Campaign to save George Stephenson's Birthplace gathers pace
IT’S full steam ahead as a campaign to save the historic Wylam home of George Stephenson gathers momentum.
Thousands of local residents are calling for the National Trust to back track on their decision to close the cottage.
George Stephenson’s Birthplace was closed on January 29 after 68 years as a National Trust attraction.
The trust cited rising costs and dwindling visitor numbers for the shock decision.
The cottage will close during 2017 and the National Trust said that the time would be used to “re-evaluate” the attraction’s future.
But so far over 2,000 names have been added to the petition to “Stop the closure of George Stephenson’s Birthplace in Wylam.”
Local mum-of-two Karen Quinn, who is leading the community campaign, said: “It would be very sad if this proved to be a permanent closure.
“This is a very important piece of Northumberland’s history and something we are all very proud of in this part of the world.”
The online petition states that if the cottage was to remain vacant it would be a loss to the community and might attract vandalism.
The National Trust said that during the closure, locals were encouraged to participate in a consultation process.
It is undertaking a feasibility study with the University of Northumbria to assess options and said it was working closely with Wylam Museum, among others, to share ideas.
However, MP for Hexham, Guy Opperman said: “You do not close something, and then decide to consult with people.
“It is completely the wrong way round and a real mess.”
Local county councillor, Paul Kelly said that not enough had been done to market the attraction, which sits on the popular Wylam Waggonway.
He said: “There needs to be some synergy between the National Trust and Northumberland’s tourist board to fully exploit all of the jewels that we have.”
A National Trust spokesperson said: “We share the public’s disappointment that we’ve had to temporarily close George Stephenson’s Birthplace, and this decision has not been taken lightly.
“We have been working hard to inform local stakeholders and users of the café in advance.”