run up to the closure of the Baggeridge Coal Mine in 1968.

Woodside Library, Stourbridge Road, Dudley, circa 1960

The museum is describing it as a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity" to save landmark community and commercial buildings from demolition and rebuild them.

Some of the buildings identified to be moved include West Bromwich's Gas Showroom, which was damaged in the Blitz, and Dudley's Woodside Library - both the focus of strong community support to save them.

Others, including Wolverhampton's Elephant & Castle Pub, which was demolished at the turn of the century, and Lye's Marsh & Baxter's Butchers, will be recreated from archive material and images.

Ellen Coleman, one of the last woman brick makers at Harris & Pearson in Brierley Hill, circa late 1960s

Ros Kerslake, chief executive of the Heritage Lottery Fund, said: "Black Country Living Museum is one of the UK's most popular open-air museums bringing knowledge of the country's industrial past to a national and international audience.

"It also has a reputation for working brilliantly with local communities. These latest plans reflect an ongoing commitment to sharing the stories of those who lived in the area and who made it what it is today.

"Our funding, which is made possible thanks to National Lottery players, will help update the wider site making it a visitor attraction truly fit for the 21st century."

Woodside Library - which the Black Country Living Museum hopes to relocate into its 1940s - 60s town

The museum's current Rolfe Street entrance building will be repurposed and refurbished as a contemporary Learning Centre and a complementary Industrial Learning Space will be created at the heart of the site.

Together, they will enhance the museum's capacity to deliver learning activities for over 80,000 school children a year.

Lowell Williams, chairman of the museum, added: "We are excited to get started on this project which has been three years in the making and kick-starts the museum's masterplan for the next 40 years.

"BCLM: Forging Ahead will not only allow us to complete our story but also to create a truly world-class heritage attraction at the heart of the Black Country - something we can all be proud of.

"It will enable us to welcome in the region of 500,000 visitors per year, expand significantly, and most importantly improve our visitors' experience. It will also create circa 450 jobs within our local area so this is a really positive step for the communities we serve."

Wolverhampton Archives
Former Elephant and Castle pub in Wolverhampton in the 1950s

Over the coming months, the museum will continue to work closely with its local communities to build a picture of post-war Black Country in order to submit a second-round application to the Heritage Lottery Fund in October 2018 to release the rest of the funding.

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If successful, construction will begin with a view to be completed in 2022.

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