IT'S the bustling New Forest town which owes its existence to the arrival of the railway in 1886.

Now the first house to built in New Milton is set to become a museum and heritage centre after standing empty for about ten years.

Civic chefs have approved a proposal to convert the old stationmaster's home into a focal point for residents and visitors to the area.

A restoration scheme involving the 19th century property in Station Road has been devised by New Milton Town Council and Milton Heritage Society.

The project has been dubbed No 1 New Milton because the station was originally surrounded by open countryside. The rest of the town grew up around it.

New Forest Post:

Proposals to convert the house were backed by Alan Watson, chairman of New Milton Residents' Association.

In a letter to the district council he said: "The heritage centre will be a valuable asset to residents and the thousands of visitors who come to New Milton.

"It will assist people of all ages to learn about the birth and growth of New Milton and to have a better understanding of how the town has developed over the years.

"It will be an ideal repository for the mass of historical information which has been collected from a variety of sources and which needs to be preserved for us and for future generations."

Exhibits will be displayed on the ground floor and an upstairs room will be turned into a learning centre used by schools and youth groups.

One part of the attraction will outline the early history of the area through to the arrival of the railway in 1886. Other sections will chronicle the years leading up to the end of the First World War, plus the period from the 1920s to the present day.

The conversion of the building is expected to cost about £60,000.

New Forest Post:

A report to district councillors said: "There is nothing within the town which currently allows public access to historical details about the town and surrounding villages.

"The proposal would make good use of an otherwise empty property.

"While the loss of a dwelling is regrettable, it would provide an alternative use which would benefit the wider population of the town as well as provide a focal point for visitors to the area."

A town council spokesman added: "The building of a station about a mile north east of Milton village created the new town of New Milton.

"When it was built in 1886 it was just a railway station in the middle of the countryside."