TWO major organisations in Alton have received more than £670,000 from the government’s £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund.

The Watercress Line and Chawton House are among 445 heritage organisations awarded a portion of the fund, with hopes that the grants will deliver a “lifeline for the heritage sector”.

Of the grant, The Watercress Line received £600,000, which comes in addition to a £250,000 grant received from the National Lottery Heritage Fund in September.

The money received will go towards funding staff costs throughout the winter period, with trading revenue expected to be low.

It will also allow for the railway to cope with Covid-19 restrictions, such as installing screens in carriages, alterations to dining trains and additional signage.

The grant will also cover the cost of developing the line’s ‘Steam Illuminations’ event, introduce an up to date ticketing system and a top up sum towards the new children’s playground at Ropley.

Richard Lacey, chairman of Mid Hants Railway – the group that operates the Watercress Line, said: “It clearly shows that there is confidence in our ability to ride out the effects of the pandemic and it will secure the jobs of our paid staff.

“It’s very reassuring; we can now be sure we will be here in 2021 providing services that visitors want and contributing in full measure to the health of the local economy.”

Chawton House also received a grant of £71,200, which will enable them to “continue preserving its literary collection, as well as delivering an engaging events programme for the public”.

Katie Childs, chief executive of Chawton House, said: “When Chawton House had to close the doors to visitors on March 20, we were determined not to mothball but continue to produce good public programming – and create connections and community – when people needed it most.

“However, despite all of that ingenuity and hard work, the winter was looking really difficult.

“This grant will make sure we will survive the next six months, protect our nationally significant heritage, and continue to provide culture, and cake, to people throughout these uncertain times.

“We are so grateful to still be here for culture.”