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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.

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 National Lottery Heritage Fund 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 National Lottery Heritage 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 National Lottery Heritage Fund that our application has been successful! A fantastic achievement considering very few applications are approved at the first attempt. We are awarded £150,000 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 National Lottery Heritage Fund 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.

February 2018. Applications for planning permission and listed building consent are approved.

February 2018. Phase 2 funding bid to the National Lottery Heritage Fund is submitted. We will hear the outcome at the end of June 2018.

March 2018. We hit our £10,000 crowdfunding target! A huge thanks to all those who donated. If you missed the crowdfunding campaign you can still donate to the project - see the donate page for more details.

March 2018. We begin preparation of the detailed tender documents for the building conversion and conservation work.

April 2018. Design visuals for the new space are on display during the Annual Town Meeting. Many people told us how much they are looking forward to completion of the project.

April 2018. Over 100 people attend a debut concert by the Aoede String Quartet at Newton’s Place. The fundraising concert is described as 'spine-tingling' by members of the audience.

May 2018. Newton Abbot Photographic Club begin the process to record the changes over time as the building is developed.

June 2018. We receive the fantastic news that our phase 2 bid to the National Lottery Heritage Fund is successful! This brings the total National Lottery Heritage Fund contribution to the project to an incredible £950,000.

June 2018. Weekly 10-minute talks are launched in the town - bite-sized tales about the fascinating history of the local area.


June 2018. 150 local people take part in glass making workshops - the beautiful artwork produced will be installed in the new community space.

July 2018. Building construction and renovation work goes out to tender.

July 2018. Local groups, including the 1st Newton Abbot Brownies, help us to design the banners that will go outside the new building. Those taking part have a great time choosing pictures of museum objects to go on the banners, coming up with some bright and creative designs.

July & August 2018. We chat to over 250 people about the project at the Summer Nights events. Younger visitors enter the drawing competition to show us what they'd like to see in the new museum - suggestions include a roman helmet, ancient pot, fantasy beasts and a Megalodon tooth!

The picture shows a fantasy beast, drawn by Ryan Mugford (age 8) - winner of July's Summer Nights competition "What would you put in the new museum?"

August 2018. Tenders for the building work are returned and assessed.

September 2018. A variety of events, including costumed performances and heritage presentations, are held to coincide with the national Heritage Open Days initiative. These were delivered by museum staff and volunteers as part of their outreach programme during the site’s closure.

September 2018. Drop-in reminiscence sessions are held at the Passmore Edwards Centre. If you have any memories or photos of the former St Leonard's Church you'd like to share, please get in touch.

October 2018. The derelict land at the side of the former St Leonard's Church is purchased by the town council.

October 2018. The contractor (Pollard) is appointed for the building conversion works.

November 2018. Work on the building conversion begins.

December 2018. The local community gets hands on with museum objects at the Christmas Victorian evening.

January 2019. Colourful hoardings around the building are produced by local schoolchildren.


February 2019. Re-roofing is well underway. Slates are being re-used where possible, with reclaimed slates replacing those not good enough to go back.

February 2019. Museum volunteers receive training on handling and packing museum objects from the South West's Museum Conservation Officer.


March 2019. The new floor is poured using 100 tonnes of concrete.

March 2019. Stonemasons start work on the building's exterior.

March 2019. A virtual tour of the new building is launched. Click on the image below to view.

April 2019. Medieval archaeology is discovered in the lift shaft and the experts are called in to inspect the cobbled courtyard remains.

May 2019. Geocaching enthusiasts help to create a unique history treasure trail around the Newton Abbot area.

June 2019. Inspired by the project and the building restoration, the town council hosts two heritage building training courses, provided free of charge by B&CE Trust.

June 2019. People's Museum workshops begin - a series of free workshops allowing people to create their own highly decorated mini-display cabinet in which their special object will be shown in the new museum.

July 2019. Technical drawings for the museum displays are approved and construction of the bespoke display cabinets begins.

August 2019. We receive the fantastic news of a grant from the Ulverscroft Foundation to produce RNIB tactile maps of the museum and audio guides, improving the visitor experience for those people with sight disabilities.

September 2019. The volunteer funding team are celebrating again after news of a grant in excess of £13,000 from the Art Fund to restore and conserve the chancel ceiling.

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