Museum closes after 120-years in town's park

The doomed Dewsbury Museum will open for a final time on Sunday, marking the end of its 120 year history.

Thursday, 3rd November 2016, 3:44 pm
Updated Wednesday, 16th November 2016, 4:39 pm
Dewsbury Museum.

Kirklees Council revealed its closure date this week, after announcing it would be axed under cost-cutting plans to save £531,000 from the authority’s museums and galleries budget.

Red House Museum in Gomersal will follow in its footsteps with a closure date set for Wednesday, December 21.

The council said a review of all museums staff would also take place next year but it would not confirm how many jobs could be under threat.

Coun Graham Turner, cabinet member for resources, said: “None of these decisions were taken lightly but unfortunately we live in a time of austerity and we have to live with the budget we have. People may miss out and we do regret that. I believe in public services and take no joy in this.”

The museum collections will move into storage, and the council said it would maintain the current buildings until a future use is found. Adele Poppleton, head of active and creative communities said: “We are now looking at how to display the collections in the future either at the remaining museum sites or at community venues.”

She added: “We have a responsibility as the council to care for those collections on behalf of the people of Kirklees. If we loan them, it is very important that the group of individual is able to care for them.”

The council will launch an expression of interest process for anyone who wants to take on the buildings and will be exploring community asset transfers as well as disposal.

The grade II-listed Dewsbury Museum, in Crow Nest Park, dates back to 1896 and is the oldest museum in the district.

Jenifer Devlin, chair of the Friends of Crow Nest Park, said the group was looking at taking over the building to use as a community venue, catering and wedding facility.

She said: “We feel very disappointed that Kirklees Council has not listened to our arguments for keeping the museum open. We told them that this area is one of the most deprived in Kirklees. The museum is well used by local people and schools. It’s going to be a loss.

“It’s a great shame that the museum has been removed when it could be supporting the regeneration of Dewsbury through tourism. But we are looking to the future now and if we can make the building into a community space, it could be a significant step forward to revitalise Dewsbury.”

Grade II*-listed Red House featured in Charlotte Bronte’s novel Shirley and today is set out as an 1830s cloth merchant’s home. The Friends of Red House chairperson Jacqueline Ryder said: “Red House Museum is one of those things that has been in our community for so many years and it is devastating that it is closing. It is even more disappointing that this is happening as we are celebrating the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charlotte Bronte.”

Oakwell Hall in Birstall, which is closed for refurbishment until next Spring, and Bagshaw Museum in Batley will remain open long-term.

Tolson Museum and Huddersfield Art Gallery will remain open in the short-term but will eventually be a replaced with a new Huddersfield Museum and Art Gallery.