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Castle and museum unite for major Bungay heritage project

20 February, 2016 - 06:30
The King's Head Hotel in Bungay which is being used for a major new heritage project. 

Picture: James Bass

The King's Head Hotel in Bungay which is being used for a major new heritage project. Picture: James Bass

(C) Archant Norfolk 2016

One of Bungay's most prominent and historic buildings is to be turned into a heritage and education centre to celebrate the history of the town.

The King’s Head Hotel in Bungay, which was due to be turned into an apart hotel, has now been purchased by the Bungay Castle Trust which has joined forces with Bungay Museum to work on the project.

The building was bought following a bequest from the late Harry Smith, a Bungay resident whose will required his estate to be used for the benefit of the town.

The aim is to bring the town’s museum and castle history together under one roof and create a new focal point for residents and tourists to enjoy.

A spokesman from the Castle Trust said: “We are thrilled to be able to announce the news of this project that will enhance and preserve the castle whilst unlocking Bungay’s full potential as a destination town.

“We are very much looking forward to working with Bungay Museum and Historic England to develop an exciting and informative heritage centre that will be unique to Bungay.

“It is envisaged that we will work to develop skills and courses which will incorporate traditional construction methods using lime, flint and stone, which will not only give opportunities for training and apprenticeships but also vocational courses.

“This is a great opportunity for the castle’s future and for Bungay.”

The former coaching inn, in Market Place, has 13 en-suite letting bedrooms, two function rooms, a residents’ lounge, restaurant, lounge bar and a large car park.

It dates from the 16th century but like other prominent buildings in the centre of Bungay was destroyed in the town’s great fire of March in 1688.

The old Oddfellows Hall on the ground floor, which has been earmarked for use by the museum, stands at the rear of the building along with the yard immediately adjacent to the castle site.

Bungay Museum is currently housed on the first floor of the Waveney District Council Office in Broad Street, but Chris Reeve, chairman of Bungay Museum Trust, said it was a chance to expand.

He said: “It’s a big boost for us because we have been looking for new premises for some time and to be able to move to such a central and large site is brilliant.

“Our collections are currently housed in two small rooms in the council office, with no additional space for exhibitions or events, limited storage, and no disabled access.

“The site will enable us to link with the Castle Trust in providing a variety of exhibitions, lectures, education projects and activities, for all ages, to explore and celebrate the unique and rich heritage of our town.

“It will be very good for tourism and local businesses too.”

Mr Reeve said a steering group has already been set up to work on the first stages of the project.

The bequest which has made the purchase possible came from the estate of Mr Smith, a former member of Bungay Society, who was the husband of Cicely Smith, a former Town Reeve of Bungay from 1985 to 86.

Bungay mayor Olly Barnes said: “The prospect of the King’s Head becoming the focal point for a heritage scheme of this magnitude is fantastic news.

“Bungay has such a wealth of history that is just waiting to be explored; and this project will give Bungay the springboard it needs to really put it on the map.

“This is going to be a brilliant thing to see grow and develop, I am really excited by it.”

An application to turn the building into an apart hotel was approved by Waveney District Council last September, before the building was put up for sale again.

•What do you think of the project? Write to Beccles and Bungay Journal, 20 Blyburgate, Beccles, NR34 9TB or email bbj.letters@archant.co.uk

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