£400,000 boost announced for Melrose museum’s £1.25m expansion plans

Plans to expand a Borders museum have been boosted by a near-£400,000 handout.

Thursday, 31st October 2019, 4:17 pm
Updated Thursday, 31st October 2019, 4:49 pm
From left, trust chairman John Reid, Fergus Ewing, volunteer Ann Dent and Trimontium Museum marketing manager Jason Dyer yesterday.

Melrose’s Trimontium Museum Trust is to be given a grant of just short of £395,000 by the Scottish Government via the South of Scotland Economic Partnership (SoSEP).

That grant, announced yesterday by Scottish Government rural economy secretary Fergus Ewing during a visit to the Borders, follows one of £571,400 handed over by the National Lottery Heritage Fund in June.

It will enable preparations to get under way ready for capital work to start on refurbishing and expanding the specialist Roman museum, in the Ormiston Institute in Melrose High Street, early next year, doubling the amount of floorspace available to display its exhibits in the hope of attracting thousands more visitors a year.

John Reid showing rural economy secretary Fergus Ewing around the Melrose museum

That expansion, costing £1.25m, is the first phase of a two-part project, the other being the provision of a two-storey educational block at a later date, also costing £1.25m and again doubling the museum’s floorspace.

It was orginally envisaged as a single project, but had to be split into two due to funding constraints.

Work on the revamp of the existing museum is scheduled for completion in spring or early summer of 2021.

The trust also raised £400,000 itself, partly via a crowdfunding campaign, to help pay for its expansion plans.

Peebles Community Trust chairman Lawrie Hayworth with Fergus Ewing at Eshiels.

Funding will be used to develop a learning programme which will enable visitors to contribute to archaeological research.

Mr Ewing, MSP for Inverness and Nairn, said: “This funding will allow the Trimontium Trust to expand on the great work it is already doing to promote the rich Roman and Iron Age history of the Scottish Borders.

“The refurbishment of the museum will allow the trust to display more artefacts from the local area and improve the visitor experience.

“Our tourism industry plays a vital part in the Scottish economy. People choose to visit Scotland for our culture, heritage and scenery.

“This SoSEP funding in the south of Scotland will help support and maximise the economic potential of the region.”

John Reid, chairman of the Trimontium Trust, added: “The trust is grateful to SoSEP and the Scottish Government and our other partners for supporting our vision to develop this to a scale and quality which complements the other excellent attractions in Melrose and the wider Borders.

“Newstead Roman Fort lies in an area incredibly rich in historical heritage.

“The Trimontium Trust has been proud to share its story for over 25 years from our small museum in Melrose overlooked by the ancient hillfort on Eildon Hill.”

This week’s funding was vital to get the project, in the planning stages for over three years, up and running at last, according to Dr Reid.

“It was absolutely crucial as we had taken our own fundraising as far as we could. It was crucial for matching the funding we’d already been granted,” he said.

Mr Ewing also visited Eshiels Community Woodland, sold by Forestry and Land Scotland to Peebles Community Trust earlier this year, while in the region.

“The case that the trust put forward for community ownership very clearly indicated a high level of focus and commitment within the community and a robust plan for the future management of the site,” he said.