Much Wenlock Museum receives money for improvements

Dr William Penny Brookes
Image caption The Wenlock Games were founded by Dr William Penny Brookes

A Shropshire town considered to have played a role in inspiring the modern Olympic movement, has received a grant to promote its sporting heritage.

Much Wenlock Museum has been awarded £520,800 by the Heritage Lottery Fund for improvements to the town's museum.

Work started on Monday to improve the building's collections and facilities.

The museum holds the archives of William Penny Brookes who in 1850 founded the Wenlock Olympian Society and launched the town's Olympian Games.

He was also a highly regarded doctor, justice of the peace, botanist, and a keen advocate of the benefits of physical education.

Baron Pierre de Coubertin visited him, witnessed the Games and subsequently founded the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 1894.

The improvement project includes new exhibitions and heritage walks which will focus on the Olympian and geological heritage of the area.

'Stunning landscape'

The geological displays will centre on a limestone escarpment forming nearby Wenlock Edge which has had a period of the Silurian period named after it - the "Wenlock Era".

Anne Jenkins, head of the Heritage Lottery Fund for the West Midlands, said: "This is an incredibly exciting time for Much Wenlock Museum.

Image caption The Games were designed to show the benefits of physical education

"With the Olympics just around the corner and such a fascinating historical connection to the Games, the whole town will benefit from the investment that this project brings to the area."

Earlier this month it was announced the Olympic torch would visit the town despite Shropshire being one of six counties to miss out on an overnight stop on the torch's nationwide relay.

Councillor Keith Barrow, Shropshire Council's leader, said: "This is an important project for Shropshire which recognises the unique influence that William Penny Brookes and the town of Much Wenlock had on the development of the modern Olympic movement.

"We look forward to welcoming visitors from the UK and abroad in 2012 to discover the story and to enjoy the stunning landscape which so inspired Brookes and his contemporaries."

The project, which will be completed in December, will also feature installations on Wenlock Priory and the building's former history as a cinema.

There will also be exhibitions on the inspiration that the surrounding area has provided to numerous literary and artistic figures such as Housman, Mary Webb, and Vaughn Williams.

In addition to the exhibitions, a local history resource pack will be created for residents, schools and community groups.

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