Transformed Visitor Centre re-opens
Housesteads Visitor Centre will re-open today (Saturday 25 May) following a £650,000 transformation to improve the visitor welcome, orientation and facilities at the best preserved Roman Fort along Hadrian’s Wall.
The re-opening of the National Trust Visitor Centre marks the completion of the second stage in a £1.3 million partnership project which last year saw English Heritage make improvements to Housesteads Museum and interpretation at the Fort.
Over 100,000 people visit Housesteads Roman Fort each year and the Visitor Centre is the welcome and admission point. Outside the improved centre, a large new 3D map detailing the scale of the Fort and surrounding Whin Sill escarpment takes pride of place in the courtyard, and a glazed seating area provides a place to enjoy refreshments on a warm day. Inside, the building is decorated in fresh, vibrant colours with much improved retail displays and catering facilities. The new mezzanine level offers visitors the chance to enjoy stunning views and images from along the wall over a cup of coffee.
Andrew Poad, General Manager for the National Trust Hadrian’s Wall Country Group told us:
“It’s great to be able to open the doors of our improved visitor centre after lots of months of hard work. It looks fantastic. Thanks to our partnership work with English Heritage, we are now able to offer visitors a better welcome. The main admissions point to the Fort and Museum is at the visitor centre, and we have much improved orientation information to help people enjoy their visit. People visiting a World Heritage Site like Housesteads deserve excellent facilities and that’s what we’re now able to give.”
The design of the revamped visitor centre was undertaken by North East architects Spence and Dower. Their challenge was to create more floor space to cope with the greatly increased visitor numbers without increasing the footprint of the building.
Robin Dower, who has worked on both stages of the partnership project with the National Trust and English Heritage, has a deeper connection with the place. His great uncle, Professor GM Trevelyan bought Housesteads Farm in 1931. Robin told us:
“My uncle bought Housesteads Farm and later gave it to the National Trust so that the setting of this rich archaeological landscape should not be threatened. A little later he built the museum to house various altars and artefacts found on the site. It was a pleasure to be asked to work at Housesteads as it brings back happy memories of summer picnic parties in the 1950s.”
Carole Keltie, English Heritage's General Manager for Hadrian's Wall said:
"The investment at Housesteads will really help to transform the visitor experience at the already popular attraction on Hadrian's Wall. The new visitor centre, our interactive museum and authentic events tell the story of Roman life so much more effectively than anything you could ever read or hear. From Tuesday (28 May) we'll be training youngsters to be Roman Soldiers at Housesteads during a week long celebration in the Hadrian's Wall Roman Festival. Our programme of events during the summer will also transport you back 2000 years to a time when Housesteads was home to the Roman army."
In the next stage of the partnership project, Northumberland National Park Authority is seeking approval of a planning application to improve the visitor infrastructure at Housesteads. The intention is to provide an additional 40 car park spaces and better access for visitors. It is envisaged that the majority of the car park will remain open during the period of improvement works.
Housesteads Roman Fort is open daily from 10am-6pm. Admission is Adults £6.20, Concessions £5.60, Children £3.70. Under 5s, English Heritage and National Trust Members go free. For more information on events or visiting Housesteads Roman Fort and Museum please visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/hadrianswall or www.english-heritage.org.uk/hadrianswall
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Images by Barry Pells