Last Thursday (February 15) marked the 250th anniversary since renowned 18th century poet William Cowper moved to Olney.
He took up residence in the building that is now the town’s museum, in 1768, and the important date was commemorated by the museum with invited guests joining trustees on the day.
The date also marked the start of a year-long project funded by a recent £93,800 Heritage Lottery Fund grant for the museum’s refurbishment programme.
The ‘Our Heritage’ grant will cover almost 85% of the projected cost of £112,000, thanks to money raised by National Lottery players.
Milton Keynes Borough will contribute an additional five thousands pounds, with the remainder to be met from the museum’s budget and local fundraising.
The project will allow for improvements to the presentation of the main historic rooms, a new permanent display on life in Georgian times, and the creation of an accessible visitor orientation area.
The museum hopes the changes will attract more local and international visitors to its unique collections of artefacts of the poet and William Cowper, Jane Austen’s favourite poet and John Newton, ex-slave trader, preacher and author of the hymn Amazing Grace.
Both Cowper and Newton became prominent figures in the campaign to abolish slavery.
“I am delighted that this National Lottery funding will help us fulfil the expectations of our growing number of visitors,” said Paul Collins, chairman of trustees.
“Our plan is to develop our visitor experience to match 21st century display standards, but within the constraints set by our historic building and garden.
“We will also be developing more volunteering opportunities to join our passionate and dedicated team,” he added.