Historic pele tower project enters development phase

Cresswell Tower. Picture by Roger Hawkins.
Cresswell Tower. Picture by Roger Hawkins.

An ambitious project to breathe new life into one of Northumberland’s historic buildings is entering its next phase.

Last autumn, the scheme to reopen the ruined 15th-century pele tower at Cresswell was awarded initial support for a £93,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) – with the county council adding a further £6,000.

Once restored with a new roof and refurbished interior, the fortified landmark is intended to be a key tourist attraction in the region as well as a new community facility. Project organisers plan to install electricity in order to host exhibitions among a range of events.

The development phase of the project, supported by the £93,200 grant from HLF, is now under way and will involve a more detailed structural survey, producing a range of business and management plans, commissioning an ecology survey and developing a new website.

In addition, the community archaeology project which includes excavation in the large field to the east of the tower, is ready to start. The work will take place over the coming weeks, culminating in an open day at the tower on Sunday, February 19.

Assistant project manager and local resident, Barry Mead, is delighted with the number of people who have volunteered to help with the archaeology scheme.

He said: “We’ve had a fantastic response to calls for volunteers to help with the archaeology project and it really shows how much interest there is in this important Northumberland landmark.

“All the volunteer places are now filled and we’re looking forward to seeing what we discover during this phase of the scheme.”

Coun Scott Dickinson, ward member for the area, has supported the project with £3,000 from his council allowance, matched by £3,000 of heritage funding.

He said: “It’s great news that we’re now entering the next phase of this exciting project. The tower has the potential to be a major draw for the increasing number of visitors to the county and I’m delighted the local community is playing such a key role.”

After the development phase, the project team will apply for the full HLF grant with the delivery phase scheduled to start in May 2018 for completion in summer 2019.