Artist impression of the completed Land of Oak & Iron Heritage Centre

Land of Oak & Iron’s flagship Visitor Centre, at Winlaton Mill, is set to become a reality after reaching its main fundraising target of just over £1.5 million.

The centre, which is expected to open in 2018, could bring more than £500,000 into the local economy as a landmark tourist attraction.

It will offer visitors exhibitions exploring the industrial heritage of the region. The centre will also house a café and gift shop, providing jobs for local people and offering an outlet for regional food producers and businesses.

High quality office space will act as incubators for start-ups, helping small local businesses to grow and thrive.

Groundwork, an environmental and heritage-focused charity, will run the Land of Oak & Iron Visitor Centre as a social enterprise, reinvesting any profits back into local services.

As well as investment from the charity and its partner Gateshead Council, nearly £700,000 of the fundraising target has been made possible by National Lottery players through the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). Additional funds are coming from a number of sources, the Rural Growth Network programme Strategic Economic Infrastructure Fund (SEIF), and other smaller organisations.

Kate Culverhouse, Chief Executive of Groundwork NE & Cumbria, said: “It’s a fantastic achievement to have reached our main fundraising target. Once completed, the centre will provide the local community with a great resource, which will not only create jobs and support new business ventures, but also will support the wider economy by increasing footfall for local companies.

“We will run a series of programmes and projects from the Centre, which will provide training and volunteering opportunities, supporting local people to gain experience, skills and qualifications with the ultimate aim of supporting them into long-term employment.”

Groundwork’s plans for the site have been well-received by the local community with more than 200 people attending information events during the project’s development. Local residents were consulted on the design of the building with six options produced by Northumbria University Architecture students as part of a design competition. There was overwhelming public support for Matthew Glover’s ‘water wheel’ concept.

The design was further developed by architects at Gateshead Council and reflects the history of the site, which was the home to the revolutionary water-powered iron works established by Sir Ambrose Crowley in the 1690s. Further events will take place over the summer to inform the community and visitors about this exciting new development, with the first one being held in the morning of August 12 at Winlaton Mill Village Hall.

Councillor Malcolm Brain, Cabinet Member for Environment & Transport said, ‘This is great news and will give visitors the opportunity to learn about the exciting and little known industrial history of this incredibly beautiful part of Gateshead. The Council is committed to promoting our more rural areas and has been working with Groundwork over the last couple of years to reach this important milestone. I am delighted that funders share our enthusiasm and look forward to the building work getting underway.’

Jacqui Kell, Chief Executive of Arch and Chair of the North East Rural Growth Network said: “It is great to see further investment from the Rural Growth Network benefitting this project. The jobs it will create and facilities it will provide will give a welcome boost to the tourism of the North East – supporting much welcomed growth to our rural economies”.

Ivor Crowther, Head of HLF North East, said: “Another piece of fantastic news for one of our most stunning and historic landscapes! National Lottery players, Groundwork NE and an array of partners are already making an incredible difference to the natural and industrial heritage of the Derwent Valley and beyond and this next step will provide a vital and sustainable gateway to the landscape and its stories.”


CONTACT: Joss Havakin on 01325 363436


Notes to editors:

The Land of Oak & Iron focuses on the Derwent Valley and surrounding area, including Consett, Rowlands Gill, Prudhoe and Whickham. This area has a fascinating industrial heritage of pioneering ironworks, steel furnaces and sword making; a beautiful natural heritage of steeply wooded valleys and a rich cultural heritage of rapper dancing, music and arts. Local people, communities and visitors to the area will benefit from improvements to access, greater interpretation, greener travel, the chance to learn and share skills, a community grants scheme and to play a part within the vision to invigorate local regeneration and the local economy. The Landscape Partnership is hosted by Groundwork NE & Cumbria and is made up of a wide range of partners, committed to supporting delivery, until it comes to an end in 2020. The £3.4 million scheme has been supported by National Lottery players through a grant of £2.2 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Groundwork NE & Cumbria is a social enterprise/charity dedicated to improving the lives of people across the North of England.

