Town prepares to display its treasures

By Sarah ChambersTREASURES continue to be unearthed as a town prepares to open its first museum.The Saxmundham Museum, near the railway bridge on the town's high street, captures a history which is rich in commerce, craftsmanship and achievement.

By Sarah Chambers

TREASURES continue to be unearthed as a town prepares to open its first museum.

The Saxmundham Museum, near the railway bridge on the town's high street, captures a history which is rich in commerce, craftsmanship and achievement.

It is due to open to the public for the first time on April 16 and its exhibits are set to include a wooden town mace, thought to date from the mid-19th Century.


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It was only discovered this week among a haul of historic town treasures that lay hidden in the Market Hall.

Workmen found them while they were busy on renovations. It bears two dates - 1846 and 1687 - and caused a ripple of excitement among museum trustees, who are currently working furiously to mount their exhibits in time for the opening.

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The museum will be open on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, from 10am to 4pm. It will be manned by volunteers and entry will be free of charge.

The museum building is split into various sections and includes a covered walkway containing a nostalgic collection of old high street shop fronts, complete with original artefacts.

Pat Sears, former dressmaker to romantic novelist Barbara Cartland, has organised costume displays, including some from the dame's distinctively bright wardrobe.

The museum also includes a room set aside as a nostalgic tribute to the Saxmundham Playhouse, the cinema famed for its "cuddle seats" for courting couples.

Old town film footage is set to be screened there, while members of Leiston film club have been helping with the restoration of a historic film projector from the old playhouse.

However, some features planned for the museum, such as cinema seats, will not be ready in time for the opening.

But the trustees are hoping for some good news on the eve of the opening from the Lottery about a possible £25,000 grant award to help towards further works.

Chairman of trustees, Richard Crisp, said they were "over the moon" about the progress they had made and the response from the town. "We have been planning to have this for 20 years and now it's suddenly come into fruition," he added.

Fellow trustee, Gary Eaves, said: "The whole thing is not just a museum with cabinets - you live through each bit."

Another feature planned for the future is a tape of a 1957 edition of the popular Wilfred Pickles radio quiz show, Have a Go, when it came to Saxmundham. They are hoping to be able to play the tape by adapting an old radio and are looking for sponsors.

Residents and visitors will also be able to see for the first time a series of treasures which have lain forgotten or hidden for decades in town sheds, cupboards and cabinets, waiting for a suitable home.

Among the most prized items is a solid silver ink stand presented by the townspeople to town squire William Long in the mid-1800s after he stepped with financial support to ensure the Market Hall was built.

sarah.chambers@eadt.co.uk

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