Readers of the ‘Berwick Advertiser’ will have seen a report recently of remarks by Cllr. Glen Sanderson, the leader of Northumberland County Council (NCC), extolling the benefits to Berwick, North Northumberland and the Eastern Borders of plans to transform the Maltings Theatre in the town. But what has this to do, you might ask, with finding a new home for Berwick’s Record Office?
The answer lies in Berwick’s Grade 1 listed Barracks where, as a result of the intended re-build of the Maltings, a planning application has been submitted for the use of a substantial store on the site as a temporary cinema. In an interlocking series of moves, once the new Maltings Theatre has re-opened on its current Eastern Lane site and the temporary cinema has closed, the store will become available to house Berwick’s nationally recognised collection of archives, some of which date back to Tudor times.
As part of a wider redevelopment of the Barracks site as a cultural and heritage hub for the area, the county’s Archives Service will also acquire the use of adjacent space in the East Block of the Barracks as public reading room/search facilities and for educational and administrative purposes. The records of the Kings Own Scottish Borderers, whose regimental museum is on the site, will also become available to the public in new accommodation.
Plans for the Barracks redevelopment – which is also being supported by the County Council – are gradually coming to fruition. In March 2022, English Heritage – which owns and at present manages the site – announced a grant of £4.2 million from the Government’s Cultural Development Fund, to add to £1.1 million already committed by the Council. More recently, the National Lottery Heritage Fund has awarded the Barracks project a further £476,000 to enable the Partners leading it to prepare a detailed design and business case for the site’s redevelopment.
The proposals being developed by the project Partners include Northumberland’s archival treasures at the heart of the redevelopment plans, not least because they contain the stories that will bring the past to life and, in doing so, help Berwick to fashion its future. So thank you to NCC, its members and officers for their support of this interlinked set of projects, and in doing so giving Berwick Record Office the prospect of a new and more worthy home.