Call to create heritage centre in Dewsbury to attract tourists to town

A leading Dewsbury councillor has launched a campaign for a new heritage centre to attract visitors to the town.

Thursday, 18th November 2021, 7:00 am
Dewsbury Museum, in Crow Nest Park, closed in 2016

Coun Cathy Scott, Dewsbury East councillor and deputy leader of Kirklees Council, fears that much of Dewsbury’s history and its artefacts are being lost because the town no longer has a museum.

And she believes Dewsbury has neglected to maximise the tourism appeal of its rich and varied history - from the Brontes to Dewsbury-born former Speaker of the House of Commons Baroness Betty Boothroyd.

Since Dewsbury Museum in Crow Nest Park closed in 2016, many of the town’s artefacts are locked away in Batley’s Bagshaw Museum, meaning they are never seen by the public.

Coun Cathy Scott

Coun Scott said that the new heritage centre, which she wants to be in a prominent location, could be staffed by volunteers.

Also, local history groups would be able to hold meetings there and store exhibits and equipment.

Coun Scott hopes Kirklees Council will agree to support the venue by putting on regular exhibitions.

She said: “Now we don’t have a museum, much of the town’s history is being thrown away because people don’t know where to donate precious artefacts.

“Old businesses and shops are closing down, and history from churches, pubs and mills are going into skips as they are demolished or refurbished.

“If we had a heritage centre, Kirklees Cultural Services could bring some of the town’s history from Bagshaw for local people to see here in Dewsbury.”

Coun Scott’s idea is being backed by local history groups and the Dewsbury Chamber of Trade, who say a heritage centre would bring visitors to the town centre.

She has been approached by many people since the museum closed asking where they can donate items of historical interest.

At present the only place is Bagshaw Museum but the items are not on display, and may never see the light of day again.

Coun Scott added: “Too much of our history is being lost with pubs, mills, churches and schools closing down.

“What is happening to their interiors once they have been bought?

“Sadly, all too often they end up in a skip.

“This is what happened with the interior of the Market House, which was one of Dewsbury’s most historic pubs.”

Coun Scott believes too few people in Dewsbury appreciate the large amount of history that their home town can boast.

“It is one of the oldest towns in the whole of West Yorkshire, with a history going back far more than a thousand years,” she said.

“And don’t forget the crucial role Dewsbury played in the textile trade, exporting blankets and cloth all over the world.”

Dewsbury Museum, based in the grade II-listed park mansion, was shut down in December 2016 due to “austerity cuts” after 120 years.

Moves to transfer the building into community ownership collapsed in 2020.