A million pound project which hopes to lure more tourists to the Black Country begins this spring. Sarah Probert looks at the ambitious plans
It is a move that would make one of Britain's leading female trade unionists proud.
Mary Macarthur, who inspired the women chainmakers of Cradley Heath to strike in 1910, had always wanted a workers' institute to be at the centre of social activity, education and entertainment.
Now, the Black Country Living Museum in Dudley is to reconstruct the original Cradley Heath Workers' Institute built following the strike and turn it into a major part of its attraction.
The museum has been awarded £1.535 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund to reconstruct the museum, which was rescued from the route of a bypass last year.
It was dismantled brick by brick in 2004 and every piece that was salvaged will be used to recreate the historic institute.
It will be the second largest building in the museum and will be the first of a number planned to create a new High Street which will expand the museum and attract more visitors to the Black Country.
The institute will be fitted out as it would have been in the 1930s with original period displays and a multi-media time-capsule room, which will feature the story of the women chainmakers' strike and its leader Mary Macarthur.
She became one of Britain's leading female trade unionists, whose landmark victory laid the legislative foundation upon which today's minimum wage is built.
The facility will include a 300-seater auditorium where costumed performances, living history theatre and entertainment activities will take place.
Museum curator Kathleen Howe said: "The reconstruction of the workers' institute at the museum ensures not just the preservation of a significant piece of our industrial heritage but stands as testimony to the Cradley Heath women chainmakers' achievements bringing the story of Black Country working women to the forefront of the museum's interpretation."
Reconstruction work will start in the spring and take about a year to complete, opening on 10 June 2007 on the anniversary of its original opening. Once open, the institute will provide an added attraction to the 250,000 people who visit the museum each year.
Labour MP Sylvia Heal (Halesowen and Rowley Regis) said: "The project shows the important part that Mary Macarthur and the women chain-makers in Cradley Heath played in tackling the issue of low pay.
"I am delighted that at last the sacrifice and determination of these women is being recognised, because they have an important place in the history of the Trade Union and Labour Movement." ..SUPL: