Hope for closure-threatened museum

CAMPAIGNERS fighting to secure the future of a Suffolk museum have insisted taxpayers would not be forced to meet a £200,000 funding shortfall.Initial talks between a steering group set up to save the Manor House Museum, in Bury St Edmunds, and its owners, St Edmundsbury Borough Council, were last night described as positive by both sides.

CAMPAIGNERS fighting to secure the future of a Suffolk museum have insisted taxpayers would not be forced to meet a £200,000 funding shortfall.

Initial talks between a steering group set up to save the Manor House Museum, in Bury St Edmunds, and its owners, St Edmundsbury Borough Council, were last night described as positive by both sides.

But it has been revealed that the action group's business plan - setting out ways to safeguard the museum by creating a trust - remains £200,000 short and will not be endorsed by a council left fearing tax rises for local residents.

And, although the museum is set to close at the end of this month, Martin Lightfoot, chairman of the steering group, said he was confident it would reopen within six months.


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“It is a beautiful building with a fine collection of pictures, clocks and costumes and we want everybody to enjoy them,” Mr Lightfoot said.

“I am confident it will remain open but it will be a tough balancing act trying to bring some of the costs down. I think we need to make the building more marketable and we have other ideas - including offering it to the Theatre Royal for rehearsals.

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“We will also be going to various funding organisations including Suffolk County Council and the Heritage Lottery Fund. All along, we have said that we don't want to place any burden on the council taxpayer and we are now working towards that end.”

The council agreed to close the museum and move some of its collection to Moyse's Hall Museum to save cash while improving access to the collections.

The move would also see substantial enhancements made to West Stow Country Park and Anglo-Saxon Museum, including a new storage and study facility.

A spokesman for the council confirmed the steering group's current business plan had a funding gap and urged campaigners to contact charitable lending institutions and third-party funders.

Council leader John Griffiths said: “We had a very constructive meeting and welcome the enthusiasm shown by the steering group. Their plan is ambitious but if it is built on solid and viable grounds, then they should be confident of attracting funding for it from a number of sources.

“We have made positive suggestions to assist in this regard and look forward to them demonstrating that they can take things forward in a way that is beneficial both to our heritage services and to our council taxpayers.”

Earlier this month, the Marquess of Bristol, Frederick Hervey, agreed to become a patron of the working group to save the museum, which was built by his family in 1738.

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