The long-term future of an ancient landmark in the coastal village of Cresswell will be safeguarded by significant National Lottery funding.
The £677,600 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) will enable the Grade II-listed pele tower, which is also a Scheduled Ancient Monument, to be restored and repaired.
As well as removing the three-storey building from Historic England’s register of at risk ancient monuments, the works will allow it to open to the public as a visitor attraction.
Cresswell Parish Council was initially given £10,000 as a start-up grant by HLF to explore the potential of the project followed by a further £93,200 of development funding to produce and develop detailed plans as to how it could be delivered and made sustainable.
Part of that process was to enable a charitable body to be established – Cresswell Pele Tower Charitable Organisation – to manage the delivery and future development of the project.
Cresswell Pele Tower was built in the 15th Century by the family of the same name. It is one of only a handful remaining in Northumberland that are still in a relatively good state of preservation.
Michael Wright, Cresswell Pele Tower Charitable Organisation chairman, said: “It is a fantastic achievement for a small community like Cresswell to secure this sort of National Lottery support that will allow us to preserve such an important piece of our past for future generations.
“The award is the culmination of four years of dedicated work by many local people, whose support for the project has just been incredible.
“When the work is completed, our pele tower will be one of only two in Northumberland that people can visit and learn more about an important aspect of our county’s heritage.
“What excites us most is that we will be bringing back to life a building which is currently in a ruinous state to give us a unique chance to show visitors a glimpse of what life would have been like for people living in and around our village more than 500 years ago.”
He paid tribute to local county councillor Scott Dickinson, Northumberland County Council, CELL Big Local, Parkdean Resorts on whose land the Pele Tower stands, the Cresswell Village Hall Association, Greater Morpeth Development Trust (GMDT) and some local businesses for their support.
The plan proposed by the charitable body, with the support of GMDT, is to restore and repair the tower by putting a roof over the building, re-pointing its stonework, glazing its windows, re-laying floors and creating a viewing gallery.
Work is set to start later this summer and the project will take around a year to complete.
Heating and lighting will be installed to enable the tower to be used for events such as concerts and exhibitions, a Victorian gardener’s bothy will be re-built to provide welfare facilities for volunteers who will staff the building and community archaeological digs close to the site will continue.
Last year, scores of local people volunteered to take part in digs.
Two early Bronze Age burial kists were discovered along with many pieces of flint, axe heads, Roman Iron Age sherds, stones tools and medieval ceramics which led experts to conclude that people had been living in and around the Cresswell area as long as 10,000 years ago.
Ivor Crowther, Head of HLF North East, said: “Years of hard work, passion and support have been put into creating an exciting future for Cresswell Pele Tower and we’re delighted to support this vital next step.
“Thanks to National Lottery players, this much-loved yet hidden landmark will be saved and opened to all to discover its heritage.”