Sadness as museum closes doors

HUNDREDS of angry protestors joined forces in west Suffolk yesterday as a much-loved museum closed its doors to the public.The Manor House Museum, in Bury St Edmunds, has been shut following a Heritage Services Review carried out by St Edmundsbury Borough Council.

HUNDREDS of angry protestors joined forces in west Suffolk yesterday as a much-loved museum closed its doors to the public.

The Manor House Museum, in Bury St Edmunds, has been shut following a Heritage Services Review carried out by St Edmundsbury Borough Council.

But despite plans being in place to re-open the “unique” building under the management of a board of trustees, yesterday's message from campaigners was clear - it was a sad day for Bury.

Resident Judy Chisman said the museum, which is home to numerous collections including clocks, dresses and paintings, said the town was losing one of its best assets. “I am shocked that it has come to this, and I feel very sad,” she said.

“It is such a waste, although the support from people in the town has been fantastic and I do feel optimistic that the museum will reopen.”

A steering group is currently in discussions with the borough council over the possibility of setting up a Bury St Edmunds Heritage Trust to run the museum, with the help of volunteers.

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Speaking at the museum yesterday, group member Simon Pott urged protestors to remain positive, and said he was hopeful the museum had a bright future.

“The turnout today is a reflection of the love for this building, and we want to see more and more people coming in through its front doors to enjoy the astonishing collections,” he said.

“It is important that we drive this forward, and with the support of the town it is a complete given that the museum will reopen.”

The borough council is expected to discuss the future of the Manor House at a meeting in May.

Mike Ames, chairman of Bury Town Council, said of the closure: “The Princess has gone to sleep. The heritage of the town needs respecting but I have hope the museum will reopen.”

Items from the Manor House will now be transferred to the town's Moyse's Hall Museum, which in turn will move some of its own collections, such as pre-medieval archaeology exhibits, to the West Stow Anglo Saxon Village. Other items will be put into storage and rotated to refresh the permanent displays.

Many present at the museum yesterday expressed their regret over its closure in a visitors' book. One guest wrote “we must try to preserve this wonderful building and exhibits for all to enjoy”, while another said “keep the museum open, we have loved our visits here and will miss this lovely place”.

Cllr Nigel Aitkens, cabinet member leading the review, said negotiations were continuing with the Manor House steering group.

“Today marks the beginning of an exciting new era for heritage provision in St Edmundsbury,” he said. “The reshaped service will make our collections much more accessible to our residents and visitors. It will also prove financially sustainable, saving at least £200,000 each year and therefore helping us to meet our commitment of keeping future council tax rises as low as possible.

“The award-winning Moyse's Hall will benefit from housing new collections of specific local interest, while important investments will be made at West Stow to improve facilities for the 130,000 people who visit each year. The new arrangements will make the collections more accessible to researchers and students while ensuring the pieces are cared for well for future generations to enjoy.”

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