We did it! Hartlepool’s historically important gun battery site has been saved from closure.
A fundraising drive by the Headland’s Heugh Battery Museum – and backed by the Mail’s Battery Charge campaign – has seen it smash its £5,000 target.
The target was broken thanks to support from Swedish power metal band Sabaton who heard about the museum’s plight and created a special T-shirt with all proceeds going to the cause.
In just three days they raised £4,220. Added to donations to the fund’s JustGiving page it brings the total to just over £6,970.
And that is before money from this weekend’s big Tommy 2 Tommy sponsored walk, which almost 200 people have signed up for, and other collections comes in.
The museum on the site of Hartlepool’s Heugh Gun Battery which defended the town for 100 years including in the bombardment of the town in 1914, was facing possible closure if it could not raise the money by the end of this month.
Manager Diane Stephens said at hitting the target: “We are absolutely delighted.
“It means we are much safer for longer. The money raised so far will get us through this year and next.”
But Diane stressed that is the bare minimum and the fundraisnig will continue to help them put on more events and keep its display fresh.
On Monday, Diane met Sabaton at their London headquarters to thank them for their support which she described as ‘absolutely stunning’.
She added: “The fans have just been brilliant.”
The band, who have a passion for military history and huge worldwide following, got involved after hearing about the museum’s campaign while researching UK World War 1 locations.
Bass player Pär Sundström said: “We were aiming to help the museum hit their required target, and were still thinking of other ways that we might be able to help like a charity concert, so to see our fans smash through the target and exceed it by another 37% is incredible.
“We are so happy we could play a part in preserving the Heugh Battery Museum and look forward to visiting when we get the opportunity.”
The museum, which is run mainly by volunteers, is the only World War One battlefield site in the UK.
Diane added the Mail’s Battery Charge campaign has helped raise much-needed awareness.
She said: “The Mail has played a pivotal role in helping us to achieve our target.
“Getting the message out that we are here and need more people not just to donate to us, but to come and visit us.
“The articles printed during the Battery Charge campaign show just how much support we have received, but it is important that the message remains that we still need visitors.
“Without the help of the Mail that message would not have reached half the amount of people we have and we are hugely grateful for the support.”
Anyone who wishes to donate can do so on the Heugh Battery Museum Appeal page at www.justgiving.com
Cheques can also be made out to The Heugh Gun Battery Trust Ltd.
This Sunday, around 200 people of all ages will walk 16 miles from the Tommy statue in Seaham to the Heugh Battery Museum’s Tommy silhouette in a support of the museum.
It is the brainchild of Stephen Picton, a well-known Hartlepool taxi driver and community champion, Councillor Dave Hunter and Burbank Community Centre manager Ian Cawley, with invaluable support from Stephen Laundon.
They wanted to get at least 130 walkers to have one to represent each person who was killed in the Bombardment of Hartlepool on December 16, 1914.
Different generations of families will do the walk as well as people of all ages.
Hartlepool MP and Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen have pledged to take part alongside Hartlepool United monkey mascot H’Angus.
Stephen Picton said: “The support has been absolutely amazing. This town never ceases to amaze me.
“It’s going to be a hell of a day. We are saving history.
“The first seven soldiers to die on British soil in the First World War was here.
“We can’t afford to lose something like the museum.”
Hartlepool Borough Council is laying on three free buses to take walkers up to Seaham.
Council Leader Councillor Christopher Akers-Belcher said: “The Heugh Battery Museum has the distinction of being the only World War One battlefield in the UK and is something we need to ensure is available for future generations to experience so we are delighted to be offering free transport to the Tommy2Tommy walkers.
“Hartlepool Borough Council has supported the museum on a number of occasions and in 2012 we helped the site secure small business rate relief, saving them around £16,000 over the past eight years.
“In addition to this, we have also provided direct funding of around £16,000.
“We are also working closely with the museum to help it develop a business plan and to consider ways in which it might be able to attract external funding in order to maximise its full potential.”
Up to 800 spectators are expected to welcome the walkers as they arrive on the Headland at around 2pm.
Morrisons have donated 200 bottles of water and 200 pieces of fruit.
And Pools Surplus Store in Park Road is giving 160 chocolate cake bars to keep walkers’ energy levels up.
LilyAnne’s coffee bar in Victoria Road has pledged £500 to the walk and been supplying sponsor forms.
The Hartlepool Youth and Community Silver Band will provide music as well as vintage singing group The Seatones.
A shorter sponsored Wonsie Waddle is also taking place from the battery museum on the same day at 2pm.
Participants are encouraged to take part in onesies or fancy dress.