Work on a £2million extension for Barnstaple’s museum has taken another step forward.

How it was: A building once stood in the same spot the new expansion is planned for. Picture: Museum of Barnstaple and North DevonHow it was: A building once stood in the same spot the new expansion is planned for. Picture: Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon

The first brick of the Long Bridge Wing was laid this morning (Wednesday) by Keith Abraham, a local philanthropist and one of the museum’s most generous supporters.

The project, which is supported by almost £870,000 of National Lottery funding, is expected to see the museum fully reopen in summer 2019.

Work began in June, with Devon Contractors demolishing the old coach house and ground works, as well as erecting the steel frame ahead of the brickwork.

When complete, the wing will make space for a new gallery, shop, education space and café, and will increase its footprint by 70 per cent.

Museum manager Alison Mills and Councillor Dick Jones get to grips with the new bricks for the £2m extension of the Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon. Picture: NDCMuseum manager Alison Mills and Councillor Dick Jones get to grips with the new bricks for the £2m extension of the Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon. Picture: NDC

“It is an honour and a privilege,” said Mr Abraham, who first visited the museum more than 50 years ago.

“I came here in the old days, and remember going down the steps looking over the long bridge, and I’ve seen it grow.

“It is history, and I hope I have helped to make a bit of history today.”

“This is a terrific project for the town - we’ve worked as a team and I’m really looking forward to the museum reopening next year.”

Councillor Dick Jones, North Devon Council’s executive member for parks, leisure and culture, said: “It’s thrilling to see how much progress has already been made on the build and it was fitting for Mr Abraham to have the honour of laying the first brick, as he has been so supportive of the museum over the years and has made significant contributions to this project.

“Things are really coming together and the building’s prominent position means residents and visitors to the town have a great view of the new build as it progresses, it’s really exciting to watch the museum grow.”

The museum was originally given to the town by William Frederick Rock in 1888 and included an extra building between it and the Long Bridge. This addition was demolished in 1963 to widen the bridge but the new extension will be built on the same site.

The work will be constructed using brick and slate in order to keep the existing museum’s aesthetic and terracotta details will be blended to soften the impact of the brick.

For behind the scenes updates and progress of the build, follow the Museum manager’s blog at barnstaplemuseumblog.wordpress.com.