PROTESTORS gathered outside a Suffolk museum yesterday as one of the finest collections of antique clocks in the country was dismantled and packed into storage.

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PROTESTORS gathered outside a Suffolk museum yesterday as one of the finest collections of antique clocks in the country was dismantled and packed into storage.

The Gershom-Parkington clock collection was taken from the Manor House Museum in Bury St Edmunds despite banners being paraded outside in the hope of halting the move.

But St Edmundsbury Borough Council continued to pack items in the wake of a decision last December to close and sell the museum and move its collections to alternative locations.

Simon Pott, protester and chairman of the Bury St Edmunds Society, said there were fears for the safety of the antique clocks as they were being transported and put into storage.

“We think it is a tragedy - these are delicate time pieces - they haven't been running since the end of March and they can't just be wound up they will have to be taken to bits.

“There is a lot of support to keep the collection - it is worth between £8 and £10 million - it is a world famous collection.”

Viscount Alan Midleton, renowned horological expert and former curator of the collection, said he understood how the protesters felt, as he was saddened the clocks were being taken from the museum.

“I was curator here for 20 years until I left in about 2000 - after 20 years of looking after this collection and displaying the clocks I'm obviously quite sad to see them being packed away.

“The collection was given to Bury as a memorial for a 21-year-old who was killed in World War Two - it is odd it is being taken down so soon after Remembrance Sunday.”

“It's my job to make sure everything that belongs with each clock is packed with it.

“I do hope to see it all displayed together again, if it isn't I will be very disappointed - it is the best collection outside the national collections.”

Some of the Gershom-Parkington collection is set to be on display at Moyse's Hall along with various other items from Manor House museum, which is ready to be sold early next year.

Cllr Paul Farmer, portfolio holder for arts and culture, said every step had been taken to ensure the clocks were packed and moved safely with specialists in fine art removals transporting the collection.

“It's very sad people feel they need to protest - the building is important to some people and some are concerned about the clocks.

“Everything is being done to ensure the collection is being kept safe.”

Fact file

n Manor House was built between 1736 and 1738 for Elizabeth, second wife of John Hervey, 1st Earl of Bristol, whose main residence was at Ickworth, some three miles away.

n A review into St Edmundsbury's heritage services showed that only 11,341 people visited the museum in 2004/2005.

n It is expected that closing the Manor House museum will save council tax payers an estimated £212,000 in 2007/2008.

n The Gershom-Parkington clock collection was given to the town by Frederic Gershom-Parkington as a memorial for his 21-year-old son, John, who died in action in 1941.

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