Investment deal supporting £30m expansion of Black Country Living Museum

Andrew Lovett (left), chief executive at Black Country Living Museum and Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, outside the Black Country Living Museum's new visitor welcome centre

An exciting £30 million tourism project that will whisk people back in time to the Black Country’s post-war heydays has been given a £711,000 investment boost by the West Midlands Combined Authority.

The Black Country Living Museum is building a range of new attractions at its site in Dudley, offering visitors a unique chance to experience what life was like in the 1940s, 50s and 60s.

The Forging Ahead project is the Museum’s largest and most ambitious development since it opened in 1978. Once finished it will include a brand-new visitor welcome centre, learning spaces, industrial quarter, and historic high street. It will expand the visitor experience by around a third and allow the Museum to cater for around half a million visitors a year. The first phase of the project features 26 historic buildings and structures.

Work to recreate Wolverhampton’s iconic Elephant and Castle pub has already been completed, and Dudley’s Woodside Library will be rebuilt as one of the main landmarks of the new historic high street. The WMCA’s investment is helping to meet the challenges of cleaning up derelict parts of the site. Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and chair of the WMCA, said:

“I’m extremely pleased that the WMCA was able to help make this exciting new development a reality. The Museum is a fantastic heritage and cultural asset for our region helping to generate tourist income and new jobs for the West Midlands.

“It’s fascinating to see how iconic buildings are being saved for future generations through these meticulous brick-by-brick reconstructions and recreations.

“The Museum already does a wonderful job of whisking people back in time to explore the Black Country’s amazingly rich heritage and the new Forging Ahead development will supercharge that experience further still.”

Once completed, Forging Ahead will create more than 140 new jobs at the Museum and within the local area, and 30 of these will be a direct result of the WMCA’s critical investment in the scheme. In approving the deal, the WMCA Board was told how the investment would support the Museum’s vision to create a world class heritage attraction in the heart of the Black Country and how it would help grow the visitor market around the tourism cluster at Dudley’s Castle Hill.

The project would also develop a significant tourism asset that could help support the region’s wider economy. Andrew Lovett OBE, chief executive at Black Country Living Museum, added:

“This investment from the WMCA cements our ambition to bring the Museum’s story into the 1940s, 50s and 60s and step into living memory. We will widen our storytelling and introduce our visitors to new Black Country characters and stories that they might not be familiar with.

“The feedback from our visitors following the opening of the Elephant and Castle pub has been wonderful, and we can’t wait to bring other beloved buildings back to life and expand the visitor experience.

“The wealth of personal memories we’ve heard has been heartening. We couldn’t be happier.”

The investment into the Museum is just the latest from the WMCA’s nationally acclaimed devolved housing and regeneration brownfield programme.

This has seen hundreds of acres of derelict industrial land, often referred to as brownfield, regenerated to provide new homes, jobs and commercial floorspace while supporting the West Midlands’ economic recovery from Covid-19 and its #WM2041 ambition to be a net zero carbon region within the next 20 years.


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