THE first stage of a transformational project is finally underway at a North East museum that will create an enhanced visitor experience.

Contractor Tolent has begun the first stage of a £2.3million regeneration project at Cleveland Ironstone Mining Museum in Skinningrove, North Yorkshire.

The work includes a £1.3m contract to refurbish the existing building and the construction of a new extension, creating new exhibition and education spaces, retail area, toilets and archive store.

The independent museum celebrates the heritage of the ironstone mining industry, preserving and promoting the rich ironstone heritage of East Cleveland.

It, unfortunately, had to close in 2018 due to the roof of the museum’s iconic Upcast building falling in, but once it reopens later next year, will provide an enhanced experience for new and returning visitors.

Graham Banwell, director of operations at Cleveland Ironstone Mining Museum, said: “This project has faced many setbacks, not least due to Covid restrictions, however, we are very happy to see progress and at a faster rate than anticipated."

"We are pleased to be partnered with such a well-respected firm like Tolent, many of whose staff working on the project have a direct family link to the mine.”

The remaining £1m will be spent on new displays, three temporary exhibitions and 12 months of exciting activities.

Teesside-based contractor Tolent is carrying out the work that includes the partial demolition of the existing museum’s entrance lobby and reception area, making way for the new three-storey extension.

Rick Halton, regional director for Tolent, said: “I only live two miles from the site and my father actually worked down the old Loftus mine.

"The museum plays a vital role in celebrating the history of the local area, so as a business that has worked in Teesside and East Cleveland for nearly 40 years, it’s fantastic to be able to contribute to something with such local significance."

“We’ll also be working to contribute our own social value to the project with a number of short and long term employment opportunities and a commitment to engaging a local workforce.”

With careful consideration to the historic nature of the old Loftus Mine, the first mine to be opened in Cleveland, the new extension is to be built on screw piles to minimise disturbance to neighbouring historic structures and properties.

This design methodology also protects other historical elements including the existing machine bases that used to support equipment that produced compressed air to drive the mining machinery, including the drills underground.

Rather than breaking these structures out, a thick reinforced concrete ground floor slab will be used to ensure they remain undisturbed.

Work is expected to be complete in summer 2022 with the museum opening autumn.