THE Wessex Gallery, dedicated to our world class archaeology collections, has been open for five years. This £2.4 million project, part funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) was a huge leap forward for the museum.

It was the first part of a much bigger scheme to transform the museum. This masterplan was originally put together in 2008, and since 2014 we have been working hard to try to secure the funding to move them forward.

In 2017 we tried to secure £7.2 million from the HLF to complete the masterplan as part of a £9 million project. This elaborate scheme was an extensive makeover of the King’s House. It included a new and larger temporary exhibition gallery, learning centre, co-location of café and shop in the middle of the building and a bigger Salisbury History Gallery that would house as its centrepiece the rare Scout Motor Car manufactured in 1912.

Although we failed with this application we were encouraged to reapply with a phased scheme.

We concentrated on our biggest heritage focus – the conservation of our grade I listed building, the Salisbury History Gallery and the redisplay of the King’s Room.

Alongside this we developed a programme of community engagement that would take the museum out of our building and into the city, encouraging the local community to have ownership over what we are doing.

Costing £4.4 million, we asked HLF for £3.2 million and planned to raise the outstanding £1.2 million in match funding ourselves from trusts, foundations and a local campaign.

In June 2018, this bid was also rejected owing to insufficient matched funding. However HLF strongly encouraged us to reapply in August 2018 if we could close the fundraising gap. Wiltshire Council underwrote the bid to the tune of £500,000, a supporter pledged £100,000 and we raised over £37,000 through our membership campaign in the autumn.

Sadly this still wasn’t enough to convince the HLF. There were 47 applications and only seven projects got through. There simply wasn’t enough money to go around – lottery playing has declined over recent years and more organisations are applying to the HLF for support.

What was harder to bear was the repeated rejection for an important and much-needed project that the museum had spent much time and resources on. There was never any criticism of the project itself.

After three attempts, we thought our vision was well and truly dead. However, quite unexpectedly, the renamed National Lottery Heritage Fund asked us to reapply earlier this year.

The project, adjusted to meet their revised funding criteria, was submitted in February.

In June we discovered we were successful and through the first round – a grant of £429,400 has been awarded to work up our project over the next two years.

We are on our way at long last –now the hard work really begins!

By Adrian Green

Director, Salisbury Museum