Bury St Edmunds: Council’s �6m worth of treasures in storage

SIX million pounds worth of paintings, antiques, clothes and clocks are in the hands of just one Suffolk council.

But almost 80% of the treasure trove, which is owned by St Edmundsbury Borough Council, is currently hidden away in storage.

The number of items on show has been halved since the closure of the Manor House Museum in Bury St Edmunds, in 2006 with heritage bosses also claiming that antiques and paintings need to be protected from sunlight.

But independent borough councillor David Nettleton said more art should be put on display or otherwise sold.

Mr Nettleton, whose freedom of information request led to the list of more than 220 artefacts being released, said: “I have a view that we have got a lot of paintings. Given the struggle with Government cuts and the council tax freeze, we need to increase income rather than cut services.

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“We should be displaying them in public. Alternatively, if there are no covenants on them, sell them.”

The most valuable item in the collection is a portrait of Mrs Sydney Milner-Gibson, of the Cullum family, painted by James Tissot, which is valued at �1.8million. The painting, which cannot be sold, will soon go on display at Moyse’s Hall Museum,

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A spokeswoman for St Edmundsbury Borough Council said: “The council is the guardian of a fine collection of fine art and artefacts that are in public ownership. As with most public collections, not all the items are permanently on display. All the items are however available for study at our national museum standard centre at West Stow where the collections are conserved and stored when not on display.”

The spokeswoman, who said the heritage collection was under “constant review”, added: “There are many reasons why a particular piece may not be on display, beyond simple space constraints. They may have recently been taken down to make way for other work. They may need to be ‘rested’, as fluctuations in light levels and humidity have a detrimental effect, they may be difficult to display, for security or state of repair reasons.”

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