Bletchley Park gets £4.6M grant for restoration

Bletchley Park, home to the top-secret Codebreakers who worked to break military encryption systems during the way and invented the forerunners to modern computer systems in the process, has secured £4.6 million in funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund to preserve its historic huts.

Built to house personnel and equipment vital to the codebreaking process during the Second World War, Bletchley Park's numbered huts were designed to be temporary structures. Following the declassification of much of the work carried out at the Park, the huts have become historically important but are in such a poor state of repair that increasingly frantic fundraising efforts have been made to find the cash needed to repair them.

Hut 6, originally used to house the team responsible for cracking the German Army and Air Force Enigma cipher, is in such bad condition that information management consultant and ACCU member Astrid Byro launched a death-defying trip to Everest's base camp in an effort to raise money for its repair.

Thankfully, the hut's future looks a lot brighter - along with that of Huts 1 and 3, plus the derelict Block C - now that the Heritage Fund cash has been secured. "The complex story of Bletchley Park revolves around a group of dedicated men and women who quietly worked away with no expectation of public recognition. Now, more than sixty years later, the Trust will bring to life fascinating tales of the ground-breaking work that took place in this sprawling country estate," explained Heritage Lottery Fund chief Carole Souter at the announcement. "I cannot think of a better use of Heritage Lottery Fund money than to support this project and, in so doing, honour the memory of all who were involved."

"Today marks a monumental triumph for the Bletchley Park Trust," crowed long-time supporter Stephen Fry. "This investment from the Heritage Lottery Fund will finally enable the Trust to do justice to this amazing place in tribute to the tremendous intellectual feat of those who worked there. Not only did these people alter the very course of history by helping to secure the allied victory, thereby quietly and modestly providing us with the free world, they also gave birth to the Information Age which underpins the way we all live today. HLF has ensured that recognition for these extraordinary accomplishments is finally in sight. Now we must all see that the Trust is given every support it needs in order to raise the match funding required to make this project a wonderful reality."

Fry's last comment does highlight one slight catch in the funding: while the Heritage Lottery Fund has earmarked the bumper payout for Bletchley Park use, the cash won't be released until the Bletchley Park Trust can raise 'match funding' of its own. As a result, the Trust is issuing a call to arms: before it can use the £4.7 million in funding to restore Huts 1, 3, and 6, and turn Block C into a world-class visitor centre and exhibition space, it needs to raise £1.7 million of its own.

Dubbed 'Action This Day' - after Winston Churchill's order in October of 1941 to support the codebreaking effort with "all they want on extreme priority" - the Trust hopes that the new push for funding will enable to to secure the cash it needs and finally remove the risk that these incredibly historically significant buildings are lost to the world through simple neglect.

The Trust, a registered charity, runs Bletchley Park as a visitor attraction and business park for high-tech companies and relies entirely on public funding and infrequent grants like today's Lottery Heritage Fund money. Without visitors and donations, the Trust's work - which has already seen several blocks turned into museums of codebreaking, wartime memorobilia, and historical computing milestones - would be impossible.

For details on how to support the Trust's efforts to raise match funding and unlock the Heritage Lottery Fund's grant, head over to the official website.