The Suffolk Archives statement on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on its services is available to read here.

Background to the project

Feasibility work

In 2014, Suffolk Record Office commissioned property consultants, Concertus, to conduct a feasibility study for a new heritage centre, on the north campus of the University of Suffolk, beside Ipswich Waterfront.

A culmination of several years of research and consultation, the new centre would replace existing Record Office facilities at Gatacre Road, as well as providing the university with a much-needed auditorium.

Concertus were asked to estimate the high level costs of developing a centre that included:

  • A 200 seat auditorium
  • 2 seminar rooms
  • New public searchrooms
  • A small café, retail and exhibition area
  • Document strongrooms with capacity for the next 20 years
  • Ancillary back office and fit for purpose public facilities

The study indicated that a capital budget of around £17 million would be required to build the centre; further funding would also be needed to transform the way the Record Office approaches its education and outreach work.

Front View Visulisation

In July 2015, Suffolk County Council’s Cabinet agreed to invest £5 million in the project; further funding would need to be secured from external sources. The University of Suffolk, already providing the land for the centre, agreed in principle to invest £1 million.

National Lottery Heritage Fund support

An application to the National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF – previously called the Heritage Lottery Fund) was submitted in December 2015 for close to £11 million. In May 2016, we were thrilled to learn that the application received initial support from the NLHF together with a development grant of £538,000 to take the proposals forward. Crucially, the support from the NLHF allowed us to evaluate countywide how well we reach people from different backgrounds, what the barriers to engagement are, and how these could be overcome. We were also able to pilot some exciting new ways of working with people, young and old.

Ultimately the funding has allowed us to develop a vital, countywide programme of events and activities that will transform our engagement with new and existing audiences, as well as to design the new building itself.  This development process (called the ‘Development Phase’) took close to two years to complete, and in April 2018 we received confirmation from the NLHF of an award of £10.3 million to deliver the project.

The Hold – background to the title

The  new centre is called The Hold. By evoking the hold of a ship, where precious goods are safely stored, this is a nod to the maritime location of the new facility and a reflection of the secure, specialist storage within the facility. It is also, by happy coincidence, an echo of the fact that archival collections are referred to professionally as ‘holdings’.