St Albans £7.75m 'city-changing' museum opens

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St Albans Museum and GalleryImage source, Loudbird PR
Image caption,
St Albans Museum and Gallery opens to the public on Friday in the city's Grade II* listed Georgian town hall

A new £7.75m museum, due to open following a two-year restoration of an historic but underused building, has been described as a "city-changing" project.

St Albans Museum and Gallery opens to the public later in the city's Grade II* listed Georgian town hall.

Set over three floors, it tells the story of the city from the pre-Roman era through to modern times.

The council said it had "breathed new life into the building".

Image source, Cecelina Photography
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Displays tell the story of the district's development from 110,000 BC
Image caption,
The city's former prison cells have been converted into public toilets

The town hall, built in 1831, which still houses the city's former courtroom and prison cells, has been largely redundant in recent years and was costing the authority about £100,000 a year to maintain.

Meanwhile the old Museum of St Albans was attracting limited visitors due to its location on the edge of the town centre.

'Grand past'

In the restored building, displays tell the story of the district's development from 110,000 BC and feature Roman treasures and evidence of Boudicca's revolt.

Image caption,
The opening First Impressions exhibition celebrates the printing heritage of St Albans, from when it became home to the third printing press in the country to its role in World War Two printed propaganda
Image caption,
Artist Susie MacMurray is exhibiting a range of sculptures including a specially-commissioned installation located in the Assembly Room

Visitors will also learn more about St Albans' role in War of the Roses and the city's famous figures such as Sir Francis Bacon, Ryder Cup founder and ex-mayor, Samuel Ryder, Prof Stephen Hawking, Stanley Kubrick and Jim Rodford. There is also space for exhibitions and contemporary art shows.

The project received £2.8m from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and St Albans Council will provide £3.3m from the redevelopment of the former site for housing.

The St Albans Museums and Galleries Trust raised £1.5m and is looking to raise a further £200,000.

Councillor Annie Brewster said: "This is a city-changing project. So many people, in fact over four million a year, walked past our Grade II* listed town hall and court house rarely giving a second thought to its grand past.

"We have created a new chapter, after over half a century of somewhat dormant purposes, we have breathed new life into the building and transformed it for new generations to enjoy."

Image source, Cecelina Photography
Image caption,
The city's famous figures are celebrated
Image caption,
Graffiti etched into the prison cell doors have been left

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