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West Midlands secures funding for police museum in Birmingham

West Midlands Police have secured £1m for a museum of policing in Birmingham, with plans to exhibit stories of inmates and staff from an nineteenth century lock-up.

The force are the winners of the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

The project will incorporate exhibitions into the Victorian Lock-Up on Steelhouse Lane that will tell stories of both prisoners and staff. These will be built into cells, giving visitors the opportunity to see different themes and time periods.

The Grade II listed Lock-up is one of the oldest police building in Birmingham, opening in 1891.

Corinne Brazier, Subject Matter Expert of West Midlands Police Heritage Project, said: “There’s massive public appreciation for the heritage of this building.

“It creates such an immersive environment for young people to come into and be told about current policing messages when they’re surrounded by cells and ghosts of the past. It’s really quite something.”

Some of the ghosts will belong to the real Peaky Binders were operating in Birmingham from 1890 to 1914, so any of the gang members who were arrested in the city centre would have come through the lock-up.

Ms Brazier said: “We have to be really careful not to be promoting or glamourizing that gang culture. We want to capitalise on that huge audience that are interested in the history of crime and punishment whilst at the same time not being seen to promote the violence and gangs. Because the real peaky blinders were real vicious thugs and are even known to have killed a police officer and viciously assaulted several others.”

An old locker room will act a larger exhibition space. There will be a basement area which can fit up to 80 chairs that will be used for hosting guest speakers, events and conferences. There’s also a smaller area of the basement which will be reserved solely for school visits.

David Jamieson, the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner said: “I am thrilled that we have been able to secure the next round of funding for the next stage of bringing the police museum to life.

“The museum will continue to help us build bridges with communities and show how West Midlands Police has come on the journey to become the force it is today.

“It will be an opportunity to work with schools and young people in educating on how policing has changed with an enthralling experience in the old Victorian cells.”

Dan Barton, Assistant Director for Corporate Communications, said: “This is excellent news for both our force and the region. The museum will be a new attraction for Birmingham which will offer job and volunteering opportunities. 

“It will tell the story of how policing has evolved across the West Midlands, making policing heritage accessible to all. We have a fantastic collection to show off in the museum, which includes the oldest police mugshots in the country, rare medals commemorating acts of courage and bravery, obsolete and rare examples of uniform, helmet plates, kit and equipment from over the years.”    

Anne Jenkins, Director, Midlands & East at The National Lottery Heritage Fund said: “From the popularity of Peaky Blinders we know that the project will bring to life some incredibly fascinating stories that visitors won’t be able to get enough of. We’re delighted to support West Midlands Police to transform Birmingham’s Victorian Lock-Up into a hub of policing heritage with money raised by the National Lottery players.”

The museum will aim to open around the end of 2021 and hopes to be open six days a week.

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