Plans revealed for £11 million Roman centre in west Cumbria

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Hadrian’s Wall Heritage Ltd has submitted an application to build the world-class tourist attraction at Maryport to Allerdale Council. It aims to build on the area’s strong Roman heritage and recent archaeological finds across the local area. 

Artist’s impression of how the Roman visitor centre in west Cumbria will look [Credit: News and Star/UK]

Artists’ impressions have now been unveiled for the development at Camp Farm – a Victorian model farm including a Roman fort and civilian settlement – where many discoveries have been made. 

The plans are now available to view online and Michael Baker, director of sustainable development for Hadrian’s Wall Heritage, is urging local people to give their views. 

“Sometimes only those with objections take the time to respond, and we are keen that those who are in favour of the development register their support for the proposal as well,” he said. 

Mr Baker went on to explain exactly what the £10.7m project would entail. 

“This key heritage development involves the restoration and conversion of the historic farm buildings into galleries and visitor facilities, and will significantly raise the profile of the west coast of Cumbria as a destination worthy of visiting to a large audience for whom the area is as yet unknown,” he said. 

“There will be rich, varied and complementary interpretation emphasising the relevance of the story of Roman Maryport to us today – for example what is it like to live on a frontier, to be an occupying soldier, to live in an occupied country, the meeting of different cultures. We are hopeful that Roman Maryport can be open for the start of the main tourist season at Easter 2014.” 

If planning permission is granted, a key collection currently housed in the Senhouse Roman Museum will be showcased in the new museum. 

The Netherhall Collection is said to be the finest display of official Roman Army religious dedications anywhere. 

The existing museum in the battery building will also be refurbished internally to provide research facilities for the archaeologists. The reconstruction of the Roman watch tower will remain. 

On top of this, there will be a continuous programme of live archaeological excavation on the site, creating learning opportunities for local volunteers and students. 

Mr Baker added that a new access road, to join the A596 about 400m from the traffic lights by St Mary’s Church, is also included in the proposals. 

“This will ensure that the new development is very much a part of the town and that many of the new visitors that are expected are encouraged into the town as part of their visit,” he said. 

“A much safer crossing of the main road, which will benefit Netherhall School, will also be created.” 

The Roman Maryport project is expected to attract 55,000 visitors a year, together spending £3m to £4m and creating 78 jobs in the area. 

It is part of wider plans to develop the whole of the area dubbed Hadrian’s Wall Country, designed to draw more visitors to northern England. 

Roman Maryport is being developed as a partnership between Hadrian’s Wall Heritage and the Senhouse Museum Trust, which runs the existing museum. 

Paul King, associate at Capita Symonds, the lead consultant and architect for the project, said: “As far as possible we propose restoring the existing Victorian buildings and keeping as much of the original farm layout as possible. New buildings and site landscaping will be in keeping with the existing buildings.” 

Author: Pamela McGowan | Source: News and Star/UK [June 28, 2011]

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