Heritage centre may house famous clocks

HOPES are being raised that a famous clock collection could be housed at a new heritage centre in a west Suffolk market town.

There were protests in 2006 when the Gershom-Parkington clock collection – worth between �8million and �10m – was dismantled and packed into storage when the Manor House Museum, in Bury St Edmunds, closed.

There are now hopes the collection, largely on display in a temporary exhibition, will be permanently on display at the Guildhall in the town, which is being developed as an exhibition area and public space.

But Alan Baxter, a heritage manager at St Edmundsbury Borough Council, believed there was an assumption that the clock collection would end up at the Guildhall, but the borough council – which looks after the collection – had made no such promise.

He said: “There are a number of aspects of our collections we are more than willing to commit to the Guildhall, but the clocks are particularly difficult in terms of security and environment, so we have not put a definite offer on the table.


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“It might be possible with some of the clocks that are not too demanding or don’t require extra security.”

He said the borough council had already offered some collections for the Guildhall and wanted to work closely with the project.

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Matthew Champion, who is managing the Guildhall project, said he did not expect the clock collection would be coming to the Guildhall in the near future as many of the clocks were now part of an exhibition at Moyse’s Hall Museum, in Bury St Edmunds.

He said: “I know when Manor House Museum closed it did cause a great deal of local upset, but the Guildhall is not really designed to be the Manor House Museum.”

Mr Champion said one of the main galleries in the new centre would probably house items from the Manor House Museum, but added how it was early days and the public would be consulted on what they wanted to see.

Martin Lightfoot, a trustee of the Bury St Edmunds Heritage Trust, said: “If this is up-and-running, the clocks could be on permanent display at the Guildhall. That’s my feeling and I know that’s shared by some of the curators.”

But he added what was important was that the Manor House Museum’s collections were on display in the town, whether at Moyse’s Hall Museum or the Guildhall.

Mr Champion said the Guildhall – owned by the Guildhall Feoffment Trust – was a “treasure in itself”.

“It is the oldest complete civic building anywhere in England,” he said.

“It is a fantastic piece of history which for the past few decades has been largely inaccessible for the people of Bury St Edmunds.”

Mr Lightfoot said there had been an “almost unbelievable” amount of support for a Heritage Open Day event last Thursday on the Guildhall project, which will take three years to develop.

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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