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Wilmington village’s heritage centre in Memorial Hall, off Martin Road, Wilmington, is unveiled

A simple knock on the door of “historian” Jean Radford’s home more than 10 years ago has led to revelations of past village life.

The long-awaited Wilmington Heritage Centre is home to such treasures as a Victorian dress, Roman pot, gas mask and various artefacts and photographs.

Mrs Radford, 78, said it was about 11 years ago that she answered her front door at her home in Wallis Close to a newly-elected councillor, and the idea for a place to showcase Wilmington’s wealth of history was born.

Wilmington Heritage Centre, Memorial Hall, Martin Road, Wilmington
Wilmington Heritage Centre, Memorial Hall, Martin Road, Wilmington

She said: “Cllr Derek Hunnisett wanted to introduce himself. We were chatting and he said ‘If there’s anything I can do for you let me know’ and I said, ‘Wilmington could do with a heritage centre’, and he has worked so hard ever since.”

With the help of funding from the National Lottery and Kent County Council, and the generosity of supporters, the Clubb Room – named after Wilmington-based concrete and aggregate suppliers J Clubb – was built on to the Wilmington Memorial Hall, off Martin Road.

Mrs Radford, who has lived in the area since 1969 and has been fondly dubbed Wilmington’s “local historian” by her fellow residents, had the honour of unveiling a plaque to mark the site of a former Italian, and then German, Second World War prisoner of war camp at the junction of Edwin Road and Martin Road during the public opening of the heritage centre.

In fact, she had to perform her unveiling duty three times.

She said: “I was meant to do the official unveiling at noon but the parish clerk couldn’t wait until then so we did it for him first, then the Messenger photographer turned up and asked us to do it for him, and then we had the official unveiling.

"I don’t think there’s any monument in the country that has been unveiled three times!”

Rosemary Stowers and Karen Lodge
Rosemary Stowers and Karen Lodge

Almost 200 people visited the centre, with several taking along unidentified objects or heirlooms they had found in their lofts or sheds to be examined by a Heritage Centre Committee expert.

Mrs Radford said: “It’s taken a good year to build but it has been well worth the wait.”

The official opening of the centre was conducted by Sir Philip Whitehead, descendant of Sir James Whitehead, who was Lord Mayor of London in 1888 and lived at Wilmington Hall, and Dartford Mayor Patsy Thurlow on March 18.

John Strachan (Chairman) and John Longstaff (Treasurer)
John Strachan (Chairman) and John Longstaff (Treasurer)
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