IT’S been a decade in the making, but for the first time the people of Tavistock have been given a glimpse of what has gone on behind the closed doors of the town’s historic Guildhall as work to ensure the future of the listed building.

Progress on the £1.8 Guildhall project, a scheme first conceived ten years ago, was set back by 18 months, thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, which struck the UK last March.

Were it not for coronavirus, residents would have been walking around the ’new’ improved Guildhall, which is being steadily converted into a heritage centre celebrating the area’s mining history, well before now.

Instead, the majority of the town are going to have to wait until nearer the end of the year to see the end results of a project, which will confirm Tavistock’s importance as a gateway to the Cornwall and West Devon Mining World Heritage Site

Around 40 people, as long as they pre-booked, were permitted a tour of the project as part of the town’s Heritage Open Days extravaganza, due to end this Sunday (sept 19.)

But the joint leaders of the scheme, Tavistock Heritage Trust and Tavistock Town Council, hope it will be finally open to everyone by the end of this year.

The project, which includes interactive audio-visual equipment explaining the mining history of the area, thanks to a £30,000 grant by supporters West Devon Borough Council, has been hailed as an attraction for visitors wanting to stay in this country instead of travelling abroad for their holidays. It has also been suggested that it will increase footfall in Tavistock, with tourists’ money helping the town and surrounding area recover from the financial impact of the pandemic. But Tavistock Heritage Trust chairwoman Geri Parlby believes that the centre will also be of massive benefit to the people who lives in the market town.

She said: ’Some people in Tavistock probably don’t realise the heritage the town has got and that is why this (the centre) is so important and also why it is free to get in. It’s for everybody. People will come to understand, hopefully, why it is what it is like now. We’re immensely proud of it and now we just want it to open so we can share it with people. It’s not a museum, because that’s just across the way. It is an interpretation centre and something we want to do is to make this whole area the heritage quarter of Tavistock.’

Newly-appointed manager Richard Rundell said volunteers flocked to offer their services as plans to get the centre off the ground moved forward. He said: ’In many ways, this centre is a testament to the people of Tavistock. As of yesterday, we had 120 volunteers, which is fantastic.’