Hitchin Town Hall beginning to take shape as excitement builds over North Herts Museum

Kate Pape, Keith Fitzpatrick, David Hodges, Mark Hazelgrove and Ros Allwood, from North Herts Museum

Kate Pape, Keith Fitzpatrick, David Hodges, Mark Hazelgrove and Ros Allwood, from North Herts Museum - Credit: Archant

The team working behind the scenes to get the much-awaited North Hertfordshire Museum open to the public believe it will be one of the most exciting exhibition spaces in the UK.

North Herts Museum.

North Herts Museum. - Credit: Archant

Thanks to a million pound grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, North Herts District Council’s museum now has a complete showcase on the first floor and new signage outside Hitchin Town Hall in Brand Street.

The controversial project to renovate the town hall has been dogged by overspending and disagreements between Hitchin Town Hall Ltd – which was the group originally formed to carry out the works – and the district council.

But the district council insists work is progressing on fitting out the 1901 building after a contractor was appointed to design and construct the kitchen and cafe.

One of the centrepieces for the adjoining museum will be two fragments of tusk and a molar tooth from a mammoth – nicknamed Mabel by staff – which were found during the construction of roads around Woodland Way in Baldock in the early 1920s.

Hitchin Town Hall.

Hitchin Town Hall. - Credit: Archant

The tusks are from a mammoth alive around 50,000 years ago, when they co-existed with early humans in Baldock, who may have hunted them.

Items from the old Hitchin and Letchworth museums – including a specialised flint tool made by Neanderthals – have been transported alongside many other unseen showpieces to make up a range of visual and interactive displays.

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Downstairs there will be the Local Studies Centre where historians can explore the archives, a ‘Discovering North Hertfordshire’ gallery taking you through the district’s past and a display of works from national collections.

Themed displays will dominate upstairs, including a terrace gallery where visitors can watch animated folk tales from the area in a mini-cinema, and an area where children can enjoy dressing up in period costumes.

There will also be the Arches Gallery which will cater for local and community works, as well as a new learning centre for talks and workshops for groups of all ages.

Councillor Tony Hunter, who is responsible for community engagement at the district council, said: “It is very exciting to see the exhibits being moved into the new museum.

“It will be a fantastic visitor destination when its doors open to the public.

“There will be something of interest for everyone and it will be great to see the objects telling the story of the heritage of North Hertfordshire, being displayed in a modern, interactive and attractive way.”

To keep up to date with progress on the museum visit www.northhertsmuseum.org.

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