TELEVISION legend Sir Tony Robinson brought history to life as The Beacon Museum’s guest of honour.
Sir Tony met fans, signed autographs and delivered two fascinating talks during his Saturday afternoon visit to the Whitehaven harbourside attraction.
The star of classic sitcom Blackadder and presenter of the popular Time Team archaeological series said he was “delighted” to be invited by The Beacon to formally open its new £1.2 million conference facility, The Beacon Portal, and to cut the ribbon at its new feature exhibition, Gladiators: A Cemetery of Secrets.
Sir Tony said: “I’m besotted with The Beacon. It’s a wonderful place and everyone involved in this fabulous facility deserves enormous credit.
“The Portal is splendid and is a tremendous addition to The Beacon. The future bodes very well and reflects positively on Whitehaven as a whole.”
During his two sold-out talks, Sir Tony shared his passion for history and archaeology, explaining how the Romans occupied the North of England.
“This is why I’m such a big fan of The Beacon as it’s important to share how impactful this remarkable period was in Northern England. The message that is told so well by the excellent Gladiators exhibition is incredibly important, and I know everyone will enjoy visiting it.”
Sir Tony was joined by Copeland Mayor Mike Starkie for the unveiling of a plaque at the Portal and the ribbon-cutting to launch Gladiators. Also launching Gladiators and presenting to the audience was David Jennings, Chief Executive of the exhibit’s creators Jorvik, which worked with The Beacon to bring the attraction to Whitehaven.
Mr Starkie said: “It was a pleasure to welcome Sir Tony to The Beacon and show to him, and all our visitors today, why The Beacon and its new Portal are among the jewels in Copeland’s crown.
“None of this would have been possible without the support of our funders and the dedication of The Beacon and Copeland Council staff, to whom I extend my thanks today.”
Elizabeth Kwasnik, Director of The Beacon, said: " All the team here at The Beacon Museum have got behind this event and we were delighted to have had Sir Tony launch The Beacon Portal.
"The venue is a huge part of our future, but we couldn’t do a launch event without giving heritage and history its place also. Being able to launch Gladiators: A Cemetery of Secrets on the same day was therefore a happy coincidence for both us and for Sir Tony."
Julie Betteridge, Copeland Council’s Director of Customer and Community Services, said: “The Beacon expansion project provided us with this magnificent two-storey Portal building to expand our commercial opportunities and creative delivery of the museum’s activity to ensure our sustainable future.”
The three-year Portal project was funded by Copeland Community Fund and the Coastal Communities Fund. The expansion project also included a new Light and Dark Gallery in the museum, which benefited from an Arts Council England grant.
David Moore, Chair of the Copeland Community Fund Board, said: "We're delighted to be co-funding this transformational project. The Portal will enhance the valuable contribution to the community that The Beacon already makes."
Gladiators features six sets of human remains alongside other Roman artefacts and runs until December 3.
The remains of the men date from the early second century to the late third century AD and were unearthed in York. The exhibition explores the skeletal remains of the men, all of whom were decapitated and uncovers the story of where they came from, how they died and why.
For more information telephone 01946 592302 or visit www.thebeacon-whitehaven.co.uk.