HISTORIC Bletchley Park, which is preparing to welcome world leaders to the global AI Safety Summit on Wednesday and Thursday (November 1-2), has opened a 250-seat auditorium and event space as part of a £13 million redevelopment project.
The Fellowship Auditorium is part of work now completed to open up wartime buildings used at the heart of the Second World War code-breaking for the first time.
Block E pictured above, once the communications hub of wartime Bletchley Park, has been refurbished and transformed to create the auditorium and the Block E Learning Centre – eight learning spaces for learners from primary school pupils to students in higher education.
The auditorium is expected to attract business events hoisted by companies and organisations based in Milton Keynes and the wider region and will increase corporate footfall to Bletchley as the town continues its wider redevelopment work under the Bletchley & Fenny Stratford Town Deal.
Bletchley Park Trust chief executive Iain Standen pictured right said: “Buildings that were once closed off are now full of life, whether with visitors exploring exhibitions, researchers studying our rich archives, or learners using enjoying our award-winning learning programme.”
The Fellowship Auditorium is named in recognition of the philanthropic support given by the Post Office Remembrance Fellowship, a grant-giving charity that commemorates the men and women of the General Post Office who died in World War One and World War Two. The GPO – now BT – had close links with Bletchley Park Codebreakers, including providing the all-important telecommunication networks that allowed traffic in and out of the site.
An event space next to the auditorium, The Radley Room, recognises Gordon Radley, the Controller of the Research Brand at the GPO from 1939 throughout the Second World War. Radley’s team designed and built codebreaking machines for Bletchley Park, including Tunny and Colossus – the world’s first large-scale programmable digital computer – as well as attachments for the Bombe machines.
The work – the final phase of the project – follows refurbishment of Block A, which now contains the largest permanent exhibition on site, The Intelligence Factory, and a temporary exhibition space. Phase Two was the completion of the new Collection Centre that houses the Trust’s extensive collection of more than 420,000 items relating to Bletchley Park’s wartime story.
Mr Standen said completion of the final phase marks a major milestone in the Trust’s work to create a world-class visitor attraction and museum.
“Our ambition in redeveloping Blocks A and E was to open up an overlooked area of the historic site, creating inspiring spaces where visitors could engage with the incredible stories of the women and men who worked here during World War Two,” Mr Standen added. “We are very grateful to all the generous supporters without whom we would not have been able to achieve this transformative project.”
Funding for the project came from the government’s Department of Levelling Up, Housing & Communities, Milton Keynes City Council and the local Town Deal Board through the Towns’ Fund.
Milton Keynes Community Foundation provided a major grant to support access provision across these refurbished wartime buildings. Funding also came from The Thomas L. Kempner Jr., Foundation Inc, Foyle Foundation, Garfield Weston Foundation, Wolfson Foundation, Dr Edmund O. Schweitzer III and Mrs Beatriz Schweitzer.