Preserving Halton’s Heritage

September 2019

Background

The Trenchard Museum, Flight Heritage Centre and associated archive (collectively referred to here as the Museum) house a collection of memorabilia and historical items that recognise the illustrious history of the RAF achievements at Halton. The Museum was formally opened on 29 June 1999 by Viscount Trenchard, grandson of Marshal of the Royal Air Force Lord Trenchard, as part of the station’s 80th anniversary celebrations.

The exhibits cover the building of Halton House by Alfred Rothschild in 1883, the Army and RFC manoeuvres of 1913 leading to the extensive military use of the estate during the First World War, the RAF takeover in 1918, and the apprenticeship years 1920 – 1993. The Museum also covers the RAF hospital and the RAF dental school, the Halton railway and the churches.

In addition to the Museum there are a number of other significant assets within the Parish including the Neolithic long barrow, the World War 1 trenches, monuments and memorials and the Rothchild bridge.

In 2016 it was announced that the RAF would be withdrawing from Halton and relinquishing its assets, including the current Museum buildings. The Ministry of Defence (MOD), have given an undertaking to ensure that any future site development will facilitate the preservation of the memory of the site’s military heritage, including the existing Museum

Halton Parish Council Heritage Objectives

The Parish Council is looking to ensure that the full Halton heritage, covering all of various periods of Halton’s history, including the early British history and the Rothschild era, as well as the RAF legacy, are preserved in a permanent and sustainable Heritage Visitor Centre located in Halton.

The Parish Council is regarded as a primary Stakeholder working alongside the key decision makers in helping to turn this vision into a reality and contributing what skills it has to help make it happen.

It should be noted that the Halton Parish Council precept is not permitted to be used to contribute to the heritage centre. Therefore, any HPC support to this proposal would preclude direct operational financial assistance.

Heritage Strategy

At the request of the Museum, The Parish Council has been working with the Trenchard Museum to devise a preliminary strategy paper setting out the case for a heritage visitor centre, for presentation initially to the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO).

The document is commercially sensitive as it includes Museum costings and information received in confidence from other organisations. However, the main elements are summarised as:

  • A list of the heritage assets– which are relevant to the preservation of Halton’s Heritage which may be listed as the objects in The Museum, photographs and documents, objects around the Halton Estate (e.g. the Neolithic long barrow,the World War 1 trenches, Halton House and the Rothchild bridge) and stories and information.
  • The purpose of the heritage visitor centre – which considers caring for and conserving the objects in The Museum, making them available for local people and visitors, continuing with the STEM and school educational programme and contributing to a new focal point for the village.
  • Location Options – The potential solutions being considered are St. Georges Church (off Chestnut Avenue) and a purpose-built building (possibly to be with a future community centre as part of the Halton development plans). The latter is the preferred option, but this would require significant capital costs.
  • Operational Business Plan– A preliminary financial appraisal of the income and expenditure projections has been undertaken for each of the viable locational options. The income streams include general admissions, education activities, donations, subscriptions, retail and catering and events. The cost streams include staff, maintenance, exhibition refreshes and marketing. The costs are mitigated through the continuation of the highly valued existing group of volunteers. The assumptions around visitor numbers, charges, and staff costs have been developed through an understanding of the current non-commercial operation and through a review of two comparator organisations, The De Havilland Aircraft Museum and the Pembroke Dock Heritage Centre.

Next Steps

The next step in this heritage initiative is to share the strategy with the key stakeholders (meet with DIO in October) and to seek their views.

RAF Halton Closure

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