Darwin's house waits for windfall

December 1, 1995

The campaign to save Down House, the decaying home of Charles Darwin, failed to win money in the National Heritage Lottery Fund's latest announcements made last week. The delay brings the Natural History Museum, which is running the campaign, perilously close to the deadline at which it must give up its option on a 96-year lease on the house.

Down House was taken over by the museum for a trial period three years ago. The museum has been maintaining it and trying to raise Pounds 3.2 million to restore it and secure its future. But its option to renew the lease was due to expire in November.

The museum has raised about Pounds 500,000 so far and is optimistic that more donations will roll in, bringing it close to the Pounds 800,000 it had pledged to raise to trigger lottery funding of Pounds 2.6 million.

The museum agreed that there had been "difficulties" about its lottery application. It says it cannot take responsibility for the house without guarantees of funding to ensure that the costs do not erode its other commitments.

The National Heritage Lottery Fund said that the application had not been rejected. "It is still being processed. Some applications tend to be more complicated than others. We hope to be able to make an announcement quite soon."

* Meanwhile, Leicester University has greeted with "relief" a Pounds 730,000 lottery boost to its plans for a Centre for Disability and the Arts. The university had raised Pounds 1 million for the centre over the last five years, in a campaign strongly supported by the actor Richard Attenborough, who is from Leicester. "We're deeply relieved," said Alan Caine, associate director of the centre.

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