This includes:

  • Helping people to retrain, gain confidence and gain valuable work experience.
  • Take practical action to tackle climate change – it recognises that by doing so it can also reduce fuel poverty and help business be more efficient
  • Groundwork NE & Cumbria owns, manages, rents and leases buildings and land in every part of the North of England
  • Enhancing the places where people live, work and play.

In 2015/16 Groundwork:

  • Created 540 jobs
  • Helped 682 people progress into further education, training or employment
  • Helped disadvantaged people drastically improve their employability through gaining 278 formal qualifications
  • Improved and maintained 334 hectares of land
  • Supported 357 community organisations
  • Improved the wellbeing of 1,454 individuals through its health sessions
  • Prevented 141 tonnes of CO2 emissions polluting the atmosphere
  • Supported 269 businesses
  • Engaged 545 partner organisations
  • Worked with pupils of 235 schools
  • Delivered more than 30,000 days of volunteering

Groundwork NE & Cumbria covers the whole of North East and Cumbria and has bases in Bishop Auckland; Sedgefield; Cockermouth; Darlington; Easington Village; Gateshead; Annfield Plain; Lobley Hill, Gateshead; Middlesbrough; Morpeth; Stockton, Sunderland, and Ulverston; and employment offices in Bishop Auckland; Carlisle; Darlington; Durham; Newton Aycliffe; Redcar and Workington.

For more information log on to

About North East Rural Growth Network
The rural parts of the North East LEP area play a very important role in the local economy, accounting for a significant share of total employment, providing above average levels of new business starts, and contributing disproportionately to the region’s visitor economy. They also offer future growth opportunities through key rural sectors (including knowledge intensive business services, tourism, food and drink, energy, and environmental services), and the economic potential of rural towns.

Following the Government’s Rural Economy Growth Review in 2011, the North East Rural Growth Network (NERGN) was formed as part of a pilot national programme to stimulate economic growth in rural businesses and communities.

As a result of the success of the Pilot North East Rural Growth Network (NERGN) growth programme, a new programme of business support has been developed to strengthen the
North East Local Enterprise Partnership rural economy over the period 2015/16 to 2019/20. The overall programme has secured £6million Local Growth Funding through the North East Growth Deal to deliver a range of interventions to boost rural economic growth in the NELEP area.

The North East Rural Growth Network (NERGN) covers the rural areas of Northumberland, Durham and Gateshead. The programme is supported by Northumberland County Council as the accountable body and delivered by Arch – The Northumberland Development Company, on behalf of Northumberland County Council.

The NERGN is governed by stakeholders representing Durham County Council, Gateshead Council, Northumberland County Council, Arch - The Northumberland Development Company, Northumberland National Park Authority, the Federation of Small Businesses, the Country Land and Business Association, the National Farmers Union, the North East Enterprise Agency Ltd, the region’s Leader Local Action Groups, Visit County Durham, Northumberland Tourism, the North East Local Enterprise Partnership, Newcastle University, North East Equalities Coalition and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

You can find out more about the North East Rural Growth Network grant schemes and how to apply by contacting the delivery team who are based at Arch.
Katy McIntosh – 01670 528489

About the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF)

Thanks to National Lottery players, we invest money to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about - from the archaeology under our feet to the historic parks and buildings we love, from precious memories and collections to rare wildlife.

*Heritage Grant applications are assessed in two rounds. A first-round pass is given when HLF has endorsed outline proposals and earmarked funding. A first-round pass may also include an immediate award to fund the development of the project. Detailed proposals are then considered by HLF at second-round and as long as plans have progressed satisfactorily and according to the original proposal, an award for the project is confirmed.

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Artist impression of the completed Land of Oak & Iron Heritage Centre
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