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UK museum gets 200k pounds grant to tell stories of last Sikh Maharaja

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UK museum gets 200k pounds grant to tell stories of last Sikh Maharaja

London, Jan 28

A museum founded by the son of the last Sikh emperor of Punjab in England has received a grant of nearly 200k pounds, which will be used to tell the family’s story through its displays, events, and activities.

Prince Frederick Duleep Singh, the son of Maharaja Duleep Singh, gifted the Ancient House Museum to the people of Thetford town in the south of Norfolk, in 1924.

The National Lottery Heritage Fund, which supports a wide range of heritage projects across the UK, awarded 198,059 pounds to the museum, which enters its centenary year in 2024.

“Through the fore-sighted generosity of Prince Frederick Duleep Singh, for the past 100 years, Ancient House Museum has served the people of Thetford and beyond, preserving the history of the town and surrounding area,” said Councillor Margaret Dewsbury, Cabinet Member for Communities, Norfolk County Council.

“This award will enable the museum to better serve our diverse communities and promote a deeper appreciation of an important aspect of the town’s heritage,” she added.

The displays will present fascinating and important stories of the wider Duleep Singh family, including Prince Frederick and his remarkable sisters — Princesses Sophia and Catherine Duleep Singh, both pioneers of women’s political and private autonomy.

In addition, they will include a ‘Treasury’ style display of treasures of Anglo-Punjab history, a model of Elveden Hall, personal items such as the Maharajah’s walking stick, given to him by the future King Edward VII when he was Prince of Wales, which was donated to the museum in 2023.

Councillor Robert Kybird, Chairman of the Breckland Area Museums Committee, said that the award will further enhance Thetford as a destination of choice for visiting Sikhs.

The youngest son of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, Duleep Singh became the ruler of Punjab at the age of five but was removed from the throne after the Britain annexation of the territory in 1849.

He arrived in England at the age of 15 and lived at Elveden Hall tucked away in the Suffolk countryside.

The story of Ancient House as a museum begins when Prince Frederick Duleep Singh purchased the rare timbered Tudor house and gifted it to the people of Thetford as a ‘Public Museum’ charity with the Council as Trustee.

Ancient House opened as a museum on December 11, 1924, and was last redisplayed in 2004-2006.

Since then, interest in the Duleep Singhs has grown significantly with new films, articles, TV and radio programmes, books, and annual Punjab festivals in Thetford attended by thousands of people, Norfolk City Council said.

Other funding for the two-year project has come from the Thetford Town Council community grant, the Friends of Thetford Museum, Norfolk County Council, and Arts Council England as part of the Norfolk Museum Service’s National Portfolio Organisation grant.

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