Chagford has won its bid to create a heritage centre in the town. With funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), supplemented by a grant from the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee fund, the Chagford Local History Society (CLHS) is realising an aspiration it has nurtured on behalf of the community for many years. Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, the HLF award amounts to £32,700 and the Diamond Jubilee grant, which is managed by Chagford Parish Council, is £5,000.

The heritage centre will be located in the Jubilee Hall, next to the new library. It will consist of a reading room and display area and a separate archive room, where the town’s extensive collection of historical documents, photographs and memorabilia can be kept safely, following proper conservation guidelines. Part of the project will be to catalogue the archive using recognised professional standards. For the first time this will allow people to access anything in the collection for the purposes of interest or research. The reading room and display area will be fully open to the library, creating a dual purpose community space.

Another part of the project is a two-year programme of activities exploring and celebrating the history of the Chagford area. Soon several shops in the town will display posters illustrating aspects of the town’s past, aimed at stimulating interest in its heritage. The Chagford Show, one of Chagford’s major annual events for over 100 years, will be celebrated by an exhibition in the new heritage centre to coincide with the Show this August. The exhibition, organised with the help of volunteers from the Show committee, will be transferred to the Show ground for 17th August.

Alan Deacon, chair of the CLHS, is adamant that the heritage centre is for the whole community:
“We think that the heritage centre and archive, sitting right next to the library will add something really important and useful to the community and our programme of activities is going to appeal to a lot of people – residents and visitors alike. Chagford has a fascinating and ancient history and the project will open up loads of opportunities for people to learn more about it. For years the archive has been tended by a few dedicated volunteers and now there’s an opportunity for more people to get involved in something really exciting. So we’re calling on all those with a bit of time on their hands and an interest in the past to see how they can participate in this great project. There’ll be plenty of things to do”
Alan points out that a fully-functioning, properly equipped archive will be a good home for all sorts of historical material currently in private possession. “The archive isn’t a static thing – it’ll grow as people realise it’ll be a safe place to deposit items of historical interest and make them accessible to a wider audience.
We’ve lost so much of our past. With the heritage centre and archive we’ll now be able to keep track of it and make it available to anyone who’s interested, both now and for many years to come.”