Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway receives lifeline grant from Culture Recovery Fund

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Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway 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 Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway to help restart vital reconstruction work and maintenance on cherished heritage sites, keeping venues open and supporting those working in the sector.

Romney Hythe and Dymchurch Railway has been awarded up to £470,000. This will be used to keep the railway running and prepared for a positive season in 2021.

Critical to this is maintaining all the engines, rolling stock, permanent way and buildings on our unique 93 year old railway still being operated by the original fleet of locomotives through the winter.

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This is undertaken by a dedicated group of paid and volunteer staff who have and will put there all into ensuring the railway continues to operate and entertain the hundreds of thousands of visitors we see each year.

This funding will ensure this team can be kept together, their expertise and experience can be utilised at its best and the future of the railway can then be assured.

This vital funding is from the Culture Recovery Fund for Heritage and the Heritage Stimulus Fund – funded by Government and administered at arms length by Historic England and the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

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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.

12 organisations, including English Heritage, Landmark Trust, Historic Royal Palaces and the Canal and River Trust, will receive £34 million from the Heritage Stimulus Fund to restart construction and maintenance on cherished heritage sites to preserve visitor attractions and protect livelihoods for some of the most vulnerable heritage specialists and contractors in the sector.

The Architectural Heritage Fund (AHF) has also been awarded a grant from the Culture Recovery Fund through Historic England. The AHF will use the funding to support charities and social enterprises occupying historic buildings to develop new business plans and strategies for organisations affected by the pandemic.

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.”

Lucy Worsley, Chief Curator, Historic Royal Palaces, said: “There’s no truer way to experience the past than to walk in the footsteps of those who have lived it – that’s why preserving our built heritage is so important.

“At Historic Royal Palaces, we care for six nationally significant buildings, opening them to the public and preserving them for future generations. Sadly, the pandemic meant that we had to stop some of our critical conservation work.

“The grant we have received from the Culture Recovery Fund will enable to this work to resume – so we can give some of Britain’s most historic buildings the care and attention they deserve, while supporting the specialist craftspeople who are vital for the future of our national heritage.  We are enormously grateful to the Government for this support.”

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Danny Martin – General Manager of the RHDR reflected on the closure of the railway for part of this year the first time in its 93 year history and how this award will ensure it can continue to open through the winter with additional running days in November, January and February and be ready for many more visitors in the main season from March 2021.

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“To achieve this our people have much to do each winter to ensure the railway in all aspects is safe, well looked after and justifies its position as the “world’s finest mainline in miniature” a position it has held for 93 years and longs to progress to its centenary and well beyond.

“This will, without doubt, make this possible and we are both relieved and very grateful for the chance this gives us and the confidence it shows in our ability to work hard and deliver the best possible railway in 2021 and beyond.”

Duncan Wilson, Historic England’s Chief Executive said: “It is heartening to see grants, both large and small, from the Government’s Culture Recovery Fund helping heritage sites and organisations across the country which have been hit hard by the effects of Covid-19.

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“These grants range from giving skilled craft workers the chance to keep their trades alive to helping heritage organisations pay the bills, and to kick-starting repair works at our best-loved historic sites.

“The funding is an essential lifeline for our heritage and the people who work tirelessly to conserve it for us all, so that we can hand it on to future generations.”

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.”

Kate Mavor, Chief Executive of English Heritage, said: “This support for our nation’s heritage is fantastic news. Over the last few months, our teams have been working hard to welcome visitors back safely to the great castles, stone circles, abbeys and historic houses in our care.

“This funding will help us invest to safeguard the historic fabric of these much-loved places, which everyone can learn from and enjoy.”

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Shannon Butcher

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