Luton’s Wardown House Museum and Gallery
Refurbishment and Reopening
by Barbara Tearle
Wardown House, Museum and Gallery will be officially reopened by Luton’s Mayor Cllr Tahir Khan on Saturday 8 April at 12pm.
Since closing in March 2016, the museum has undergone a transformation; gone are the traditional exhibition spaces and museum displays. In the words of Robyn Llewellyn, Head of HLF East of England, said:
“ … The refurbishment highlights the museum’s original use as a private house providing a wonderful backdrop to the fascinating stories and objects held in the Museum’s collections.”
Visitors are invited into Luton’s history. There is an interactive trail to follow around the museum. Browse through the rooms, including the Billiards Room with an interactive billiards table; the Morning Room with beautiful sculpted ceilings, feature fireplaces and musical instruments; and the Dressing Room and Bedroom of a Victorian lady, overlooking the impressive gardens of Wardown Park. The staircase is now adorned with a specially commissioned chandelier, brightening the whole hallway.
Other existing displays have been refurbished, such as the Bedfordshire & Hertfordshire Regiment Gallery, located on the first floor.
The redevelopment project
Wardown House, Museum and Gallery is runs by Luton Culture, an arts and culture charity which also runs Stockwood Discovery Centre, The Hat Factory Arts Centre, Luton’s Library Theatre, and Luton Libraries. Luton Culture aims to provide high quality arts and culture experiences, to engage and inspire audiences.
The redevelopment has cost £3.5m, with the Heritage Lottery Fund generously funding £1.8m. thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, other trusts funding £1.6m and the remaining amount still needs to be raised by public donations and fundraising efforts.
Karen Perkins, Director of Arts and Museums at Luton Culture said “This project has been a real labour of love for everyone involved, from the project management team, our curators, Museum Makers volunteers, the builders, and all the other teams. They have all contributed to the transformation of this building into a beautiful museum and public space that everyone can be proud of. The Latin inscription on the side of the house translates as Spacious House Receiving Friends and it really sums up what we feel about the new museum.”
Cllr Hazel Simmons, Leader of Luton Borough Council, said: “The new-look Wardown House is a magnificent attraction and a welcome development in preserving Luton’s cultural heritage, as it tells the story of Luton’s transformation into the vibrant town it is today. This is another milestone demonstrating that Luton continues to change at pace through the £1.5 billion investment framework and our credible vision to be an established and inclusive cultural and heritage destination that offers something for everyone.”
Facilities have also been updated. Accessibility has been improved throughout the building and there is lift access to the first floor. The Dining Room, where visitors will be able to sit in comfort overlooking the park, offers a range of food and drinks.
The museum is situated on Old Bedford Road, Luton, LU2 7HA.
Currently open daily from 10am – 5pm (14 February – 31 October), and 10am – 4pm (1 November – 13 February). Free entry and free parking nearby. There is also an entrance with limited parking on New Bedford Road. Check on hours and facilities before visiting.