Grant keeps battery open

Heugh Gun Battery volunteers (left to right) Graham Johnson, Bill Bond and Allen Jones.  .  Picture by FRANK REID

Heugh Gun Battery volunteers (left to right) Graham Johnson, Bill Bond and Allen Jones. . Picture by FRANK REID

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MUSEUM bosses are celebrating after securing emergency council funding to safeguard the short-term future of the historic site.

The Heugh Gun Battery Museum Trust, in Moor Terrace, on the Headland, has been awarded £5,600 to cover staffing costs until the end of the month.

Hartlepool Borough Council’s cabinet committee rubberstamped the application for community pool funding.

It will contribute towards the salary costs of the manager, an outreach worker and kitchen assistant plus other running costs and make them sustainable into the new financial year.

Despite rising visitor numbers, the museum had a funding shortfall due to increasing costs and not enough income from the cafe, gift shop and events.

Senior councillors said they were happy to support a piece of Hartlepool’s history.

Battery chairman John Southcott said: “We would like to thank the council for their support.

“We always do our best for the town and we are very conscious that we are custodians of a key part of the town’s history.”

Mr Southcott also praised the three-strong staff – whose jobs were at risk if the funding wasn’t approved – and team of 40 volunteers that work at the Battery.

Mr Southcott, who has previously said he is “confident” about the long-term future, added: “Without the staff and the volunteers we would be nowhere.”

Speaking at cabinet, John Mennear, the council’s assistant director (child and adult services) said: “This is very much a one-off request and they are confident they will be able to sustain themselves in 2012 and beyond.”

Mayor Stuart Drummond said: “For me, the Heugh Battery Trust is doing a fantastic job in building up a really good museum and I think they have established themselves very well.

“It is indicative of the current climate that they have got into a bit of difficulty.We are working closely with them to see them out the other side and this will help ensure that.”

Independent councillor Hilary Thompson said: “This is not just a museum, it is a part of Hartlepool’s history and an extremely good place for schools.

“We need to support this application.”

Independent councillor Cath Hill said: “Absolutely, without question.”

Annual visitor numbers have risen by 120 per cent over three years from 3,000 to between 7,000 and 8,000.

It costs £40,000 a year to run the museum, which comes from a mix of income and grant support.

The Heugh Battery has a 41-strong collection of heavy guns and barrels and is behind only to The Royal Artillery Museum in Woolwich, and Fort Nelson, in Southampton, in terms of the amount of artillery it houses.

The site, which defended the town against the German sea bombardment on December 16, 1914, has been restored in recent years.

For admission prices and more information call (01429) 270746.

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