Barking and Dagenham heritage sites visitor boost
The council is reaping the benefits of a successful heritage strategy as visitor numbers to Barking and Dagenham’s most famous sites have risen by almost 70 per cent in just a year.
In the 2011/12 financial year 46,566 people went to Valence House and Eastbury Manor House, up from 27,798 the previous year, while educational visits rose from 4,106 to 5,739.
Chris Ford, the council’s group manager for heritage services, said these sites may be seeing a resurgence because they are free at a time when many are suffering financially.
He explained: “Valence House is free and there is a small charge for some of the workshops so it’s a good value day out, not only for local people but also visitors.
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“It’s something people in Barking and Dagenham can be proud of. The museum reflects the borough’s story and people are interested.”
In 2010 the building reopened after redevelopment.
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Mr Ford added: “Since then we’ve had lots of events and exhibitions. In the last year we’ve had St George’s Day celebrations taking part at the site and there were 5,000 people this year.”
The public spending squeeze, however, has forced council officials to think about ways to conserve the borough’s past in new ways and with new partners, which could mean assets are sold off to finance services.
It costs �745,093 to deliver the services each year through staffing, maintenance and running costs.
That should drop to �711,200 in 2012/13, with further reductions expected in the following years.
Recently, councillors on the safer and stronger community select committee gave the green light for a new heritage strategy for the next three years.
New projects are planned for Dagenham Village, Barking Abbey, Barking Park, Marks Gate and for the Elizabeth Fry and Quaker burial ground in North Street, Barking.
Another project is aimed at expanding the archives of First World War experiences among residents, while there are also pilot schemes for dementia sufferers and people with depression.