Government gives £250,000 to Bletchley Park

With an inevitable election looming, it looks as though the Government is working hard to court the tech vote. Not only has Alistair Darling announced tax breaks for the UK game developers, but now Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw has announced plans to hand over £250,000 to Bletchley Park for critical repairs.

“I am delighted to announce this grant,” said Bradshaw, which he says “will help renovate the buildings and ensure that future visitors enjoy a really high quality experience when they come here.” Bletchley Park was the UK’s main centre for cryptanalysis in World War II, and the godfather of modern computing, Alan Turing, famously worked there.

The funding comes a few months after Gordon Brown issued a posthumous apology for the appalling treatment of Alan Turing after the war, following a hugely successful petition created by author of The Geek Atlas, John Graham-Cumming.

Before the apology was issued, Graham-Cumming said on his blog that he didn’t expect the Government to apologise, but he suggested that it should at least give Bletchley Park some funding for its upkeep. “It's about time the British Government stumped up to help pay for the upkeep of these two important treasures," he said. "Without Bletchley Park and Alan Turing I'd likely be writing this in German,”.

While Gordon Brown’s apology was gratefully receieved, no extra funding for the site was offered at the time. A short sentence at the end of the apology simply said ““If you would like to help preserve Alan Turing's memory for future generations, please donate here.” Whatever your opinion of the Labour Government, it’s fantastic to see any government finally pledging some funds to maintain a site of such importance to our history, not to mention the history of computing.

Bletchley Park Trust’s CEO, Simon Greenish, is also chuffed with the announcement. "This enormously-appreciated funding boost will not only enable vital repair and maintenance of this World War Two site for the benefit of our rapidly growing number of visitors,” said Greenish. He added that “it also represents endorsement by the DCMS that Bletchley Park is a place of national importance which deserves Government support.”

However, the pledge of a quarter of a million pounds is still a small amount of the several million required to fully restore the site. The Heritage Lottery Fund has already awarded £460,000 to the trust to work up detailed plans for the restoration. According to Bletchley Park, the plans “will be submitted early to mid 2011 in a bid to secure the £4.1 million needed to realise the plans and subject to the Trust raising the £1 million needed for match-funding the bid. The Trust will then work on raising a further £5 million to complete the development.”

If you haven’t been to Bletchley Park yet, then we thoroughly recommend a visit, where you can gain a real insight into the early days of computing during World War II. At the end of May, there’s also going to be a 1940s-style family festival, featuring World War II re-enactments, and the world’s only flying Lancaster bomber will also be joining them. Go on, put it in your diary.