Middleton Railway receives lifeline grant from recovery fund

The Middleton Railway Trust is one of 445 heritage organisations across the country set to receive a lifesaving financial boost from the government thanks to the £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund to help them through the coronavirus pandemic.

445 organisations will share £103 million, including The Middleton Railway Trust to help restart vital reconstruction work and maintenance on cherished heritage sites, keeping venues open and supporting those working in the sector.

The £79,900 grant will enable the Middleton Railway to expand its museum to better tell the story of the pioneering work of John Blenkinsop and Matthew Murray who developed the world’s first commercially successful steam locomotive in 1812, whose work inspired George Stephenson to build his first steam locomotive and who laid the foundations of the once hugely important Leeds locomotive building industry.

The development of this industry helped create the Leeds of today with its diversified economy and strong research and educational sectors. It is the Trust’s ambition in explaining the work of these two giants of the Industrial Revolution to both introduce future generations to this important vital part of their heritage and to inspire future generations to become technologists and scientists.

The grant will also enable the Trust to upgrade its conference and training facilities to improve its long term financial resilience and to be able to support local organizations to train people in skills of the future.

This vital funding is from the Culture Recovery Fund for Heritage and the Heritage Stimulus Fund – funded by Government and administered at arm’s length by Historic England and the National Lottery Heritage Fund. Both funds are part of the Government’s £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund which is designed to secure the future of Britain’s museums, galleries, theatres, independent cinemas, heritage sites and music venues with emergency grants and loans.

433 organisations will receive a share of £67 million from the Culture Recovery Fund for Heritage to help with costs for operating, reopening and recovery. This includes famous heritage sites across the country, from Wentworth Woodhouse in Yorkshire to Blackpool’s Winter Gardens, Blyth Tall Ship to the Severn Valley Railway, the International Bomber Command Centre in Lincolnshire to the Piecehall in Halifax. The funds will save sites that are a source of pride for communities across the country.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said:

“As a nation it is essential that we preserve our heritage and celebrate and learn from our past. This massive support package will protect our shared heritage for future generations, save jobs and help us prepare for a cultural bounce back post Covid.”

Charles Milner, Chairman of the Middleton Railway, said:

“The Middleton Railway is the site of one of the most significant moments in the development of surface transportation; the first truly successful application of the power of steam to the movement of goods. This was a tipping point in history when transportation ceased to be dependent on the speed of the horse or the strength of the ox but became dependent on the skill and ingenuity of man.

“The story of  the Middleton Railway and Blenkinsop and Murray’s role in this pivotal moment is not well understood and the Culture Recovery Grant will enable the Middleton Railway Trust to take a very significant step toward properly telling this story. It will also help the Trust continue its important work of conserving and restoring  artefacts which help tell this story and that of the  Leeds Locomotive Building Industry.

“At a time when the Covid-19 Pandemic is causing so much despair,  this Grant provides  the Trust with a ray of light in the proverbial darkness. We are very grateful to the Government for this opportunity to continue with our long terms plans to tell the Blenkinsop Murray story.”

Ros Kerslake, Chief Executive of the National Lottery Heritage Fund said:

“It is absolutely right that investing in heritage should be a priority during this crisis and this support by Government is crucial.  Heritage creates jobs and economic prosperity, is a major driver for tourism and makes our towns, cities, and rural areas better places to live.  All of this is so important for our wellbeing and will be particularly vital when we start to emerge from this incredibly difficult time.

“Our heritage is still facing a perilous future – we are not out of the woods yet.  But this hugely welcome funding from Government, and the money we continue to invest from the National Lottery, has undoubtedly stopped heritage and the organisations that care for it being permanently lost.”

The Middleton Railway was built in 1758 and is the first railway authorised by an Act of Parliament, the first to have commercially successful steam locomotives, in June 1812 and also the first standard gauge preserved railway, opening in June, 1960.  It has operated trains every year since opening in 1758.


This post is based on a press release issued by Middleton Railway