Redevelopment, Refurbishment and Context
Phase II of the Redevelopment Project will involve the complete redesign and redisplay of the galleries in Cecil Higgins Art Gallery and Bedford Museum.
For the first time, Bedford’s major collections will be united under one roof. The revitalised buildings, with the addition of new services, will bring a wider range of visitors to the town, and will contribute to the regeneration of the town centre, as well as being an excellent resource for local people.
The new galleries will include:
• Watercolours and Prints – changing displays from the collections
• Design – stylistic movements, influences and how objects are made
• Edward Bawden – a dedicated gallery to one of the 20th century’s most influential designers
• Influence – how nature, other cultures and the past have influenced designers, through the Gothic Revival collections
• William Burges – a magical, atmospheric gallery dedicated to one of the 19th century’s most imaginative designers
• Objects in Use – how we use and interact with objects in our daily lives.
• People and Place – a timeline of the story of Bedford
• Treasury – precious, valuable and sacred objects found in Bedford, including Prehistoric, Roman and Saxon finds.
• Trade and Industry – Bedford’s journey from market town to international centre of brewing, brick-making and engineering
• Ideas and Ideals – the stories of Bedford’s most influential people and what the collections tell us about their roles in the wider world
• Bedford Life – the ‘life journeys’ of local people and a celebration of their historical and cultural diversity.
Floor plans and display visualisations are available on request.
Cecil Higgins Art Gallery occupies a mid-Victorian villa, formerly the Higgins family home, and a large purpose-built extension, added in 1974. The Museum is housed in the former Higgins Brewery, a splendid 19th century building. A new, central reception area will connect the Museum to Cecil Higgins Art Gallery and Bedford Gallery.
The refurbishment will also include a café, learning spaces, and new collection stores. It is planned that the Museum and Art Gallery will become a ‘hub’ for the centre of Bedford and will be used as a venue for a wide range of events and activities, including social functions for different communities living in Bedford, as well as lectures and meetings.
The £11.3m redevelopment is scheduled to open in 2012. Cecil Higgins Art Gallery is now closed in preparation for these works.
£5.4m has been raised through the Government, Bedford Borough Council, charitable trusts and individuals.
The Heritage Lottery Fund, Bedford Borough Council and charitable trusts are currently considering grant applications.
Cecil Higgins Art Gallery & Bedford Museum are at the heart of a burgeoning Cultural Quarter, in the centre of Bedford. This area is also home to the John Bunyan Museum, and Bedford Creative Arts. The site of the historic Castle Mound is here, and its surrounding gardens have recently been imaginatively re-landscaped.
The immediate area beside the Art Gallery and Museum, which links the cultural quarter with the High Street, is being sensitively developed to provide a new location for city centre living: good quality new housing (about 100 dwellings), restaurants, specialist cafes, live/work spaces, and specialist retail units which will utilise some of the traditional buildings that enhance the setting.
This is part of a very large scheme of renewal and redevelopment for Bedford, which has been identified by Government as a Growth Area. It will include major redevelopments of the station and bus station, as well as environmentally sensitive developments of 19,500 new homes within a wider area, scheduled to be completed by 2021.