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Surrey Archaeological Society Given Notice to Quit Guildford Museum

Published on: 14 Jul, 2015
Updated on: 16 Jul, 2015

Guildford Museum 02The Surrey Archaeological Society (SAS) has unexpectedly been given notice to quit premises it has used for over 100 years. It has to vacate by January 29, 2016.

The rooms at Castle Arch, at the junction of Quarry Street and Castle Hill in Guildford have been rented, for a peppercorn rent, from Guildford Borough Council.

The news comes in the wake of two failed bids, the last reported by The Guildford Dragon NEWS in April this year, to obtain Heritage Lottery Funding for a project to develop the museum.

The bids included plans to increase footfall within the museum significantly by closely linking, with a new entrance, the museum, the castle and the Castle Grounds.

As it is, attendance numbers at the museum are understood to have been falling over recent years and it is known that views vary as to whether the museum should be for the town of Guildford or a county museum for Surrey.

The house at Castle Arch.

The house at Castle Arch. Some rooms are used by the Surrey Archaeological Society and some form part of the museum – Photo SAS.

Emma Corke, a spokesperson for the SAS, said: “We have been knocked for six by it all. One wonders if the council are really quite aware of the effect this will have and we hope we can explain this to them and negotiate.

“We will have to remove all our property from the museum including the numerous exhibits currently on show. This will have a major impact on what they can put on show. How the museum will adapt with a much more limited range of items available for display I just don’t know.”

Many of the exhibits currently on show at the museum, including some of the most important and historically significant, such as Saxon artefacts from Guildown, are the property of the SAS.

Cllr Geoff Davis (Con, Holy Trinity) lead councillor for economic development whose portfolio includes the museum, is reported to have met with museum managers.

The structure of the house at Castle Arch, a high-maintenance building, incorporates some of the ruined walls of the ancient royal palace that was located by Guildford castle when Henry III was on the throne, in the 13th century.

News of the decision has triggered speculation over the council’s plans for the museum and museum staff are now known to be concerned about their uncertain future. They were briefed about developments last Monday (July 6).

Guildford Museum, the rooms used by the Surrey Archeaological Society are on the right hand side of the building as viewed in this photo.

Guildford Museum, the rooms used by the Surrey Archeaological Society are on the right hand side of the building as viewed in this photo. No 48 Quarry Street is just off the photo to the left.

Ms Corke added: “The society has been here for over 100 years so it is very sad after all that time. We will now have to find a temporary home or put our possessions in store including, perhaps, our library.”

“It is true that we have been paying only a peppercorn rent but we would have been perfectly willing to pay more. The council has offered us, for sale, 48 Quarry Street, at a guide price of £1 million but it is not at all large enough for our needs.”  (Number 48 currently forms part of the museum).

“We are making plans to move out but to complete a move by the end of January is tricky. Even packing up our possessions in the right way will take a long time.”

The society has around 850 members and was founded in 1854 for, as its website states, “the investigation of subjects connected with the history and antiquities of the County of Surrey”. It conducts excavations or “digs”, the most recent major excavation being that of the Roman Villa at Ashtead, and organises an ongoing programme of talks and lectures.

Cllr Geoff Davis has been invited to comment but no response has been received.

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Responses to Surrey Archaeological Society Given Notice to Quit Guildford Museum

  1. Bernard Parke Reply

    July 14, 2015 at 9:00 am

    There are several such institution within the borough which are maintained for their intrinsic value not just because they make a financial return.

    Is this a straw in the wind?

    Which will be next?

  2. Jim Allen Reply

    July 14, 2015 at 9:10 am

    Not sure why this is being done but any contempt for local history is a sure sign things are not right. We should have a public debate prior to such decisions being made.

    George Orwell said: “The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.”

  3. Anna-Marie Davis Reply

    July 14, 2015 at 4:50 pm

    I must say I’m very impressed at this new trend toward transparency and openness that we are seeing from Millmead.

    So kind of Geoff Davis to take the time to explain the rationale behind this decision and engage the public fully.

  4. Justin Mills Reply

    July 14, 2015 at 7:48 pm

    Why oh why do such decisions get made? No doubt a dingy corner of the local library will be set aside to share our beautiful towns history.

