AN AMBITIOUS appeal to rehouse Bury's Fusilier Museum is to be launched later today (April 17).

Pre-empting a Ministry of Defence decision whether or not to continue the funding of Wellington Barracks, the museum trustees are to go-it-alone and are calling to arms Bury people to help raise £750,000 to pay for a state-of-the-art heritage learning centre at the Castle Armoury in the town centre.

With conversion works expected to begin at the Castle Street drill hall in January 1999, it is envisaged the new museum, charting the complete history of the Fusiliers from its formation in 1688 to the present day, will be fully operational by the year 2001.

It is not yet clear what will happen to the historic Wellington Barracks building in Bolton Road, which is not protected by Listed Building status, although it could be sold by the MoD possibly for use as housing or business.

Major John Hallam, North West secretary of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers based at the barracks, said: "Everyone connected to the museum, the barracks and the Fusiliers would prefer to keep the museum where it is now. The building is the last physical link between Bury and the regiment and it will be sad to see that severed.

"However, we have to be realistic. Defence cuts may affect the funding of the museum and the trustees have decided to act now to protect the regiment's glorious history. In true Fusilier fashion, we are not going to sit idle and wait for something to happen. We will take the necessary action now to protect the regiment's heritage for all to see." The trustees feel that the possible - but expected - funding reductions have provided them with a golden opportunity to utilise the history of the regiment and incorporate it into a state-of-the-art learning centre which will focus not only on the military history of the Fusiliers but also provide an educational facility, catering for all levels of learning capabilities.

This will range from primary school to GCSE level, which is focusing on the history of two World Wars in the national curriculum.

The centre will also offer the facility of research to higher education students as well as private research. There will be an extensive archive available for consultation, as well as a private library. Microfilm readers will also be provided in order to allow students and researchers to view otherwise inaccessible documents.

Museum curator Mr Tony Sproston said: "Visitors to the heritage centre will be taken through national and international history from the regimental experience. It is intended that this centre will not focus on war, but rather the implications and consequences of war.

"In order to achieve this the visitors will be taken on a chronological journey from 1688 to the modern day. This will be achieved by carefully utilising exhibits and artefacts in themed displays, and by providing hi-tech audio-visual touch-screen presentations for providing a narrative description of the history of each aspect of the museum."

The Fusilier Heritage Learning Centre will also provide a more accessible and comprehensive history of the men and women from Lancashire who served in the Fusiliers over three centuries.

Fund-raising initiatives include street collections and open days while the museum trustees are to apply for National Lottery funding to help with the transfer costs.

Converted for the new archive on 14 July 2000. Some images and formatting may have been lost in the conversion.