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Newton’s Place is the £2m project to restore and convert the former St Leonard’s Church (Wolborough St, Newton Abbot) into an accessible and improved museum and community space. The small museum and town council team (12 staff) will relocate from Devon Square to the new building.

From the outside of the building, it may look like little has changed in recent months. However, a lot of work has already happened behind the scenes to make sure we deliver the best project possible. Read on to discover the story so far…..

Pre-2016. Local and community plans identified the need for a community ‘hub’ for over 15 years - described as a focal point for the community incorporating the museum, town council, and other community amenities. Possible sites were explored over these years, but none were found to be suitable.

May 2016. The Neighbourhood Development Plan for Newton Abbot, identifying strong support for the development of the community hub and preservation of the town’s heritage, is approved by a public vote as part of the May 2016 local elections.

August 2016. The Town Council completes its purchase of the former St Leonard’s Church and the project begins in earnest!

September 2016. Research and writing of the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) round 1 application starts, hoping to secure a large proportion of the project costs.

September 2016. Immediate work required on the building commences: replacement of the old electrics; removal of asbestos by specialist contractors; installing safety netting to guard against falling ceiling plaster; and removal of over 6 tonnes of pigeon guano in the attic space!

November 2016. Community consultation gets underway, asking local people of all ages and with different interests “What would you like to see in your new museum and community space?”

January 2017. The first two open days in the former church attract over 500 visitors! Local people drop in to enjoy short talks and tours of the church, view the project plans, take part in mini art workshops, share their stories and memories of the church, and get 'hands on' with a variety of museum objects.

February 2017. The round 1 Heritage Lottery Fund application is submitted, with over 100 supporting documents, meticulously researched and produced by the project team.

March 2017. The process of identifying other funders begins, and applications are drafted for the ‘matched’ funding element.

April 2017. Another popular open day in the former church features the museum’s WW1 travelling exhibition as well as lots of activities for visitors.

June 2017. We receive amazing news from the Heritage Lottery Fund that our application has been successful! A fantastic achievement considering very few applications are approved at the first attempt. We are awarded £150,00 for the detail of the project to be developed, plus an indication of further support for our bid of £800,000 for phase 2.

June 2017. Our summer open day in the former church includes displays by the Stover Canal Trust and Ball Clay Society, plus visitors enjoy a live performance from the folk singer/songwriter Nicky Swann.

July 2017. Kate Green (Community Engagement Officer) visits numerous local groups over the coming months to gather ideas for the new building - including Kingscare Memory Café, Oakford Elders, Lifeworks, Brownies and local schools.

July - August 2017. Stalls at the Carnival and Summer Nights events provide more opportunities to gather feedback from local residents, and to encourage people to spread the word about Newton’s Place.


August - September 2017. Tender, shortlisting, interview and appointment takes place of the specialist consultants and contractors required for the project.

September 2017. Production of the documents required for our stage 2 Heritage Lottery Funding application begins.

October 2017. A film night in the former St Leonard’s Church, showing local archive film footage, is standing room only. We also launch our community fundraising campaign on the same evening.

October 2017. Museum closes to enable us to review the collection and prepare for the move.

October - December 2017. Pop-up museums are held in the Passmore Edwards Centre and Asda - look out for more dates coming soon on our News & Events page.

November 2017. The ‘Interpretation Plan’ for the new museum is finalised, incorporating lots of community ideas and suggestions. This will be used by the museum designers (Leach Studio) to create the exciting new space.

November 2017. The museum designers and building architects take their concept designs out into the town to gather more community feedback.

December 2017. Planning Application and Listed Buildings Consent is submitted to Teignbridge District Council.

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