Just how close Hartlepool's Heugh Battery Museum came to closure - and how volunteers will spend the £30,000 raised by supporters to save it
Hartlepool’s historic Heugh Battery Museum is looking forward to a bright future after supporters raised more than £30,000 to save it from closure.
Museum manager Diane Stephens has revealed for the first time just how close the museum came to closing before launching a ‘last-ditch’ fundraising appeal in March.
They set a target of £5,000 to help pay the bills and keep the doors open, but in the end raised over £32,000.
The Mail supported the drive with our Battery Charge campaign for what is the only First World War battlefield in the UK.
Diane has revealed plans for how the money will be spent, including giving some of their large guns and exhibits a much-needed lick of paint, and as match funding to support grant applications.
Looking back, Diane revealed how the wheels were about to be put in motion for winding up the museum in March.
She said: “We had a meeting with the board when we were discussing closure seriously. We were about to put that procedure into action.
“We just thought we would have a last-ditch attempt to hold up our hands and say to the public ‘we’re in trouble’.
“It was the best thing we ever did.”
May’s Tommy To Tommy walk organised by Ian Cawley, Stephen Picton and Dave Hunter, generated an amazing £23,414 after 200 people walked 16 miles from Seaham’s Tommy statue to the museum.
“That was the people of Hartlepool and further afield coming out saying ‘this is our heritage, we love it and are willing to work to keep it’,” said Diane.
Swedish heavy metal rock band Sabiton, who have a passion for history, heard about the campaign and raised £4,200 from sales of a special t-shirt.
Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen was instrumental in Vivid Economics giving £4,000 and BAE Systems in Washington gave £1,000 after reading about the museum’s plight in the Mail.
And a £5,000 Tudor Trust donation will see the museum's command post and Anderson shelter renovated.
Numerous local businesses also held collections which Diane said are appreciated just as much.
She said visitors won’t see a massive change immediately, but assured the money will be used wisely.
“The museum is looking tired. We know there’s a lot of work to do on the collection.
“We have to be really careful about what we do with that precious money because we don’t know if we will get it again.
“It will allow us to draw in more funding to the museum when we apply for funds.”
The museum also has ambitious plans for a new cafe, entrance and possible new building.
Diane added: “We would like to expand the museum. We need more indoor space and hopefully in the future there will be a new building to allow us to do more things and display things in proper controlled temperature conditions.”
More events, like this year’s successful military vehicles show are also planned for 2020.
Diane also praised their 18 regular volunteers who gave 2,500 hours free in 2019.
“We are so grateful that we have still got a museum and that the future is bright now,” she said.