Wardown House Capital Development

Luton’s Wardown House, Museum and Gallery, formally Wardown Park Museum, was awarded £1.8m from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to conserve the historic building and transform the way its story is told.

The major grant, made possible by money raised by National Lottery players, brought the museum just £200,000 away from its £3.5m target to fully restore and conserve the museum. The project was led in partnership by Luton Culture and Luton Borough Council.

Originally designed in 1872 as a private residence for Frank Scargill, a local solicitor, the house was bought by two local councillors in 1903 who opened up the grounds as a public park. The house was used as a military hospital during the First World War before becoming a museum in 1931.

The project saw new areas of the building opened up and the ground floor improved and furnished to give visitors an insight into a wealthy family home during the Victorian period – including the Billiard Room, Smoking Room, Library and kitchen whilst also telling the story of Luton’s transformation to the exciting and diverse town it is today. Volunteer Museum Makers will work with staff to create costumed tours, talks and special events to bring the story to life.

Using collections from the Luton new Archive, the hat industry and straw work to natural history and the Luton Voices archive, the displays will chart the development of Luton and celebrate its diverse communities.

A brand-new café was created with access to the park, the Morning Room became a new art gallery as well as venue for weddings and exhibitions and extensive work will make the building fully accessible. The redevelopment ensures the building’s standing as a key part of community life and a fantastic attraction for visitors.

The project also aimed to inspire future generations to take an active interest in Luton’s heritage. A strengthened learning programme trained staff and volunteers and reach out to schools. As well as working with primary and secondary schools, the museum offered students at the University of Bedfordshire the chance to take part in developing a digital gaming app to enhance access to the collection and its stories.

Funders for the redevelopment:

Luton Borough Council
Friends of Luton Museum
Murry Barford Trust
Garfield Weston Foundation
Steel Charitable Trust
Community Covenant
Betty Robinson Trust
Bedfordshire & Hertfordshire Regiment Trust
Rotary North Luton
DCMS Wolfson Foundation