By Andrew ShawOver 200 friends of the museum turned out to celebrate the grand opening.
Opened by local resident and avid supporter, Hugh Bonneville, the Gateway Project cost £6 million and was largely funded by the Heritage National Lottery.
Oxen paraded the bustling market square as Tudor women, 15th century tradesmen and a host of volunteers showcased ancient crafts such as basket-weaving and carving. The traditional sounds of the lute and hurdy-gurdy brought the scenes to life as well as the frenetic dancing of the local team of dancers, musicians and story tellers of Mythago Morris.
The Gateway Project is hoped to transform the visitor experience with a newly configured car park, visitor centre, shop, café and community space. Following 10 years of planning, designing and building, these new areas are now open for the public to admire and give a fascinating insight into the Museum’s collection for visitors.
Chief Executive of Weald and Downland, Martin Purslow, said: “I am absolutely delighted to welcome the public to the three new buildings that make up The Gateway Project. Weald and Downland preserves the cultural heritage of the ordinary folk and brings to life the extraordinary people that made this country.”
Since opening in 1970, the registered educational charity has collected several awards for their work, including the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, the Sussex Visitor Attraction of the Year and the National Heritage Museum of the Year Award.
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