Bletchley Park completes transformational £13m redevelopment project
On Thursday 19 October 2023, Bletchley Park Trust marked the completion of its biggest refurbishment project to date – a £13 million, three-phase project, to open up wartime buildings at the heart of the World War Two (WW2) site for the very first time.
The final phase of the project has seen Block E, once the communications hub of wartime Bletchley Park, refurbished and repurposed to create two new resources, the Block E Learning Centre – which includes eight learning spaces able to accommodate learners from primary school pupils to students in higher education – and the Fellowship Auditorium, a state-of-the-art, 250-seat, presentation and event space. Bletchley Park’s award-winning learning programme has been oversubscribed, but this new space will increase capacity and grow the programme, inspiring even more learners with the achievements of the Codebreakers and their relevance to today’s world.
The Fellowship Auditorium is named in recognition of the outstanding philanthropic support given by the Post Office Remembrance Fellowship, a grant-giving charity that exists to commemorate the men and women of the General Post Office (GPO) who died in World War One and World War Two. The Bletchley Park Trust and Post Office Remembrance Fellowship wish to recognise the vital contribution made by the team at the Post Office Research Station and the wider GPO to Bletchley Park’s wartime work. The GPO now BT, had close links with Bletchley Park Codebreakers, including providing the all-important telecommunication networks that allowed traffic in and out of the site. A 135 m2 event space next to the auditorium is named The Radley Room, recognising Gordon Radley, the Controller of the Research Brand at the GPO from 1939 and throughout WW2. Radley’s team at Dollis Hill in north London designed and built codebreaking machines for Bletchley Park, including Tunny and Colossus – the world’s first large-scale programmable digital computer, as well as attachments for the Bombe machines.
Phase One of the project was the refurbishment of Block A, which now contains the largest permanent exhibition on site: The Intelligence Factory, plus a temporary exhibition space. Phase Two was the completion of the new Collection Centre that houses the Trust’s extensive collection of more than 420,000 items relating to the wartime story of Bletchley Park. This concluding phase marks a major milestone in the Trust’s continued work to create a world-class visitor attraction and museum.
Iain Standen, CEO of Bletchley Park Trust said:
“Our ambition in redeveloping Blocks A and E was to open up an overlooked area of the historic site, creating inspiring spaces where visitors could engage with the incredible stories of the women and men who worked here during World War Two. Buildings that were once closed off are now full of life, whether with visitors exploring exhibitions, researchers studying our rich archives, or learners enjoying our award-winning learning programme. We are very grateful to all the generous supporters without whom we would not have been able to achieve this transformative project.”
Bletchley Park Trust is an independent charity which relies solely on income from visitors, sponsors and supporters. Despite being hit hard by the pandemic, the world-renowned museum and heritage attraction successfully raised funds to complete this final stage of an exciting three-phase refurbishment project through the generosity of trusts, foundations, individuals, companies, and statutory funders.
The Bletchley Park Trust would like to thank the Department of Levelling Up, Housing & Communities; Milton Keynes City Council; and the local Town Deal Board for steering in the vital support of the Towns’ Fund as a cornerstone donor for this project. The Block E Learning Centre and Fellowship Auditorium will be an important asset for Bletchley and Fenny Stratford, enabling Bletchley Park Trust to engage more deeply with local schools and community groups, and to enhance corporate footfall to the area.
The Trust would also like to thank Milton Keynes Community Foundation for their major grant to support access provision across these refurbished wartime buildings.
Bletchley Park is also grateful to The Thomas L. Kempner Jr., Foundation Inc, Foyle Foundation, Garfield Weston Foundation, Wolfson Foundation, Dr Edmund O. Schweitzer III and Mrs Beatriz Schweitzer.
The completion of the Blocks A and E project was marked with an Open Day, where supporters, contractors, and the local business community came together to enjoy and celebrate the finished spaces.