The world’s largest collection of manuscripts, books, maps and photographs related to Cornwall has a new home thanks to a multi-million pound lottery grant.

After more than ten years in the planning, the final element of funding has been found to turn the dream for a new archive centre for Cornwall into reality.

John Whittingdale, the Secretary of State for culture, media and sport, welcomed a £11.7 million Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) award to Cornwall Council to create Kresen Kernow, a new archive centre on the site of the former Redruth Brewery. With an ever growing interest in Cornish heritage, the new building, complete with cutting edge digital facilities, will help people across the globe learn more about Cornwall and its rich culture and history.

Mr Whittingdale said: “I am delighted that this investment will help safeguard the historic brewery buildings at the heart of the Cornish Mining World Heritage Site. The new archive centre will be home to the world’s largest collection of manuscripts, books and maps related to Cornwall and will inspire people of all ages by showcasing their rich and distinct history for future generations.”

Welcoming news of the funding Julian German, Cornwall Council’s cabinet member for economy and culture, said: “This grant from HLF will enable us to make our vision for Kresen Kernow possible. We have been working with partners in Redruth for two years to clear the brewery site, which has been derelict for nearly a decade. With this announcement we can build on this effort and create a thriving and vibrant archive centre, which will be at the heart of a wider heritage-led regeneration scheme, creating over 300 jobs and £40m of investment in Redruth.”

Nerys Watts, Head of HLF South West, said: “This inspiring project is now ready to transform Redruth’s old Brewery into a centre dedicated to Cornish heritage. At its heart, it’s a celebration of Cornwall’s strong tradition of storytelling but it will also provide a new use for an existing historic building and create much-needed jobs. We’re hugely supportive of these plans which we believe to be exemplary in providing investment at both a local and wider regional level.”

At the heart of the project will be the extensively refurbished historic brewhouse with a new environmentally sustainable extension for archive storage and care. The design, developed by architects Purcell, takes advantage of the unique heritage features of the brewery buildings and carefully integrates contemporary archive and learning facilities. Work will begin on construction next year with the centre due to open in 2018.

During the 18 month development stage, the project team spoke to thousands of people about the scheme and their ideas are central to the project. The new exhibition and public spaces will transform how the internationally significant collections are shared with visitors of all ages and a learning studio will provide a dedicated area for schools and community groups eager to find out more about Cornwall’s archaeology, history, literature and culture.

The HLF grant will also fund a wide programme of events and activities at the centre, around Cornwall and online, including workshops, training and the Out of the Ordinary exhibition, featuring loans of significant Cornish documents from national collections. Digital engagement with Cornwall’s archives will be transformed, and a dynamic and enhanced range of volunteering opportunities will be on offer.

Due to Cornwall’s connections all over the world and the growing interest in ancestral tourism, the centre is expected to attract visitors from as far afield as Australia and South Africa. However, it will retain the brewery’s heritage at its core, with artefacts, documents and memories from the brewery’s heyday also preserved in the exhibition spaces.

Cllr Judy Davidson, of Redruth Town Council, said: “The site of the former brewery here in Redruth is steeped with history. Being confirmed as the site for the new Kresen Kernow ensures that this history will not only be recorded, but continued. We are delighted to be hosting this project for the whole of Cornwall, and the funding from the HLF ensures that not only will we have a first class facility in the town, but this will be a catalyst that unlocks the site for the future investment in the town.”

This view was echoed by Horace Yao, of Sino Ltd, the private sector partner leading on the development of the wider site adjacent to the new building. “We are delighted to hear this news,” he said. “We will be working with the local community to make sure we can deliver our plans to build new homes, workspace and micro-brewery and complete the transformation of this site and turn around the fortunes of this historic town.”