Heritage buildings surrounding a popular Darlington museum are set to be restored after redevelopment plans received a grant of more than £3 million on Tuesday (February 7).

The communities along the Stockton and Darlington Railway (S&DR) line, as well as buildings surrounding the Head of Steam Museum in Darlington, will see significant investment after being awarded £3,211,632 by The National Lottery Heritage Fund.

This money will contribute towards the capital costs for Darlington’s new Rail Heritage Quarter (RHQ), as well as the delivery of an activity plan to engage with communities along the route.

The plans will also see heritage buildings around the Head of Steam, such as the Goods Shed, Museum, Lime Cells, and Carriage Works, be renovated in 2024, with the RHQ expecting over 360,000 visitors each year.

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Speaking on the extra funding afforded to the plans, Councillor Jonathan Dulston, Leader of Darlington Council said this grant was crucial to the success of the project.

He said: “This generous award from The National Lottery Heritage Fund is key to the success of this fantastic project.

"The award will enable us to display and interpret our amazing railway heritage for the enjoyment of all our visitors, to cherish and maintain it for the benefit of generations to come.”

Meanwhile, Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen spoke of the importance the railway has had around the world, and looked forward to the rejuvenatred area's role in boosting tourism in the region.

He said: “This National Lottery award highlights the impact the Stockton and Darlington Railway had on the global stage.

"It will help to secure tourist trade and boost the area’s economy, getting people spending in our towns, and will undoubtedly act as an inspiration for future industry, development and innovation in the region.”

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The RHQ also hopes the investment given to the cluster of buildings surrounding the Head of Steam will play a key role in the celebrations of the bicentenary of the S&DR in 2025.

Adding to this, the project will also see creation of a new bespoke play facility designed to link with the heritage of the site, as well as a digital animation of the whole site utilising virtual and augmented reality, 

It will also see the restoration of the Grade II listed Lime Cells, and the refurbishment of the Carriage Works building to create an exhibition space, open store and archive facility

According to the council, Darlington's RHQ will directly create 30 new jobs, as well as indirectly provide 300 jobs and 37 construction jobs.

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It is predicted 300 volunteers will engage with the Stockton and Darlington Railway over the life of the S&DR activity programme

Councillor Elizabeth Scott, Durham County Council cabinet member for economy and partnerships, said: “We are delighted that The National Lottery Heritage Fund is supporting our ambitious plans to make the former Stockton and Darlington Railway line a hive of activity, both during its bicentenary celebrations in 2025 and beyond.

"It is great that this funding will allow community activity right along the 26 mile route and this can only complement the exciting developments already underway at Locomotion in Shildon, where the first journey on the Stockton and Darlington Railway began.”

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Last month (Janaury 31), Darlington Borough Council handed the keys to the Head of Steam museum to contractor Willmott Dixon to enable redevelopment to continue onsite.

The successful bid to the Heritage Fund was made possible through collaboration with Darlington Borough Council, Durham County Council, Stockton Borough Council and the Friends of Stockton and Darlington Railway.

Students in the region will be able to gain work experience in a number of fields as part of a new apprenticeships scheme.

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Helen Featherstone, a director at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “The North of England is home to some of the most famous railway heritage in the world, and the Stockton and Darlington Railway is one of the jewels in that crown.

"As we approach the railway’s bi-centenary, we are incredibly excited to be supporting the creation of this new attraction in the Heritage Rail Quarter that will share this fascinating history with visitors from near and far through innovative techniques.

"We’re also delighted, that thanks to National Lottery players, we are able to support the programme to empower communities along the historic railway line to celebrate this heritage in ways that matter to them the most.”

Here are some more pictures from the event:

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