The museum at Housesteads Roman Fort in Northumberland will close to the public from this weekend (Sunday 16 October) for a period of six months. The closure marks the start of an exciting redevelopment project for English Heritage, National Trust and Northumberland National Park Authority, working in partnership to improve the property and enhance the visitor experience.
The first phase of development, which will total over £1m, starts this winter with the refurbishment of the museum at Housesteads, to improve the interpretation and visitor facilities at this internationally significant World Heritage Site, and the most complete example of a Roman Fort in Britain. The combined developments are made possible through £500,000 of funding from both English Heritage and National Trust and £40,000 from Northumberland National Park Authority.
The existing museum adjacent to the fort will close on 16 October so that improvement work can start immediately. The fort itself and National Trust facilities will stay open this winter to allow visitors access free of charge throughout the planned programme of works.
The new museum at Housesteads will include an interactive and audiovisual exhibition exploring life at Vercovicium, the hilltop fortress and civilian settlement on the northerly edge of the Roman Empire. Visitors will discover how the Romans came to this location and built the iconic fort. The exhibition will show what life was like at Housesteads and through a collection of Roman finds, show the legacy the Romans left behind. Outside in the fort a series of new site interpretation panels will help visitors understand the networks of buildings in the fort and access for disabled visitors to the museum building will also be added.
Richard Polley, Head of Visitor Operations for Hadrian's Wall at English Heritage, said: "We are delighted our plans for the redevelopment of Housesteads Roman Fort can now finally begin and we will continue to work in partnership with our colleagues at National Trust and Northumberland National Park Authority, to help ensure that all of the planned improvements are brought to bear for the benefit of our many visitors.
"English Heritage and our partners at Housesteads have responded to the needs of our visitors and, as part of this redevelopment at this iconic site, we will repair and upgrade the museum building, create a brand new exciting exhibition and ultimately a better experience for visitors.
"These are exciting and carefully considered plans that will preserve and enhance an important part of the Hadrian's Wall World Heritage Site and attract more visitors to this popular attraction. We look forward to seeing the plans progress quickly."
Phase one of the project will open to the public in spring 2012. While Housesteads Museum remains closed, visitors can still access the fort free of charge or visit the Roman Museums and collections at Chesters, Birdoswald and Corbridge which remain open at weekends throughout the winter.
Phase two of the project will see National Trust improve the welcome for visitors; remodelling the visitor centre, toilets, shop and café with work due to take place towards the end of 2012.
Northumberland National Park Authority is improving the visitor infrastructure. Improvements to the car park and access points will ultimately provide 40 additional car park spaces and better access for visitors.
Housesteads Roman Fort winter opening hours
English Heritage: Mon 17 October - spring 2012 Museum at Housesteads closed. Fort open free of charge any reasonable time. Fort will be locked at dusk. Disabled parking limited during the development works.
National Trust: Visitor Centre and Shop open daily 10am -4pm.
Closed: 1 January and 24 to 26 December.
The Northumberland National Park car park remains open during the period of improvement works.
For further information on Housesteads Roman Fort and Museum visit www.english-heritage.org.uk/hadrianswall.
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