Bletchley Park Trust gets £4.6m lottery grant

Summary:The trust has received over £4m of lottery funding to restore crumbling huts that were used by code-breakers in World War II, but cannot access the cash until it raises a further £1.7m

Bletchley Park has been given £4.6m in lottery funding to secure Second World War-era code-breaking huts.

Bletchley Park huts

Bletchley Park Trust has gained £4.6m in lottery funding to renovate its World War II-era code-breaking huts, though it must also raise £1.7m itself. Photo credit: Bletchley Park

The huts are on the verge of collapse, and the funding is part of a race against time to save them for posterity, museum operations director Kelsey Griffin told ZDNet UK on Tuesday.

"[The code-breaking huts] are certainly not going to last through one or two more bad winters," said Griffin. "They are really no more robust than a garden shed. At the moment, visitors can't go in them, because they would fall through the floors."

Work was performed in the huts that historian Richard Holmes said was vitally important to the war effort. In addition, advances at Bletchley Park fed into major technological advances in computing and cryptography — even though the secrecy around the work continued into the 1970s and hindered its influence.

Bletchley Park needs to raise a further £1.7m itself before the £4.6m from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) can be accessed. Bletchley Park launched a fund-raising campaign on Wednesday called 'Action this day!'. The phrase comes from October 1941, when Winston Churchill received a letter from Bletchley Park code-breakers saying they were starved of resources. Churchill ordered: "Action this day! Make sure they have all they want on extreme priority and report to me that this had been done."

'Sympathetic restoration'

Griffin said the funding will go towards "sympathetic restoration" of code-breaking Huts 1, 3, and 6, where the majority of Enigma code deciphering and translation was performed. "It's still a race against time," said Griffin. "These buildings will not last."

It's still a race against time. These buildings will not last.

– Kelsey Griffin, Bletchley Park

At the moment, the huts are in a poor state of repair, with rotten planks and walls, and holes in the ceilings. Griffin said that restoration will be performed by London architects' firm Kennedy O'Callaghan.

"The huts are almost artefacts in their own right, and would not withstand the footfall of visitors. We want to fully control access to the huts, perhaps using guides," said Griffin.

Rotten planks of wood will be replaced, and the museum may project moving images on the walls of the huts, and employ soundscapes, to evoke the noises of code-breaking.

In addition, Bletchley Park Trust would like to turn Block C, which is made out of reinforced concrete blocks, into a visitors centre, said Griffin.

Bletchley Park is seeking donations both from private individuals and technology companies, said Griffin. A number of technology companies have given money to the Bletchley Park Trust, including PGP, IBM, and Google.

Television personality Stephen Fry lent his support to the campaign to save the code-breaking huts on Wednesday.

"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," Fry said in a statement.

"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."


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Topics: Security

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Tom is a technology reporter for ZDNet.com, writing about all manner of security and open-source issues.Tom had various jobs after leaving university, including working for a company that hired out computers as props for films and television, and a role turning the entire back catalogue of a publisher into e-books.Tom eventually found tha... Full Bio

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