A new Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) development grant of £44,700 has been awarded to Essex County Council for its Resorting to the Coast project.
The Resorting to the Coast project will promote the seaside heritage of the Tendring towns of Clacton-on-Sea, Frinton-on-Sea, Harwich and Dovercourt, Jaywick, Manningtree and Mistley, and Walton-on-the Naze.
The project will research new and innovative ways to use their heritage to better promote the six towns. The research will look into the needs of existing and potential visitors and explore how the different aspects of the heritage (such as the historic architecture and traditional entertainment) could be used to provide a richer experience and promote regeneration of the towns.
It will then form the basis of a further bid for another £250,000 of Heritage Lottery money to make the plans a reality.
Cllr Michael Page, Essex County Council, Deputy Cabinet Member for Planning, said: “This new project will add to the experience of visitors to the Tendring seaside resorts.
They have so much to offer and many beautiful and important buildings and places that will be revealed to local and tourist alike through this project. Each town has a distinct identity and unique stories to tell, that will be showcased to locals and visitors. With this project and any future investment opportunities, we hope to drive economic development in Tendring through drawing new visitors to experience this fascinating area of Essex.”
The research will reveal the rich architectural, archaeological and social historical heritage of these towns and it will do this through three research projects to be carried out by consultants. They will include what is called an Audience Development Plan which will identify both current and potential future audiences.
The consultants will analyse who already visits the towns and who might be attracted in the future.
The outcome will be a plan explaining how existing visitors can have greater involvement and participation in the towns’ rich heritage, and also how it will be possible to attract a new and wider audience and to develop a more enriching experience for locals and visitors to the towns.
At the same time, there will also be research into the entertainment of the seaside towns in their heyday from c. 1890 to 1960. This will identify and assess the nature and variety of the seaside entertainments and performers who were performing during this period. The researchers will use archive sources (documentary, audio and film) to delve into these topics.
They will also consider how the re-creation of historic entertainments, and the routes travelled by the performers, can be used to attract visitors and also to provide opportunities for training for local people in performance skills.
Another important aspect of the project will be an interpretation plan to guide future presentation of the coastal towns’ heritage. This will research what already exists in terms of attractions such as museums and galleries, visitor centres, heritage trails, brochures and leaflets, and smartphone apps.
It will then build on these and identify opportunities for improvements through this project, and identify possible future follow-on projects.
The project is supported by Tendring District Council (TDC) and will complement its own tourism and regeneration strategies, which have heritage as a significant theme. The long term objective is to help reduce the risk of further damage to and loss of historic assets as well as encouraging economic development through increased tourism and investment. Local community groups were involved in and supported the application to the Heritage Lottery Fund and, if the second bid is successful, will have opportunities to take part in the project, for example by carrying out interviews to record oral history.
Mick Skeels, TDC’s Cabinet Member for Leisure, Tourism and Events, welcomed the award for the project.
“It is a boost for Tendring’s seaside heritage – which we are fortunate to have in abundance and which attracts many visitors to the area,” he added.
“Hopefully it will all lead on to a further successful bid for the £250,000 which will enable the plans to become a reality and further benefit our District.”
The project came about partly as a result of a 2011 project by English Heritage which examined the character of the built environment of the Essex seaside resorts.
It helped to reveal the significance of the architectural and historically important building and structures across Tendring area, as well as identifying those most at risk of falling in to disrepair. This has helped to reduce the risk of demolition while helping the local community appreciate these amazing places in their own towns.