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Page last updated at 11:56 GMT, Tuesday, 29 June 2010 12:56 UK
Swindon's 19m Postal Museum a step closer

Artist's impression of the proposed British Postal Museum & Archive
The museum's planned site is the historic former GWR Chain Testing Works

An ambitious £19m museum, planned for the historic Western Churchward Village in Swindon, has been given a first-round pass for a grant of £2.5m from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The Postal Museum & Archive, the store and archive of the Royal Mail, is hoping to develop one of the remaining undeveloped parts of Swindon's Railway Works Conservation Area; the Grade II listed Chain Test House.

The Chain Test House, currently on the English Heritage 'At Risk' register, was built in 1873 as the testing house - testing iron, steel, copper and rope on the railways.

Artist's impression of the proposed British Postal Museum & Archive
A Travelling Post Office railway coach is among the museum's objects

At its peak in the 1950s, Shop 17 - as it was known - dealt with around 57 miles of chain and rope annually.

The proposed museum will join prominent cultural organisations already based at the historic Churchward Village including English Heritage, the National Trust and STEAM.

The museum's collection, which includes over 200 letter boxes, postal vehicles and every British stamp issued since the Penny Black, has been in storage since 1998 after the closure of the National Postal Museum near St Paul's Cathedral in London.

Since then, split between the Mount Pleasant mail Centre in London and a museum store in Debden in Essex, the four centuries of postal history has not been comprehensively accessible to the public.

But following a 10 year site search, which included locations in London, Birmingham and Bristol, Swindon was selected as the site for a new, accessible and permanent museum.

Due to open, in 2013, following a successful round two Lottery application in 2011, the new Postal Museum & Archive will not only bring together the Royal Mail's historic records currently filling 2.5 miles of shelving, but museum objects from the former National Postal Museum as well.

Chain Test House, aerial view
The museum will open in 2013 following a firm HLF award

Among the objects, held by the BPMA, is a Hen and Chick pentacycle, a flintlock pistol (used by mail coach guards to protect the mail), sheets of Penny Blacks and one of the largest pieces in the collection - a Travelling Post Office railway coach (TPO).

"The Heritage Lottery Fund money will allow us to embark on the next stage of this exciting project to bring this human story of communication, industry and innovation to everyone," says Adrian Steel, Director of the BPMA.

"The Chain Testing Works in Swindon is an ideal home for our collections and offers an opportunity to restore and reopen this landmark building."

The British Postal Museum & Archive project now has two years to complete and submit detailed plans to the Heritage Lottery Fund to compete for a firm award.

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