History Centre prepares to sign building and construction contract


The team behind the city’s ground breaking History Centre project is preparing for the start of a new chapter in the journey towards a 2020 opening.

Following a series of in-depth negotiations, Plymouth City Council is set to sign a contract worth £22.6 million with Willmott Dixon for the major building and construction work. A series of concept designs for a number of the galleries have also been signed off in readiness for the next stage of detailed design.

Construction and regeneration specialist Wilmott Dixon is one of UK’s largest contracting companies with offices throughout England and Wales.

The company was appointed to the History Centre in July 2016 to undertake a pre-contract agreement to develop the project. In January it started to deliver the enabling works at the site.

The enabling works have included the erecting of the scaffolding, removal of asbestos and the demolition of some small outbuildings and the post-war extension to the rear of the former Central Library. The enabling works have ensured that the site is now ready for the main construction phase.

In another exciting development, the Council has also approved the design concepts for a number of the History Centre’s new galleries, paving the way for each of the spaces to be developed in much more detail. They include a natural history gallery featuring a Woolly Mammoth and an ‘Active Archive’ gallery where visitors can delve into the city’s archival heritage.

The History Centre will be a brand new cultural and heritage attraction for the city highlighting the story of Plymouth and its place in the world. It’s set to open in spring 2020 as part of Plymouth’s commemorations for Mayflower 400.

In addition to its permanent galleries it will include a suite of spaces where large-scale exhibitions and high profile artistic projects can be displayed. It will also include areas for research and learning, a shop, food and drink outlets and a public square which will host a range of events and activities throughout the year.

Councillor Ian Bowyer, Leader for Plymouth City Council said: “This is such a major project for the city. Each stage is a major milestone and we’re thrilled to be able to continue the relationship we’ve established with Willmott Dixon. It’s such an achievement to embark on this next chapter safe in the knowledge that we are one step closer to delivering this impressive facility for Plymouth.”

Councillor Glenn Jordan, Cabinet Member for Culture said: “The negotiations and discussions that have taken place over the last few months to get us to this point have been a huge team effort which I’m hugely proud of. Being involved with this project is a really exciting experience and we’re all working really hard with the designers and exhibition consultants to develop some fantastic proposals that truly represent Plymouth, the region and its influence on world history.”

Councillor Tudor Evans, Shadow Leader for Plymouth City Council said: “This is where the fun and the real work start. The construction contract and the gallery designs are massive milestones that have been made possible because of some amazing fundraising and effort by the project team. We are on track for Mayflower 400 and I can’t wait.”

Following today’s decisions the new contract for the major building and construction work will be signed on 20 June. Construction work will begin this summer with completion set for late summer 2019. The fit out of the buildings will then take place ready for the official opening in spring 2020.

The History Centre is a partnership led by Plymouth City Council with the University of Plymouth, the South West Film and Television Archive, the South West Image Bank and the National Museums of the Royal Navy. In addition to Plymouth City Council, major funding for the project has been confirmed from the Heritage Lottery Fund, Arts Council England, the Coastal Communities Fund, the Garfield Weston Foundation, the University of Plymouth and the Wolfson Foundation.

To find out more about the History Centre project visit www.plymouth.gov.uk/loveourpast or follow @loveourpast on Facebook and Twitter.