    This will probably be attributed to cost savings, but who can put a value on history and education.

  5. Mary Bedforth Reply

    July 15, 2015 at 7:23 pm

    No Guildford Philharmonic Orchestra, no decent art gallery in which to display the Borough Art Collection, currently in storage, and now an uncertain future for our museum and the Surrey Archaeological Society.

    Those in control appear to know, as Oscar Wilde had it: “the price of everything and the value of nothing”.

  6. Susan Parker Reply

    July 16, 2015 at 8:07 am

    Changes to the museum and termination of the Surrey Archaeological Society tenancy have not been discussed in any public council meeting, that I am aware of, since May, when I (and Cllr Geoff Davis) became councillors.

    Who made the decision here and why was there no consultation?

    Susan Parker is a borough councillor for Send and the leader of the Guildford Greenbelt Group (GGG).

  7. Adrian Atkinson Reply

    July 16, 2015 at 3:40 pm

    Why would councillors be consulted on the heritage of Guildford?

    Under the current governance model all the power rests with the Executive. Perhaps next they will be handing over our countryside?

  8. Frank Phillipson Reply

    July 21, 2015 at 2:17 pm

    A great way for GBC to celebrate “The Festival of Archaeology” as shown in it’s current “Guildford’s Heritage, Exhibition and Events Programme”, which states that Surrey Archaeological Society started the museum collection in 1854.

  9. Frank Phillipson Reply

    July 21, 2015 at 2:31 pm

    The following is an extract from Guildford Borough Council’s, Heritage Services, Collections Development Policy Dec 2013 due for review 2018:

    “The Heritage Service also interprets and cares for collections on long-term loan from the Surrey Archaeological Society, whose headquarters are housed in the museum buildings. These collections include significant material of value for research
    and interpretation. This loan is regulated by a formal agreement”.

  10. Neville Bryan Reply

    July 21, 2015 at 5:08 pm

    Perhaps the £3.5m being spent on Millmead includes a new Surrey Archaeological Society home we were not previously aware of? Or perhaps it just puts this into context?

    I am looking forward to seeing a solution and a good accessible new home for all the Guildford heritage groups.

    • Anna-Marie Davis Reply

      July 23, 2015 at 4:46 pm

      The proposed new Crossrail stations could be provided at a cost of £5m each much better value than the £3.5m refurbishment of the council offices.

      If a railway station can be built for £5 million it is hard to see where £3.5 million is going at Millmead.

      • Jim Allen Reply

        July 24, 2015 at 1:31 pm

        Network rail have not included any new stations for Guildford Borough in their draft 30 year plan released earlier this year in February.

        The “Wessex rail draft delivery plan” only refers to the main line station having additional platforms nothing more.

  11. Michael P Pugh Reply

    August 23, 2015 at 11:56 am

    Firstly, I must admit that, though having lived in Guildford for 40+ years, I have been unaware of the existence of Guildford Dragon News. How much I have missed? Please put me on the mailing list, if you have one.

    Now for my comment on the SAS [Surrey Archaeological Society] being given notice to quit:

    Little by little the historical character of Guildford is being destroyed by redevelopment of areas of historical interest and significance. The planning system appears to have little control as to what should be kept for posterity.

    This latest news suggests that the GBC [Guildford Borough Council] itself is hell bent on redevelopment of the museum site and the property occupied by the SAS. Are these not within a conservation area? If so, will that stand for nothing? The ancient Castle Arch itself forms part of the structure in question.

    Could not the facades be retained, and the redevelopment be limited to the land behind the museum?

    Clearly there is a case for relocating the museum, but moving the SAS to 48 Quarry Street, perhaps on a lease, would seem to have the merit of keeping the SAS in the locality, while inhibiting further redevelopment in the area.

    Welcome to The Guildford Dragon NEWS. We have been in existence for three years and we are attracting new readers all the time. We do not have a mailing list but all our headlines are Tweeted, if you use Twitter. They are also put on Facebook. Our stories are published on a rolling news basis so it is worth checking regularly, perhaps daily, for the latest Guildford news. Please do spread the word. Ed.

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