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Invitation on behalf of The Waltham Abbey Royal Gunpowder Mills Charitable Foundation Limited


As you will be aware, the Waltham Abbey Royal Gunpowder Mills (WARGM) is a unique, historic site of national and international importance. It contains over twenty Listed Buildings and extensive areas of the site are designated as a Scheduled Ancient Monument (SAM), Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), and Conservation Area. The WARGM site extends to over 73 hectares (180 acres) and it forms a key part of this section of the Lea Valley Regional Park.

The Charitable Trust that owns the freehold of this important heritage asset is also charged with its sustainable protection and preservation over the long term. An Operating Company helps to achieve these objectives as well as running the existing visitor attraction. Because income from visitors does not cover the running and development costs of the site the Trust has, since 2002, provided a grant (subsidy) to the Operating Company to cover its operating costs. This situation is not sustainable given the limited resources of the Trust and its obligations to undertake the repair and maintenance of key buildings and structures in the SAM, as well as the unused Listed Buildings in the Queen’s Mead area of the site.

The current strategy will inevitably lead to the decline of the visitor attraction (through lack of investment) and the deterioration of the site and its important buildings, structures and landscape features. Recent re-branding of the visitor attraction (as the “Secret Island”) and a concerted effort by staff, volunteers and Friends to market the site and improve the experience has seen some improvement in visitor numbers, but the current offer is too narrow in its appeal. Major investment is needed to grow visitor numbers.

A number of options have been considered by the Trust and at the end of 2012 they concluded that a new ‘model’ should be implemented based on the following:

  • ‘Core’ visitor attraction concentrated in the south of the site;
  • Urgent need to find new, compatible uses for the deteriorating Listed Buildings;
  • Future use of the SSSI area of the site to be considered separately;
  • Complementary strategy linking all parts of the site;
  • Use of ‘partnership’ options to help funding;
  • Urgent need for an integrated vision.

Following a search for suitable partners, the Trust agreed to explore potential opportunities with PGL Travel Ltd (a market leading company providing outdoor education and adventure holidays for school children). These discussions have lead to what we believe are very exciting detailed proposals being developed which will shortly be the subject of a full planning application. The purpose of this public exhibition is to present the draft proposals for the future shared use of the site, and to explain the complementary way in which both the existing visitor attraction and the PGL proposals could successfully operate.

I hope that you will be able to visit the public exhibition, which will be held at the Royal Gunpowder Mills site on TUESDAY 6TH OCTOBER FROM 2PM UNTIL 8PM. Representatives from both the Trust, PGL Travel and their specialist consultants will be on hand to explain the proposals in detail and to answer any questions.

On behalf of the WARGM Trust and PGL Travel, we look forward to meeting you. 

Spectacular Family Fun & Special Events at the Royal Gunpowder Mills

The Royal Gunpowder Mills is a great place for families to spend days out exploring the secret history of gunpowder, explosives and rocket propellants through our engaging interactive Exhibitions, Science Shows and Children's Activities.

Open Every Sunday 28 March – 20 September 2015
Open Daily during School Holidays
(excludes Christmas break)

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