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Guildford Museum: Supporters Welcome Council Report

Published on: 15 Apr, 2016
Updated on: 18 Apr, 2016

Museum signThe future of Guildford Museum seems more secure this week if recommendations in a report, to be debated at the next Guildford Borough Council (GBC) Executive meeting on Tuesday (Apr 19), are accepted.

After months of consideration by GBC’s Museum Working Group and a failure to identify any viable alternative site, the central recommendation is that the existing museum premises in Quarry Street should be extended and refurbished to allow: “… the vision of… an updated and exciting museum offering at that site [Quarry Street] be approved.”

Guildford Museum

Guildford Museum in Quarry Street.

According to the report, written by James Whiteman, GBC’s director of environment: “…an architect has produced some exciting draft plans that suggest an attractive, high quality new build extension to the current site.

“This would allow for expansive, modern display space along with a café, modern and appropriate access, toilets and an entrance facing into the Castle Grounds.”

The Castle Grounds in Spring this year (2014).

There is no evidence of the museums existence in the Castle Grounds visited by 400,000 people each year.

The Castle Grounds, renowned for it floral displays, attracts 400,000 visitors each year but there is no evidence of the museum’s existence with the grounds.

The direct entrance from the grounds together with the provision of toilet and cafe facilities is expected to significantly improve visitor numbers to the museum, which have generally declined in recent years.

Castle Scaffolding

A new entrance to the museum directly from the Castle Grounds could be created here through, what was, the King’s Chamber, when the castle was a Plantagenet palace. The photo was taken in 2012 when repair work was being conducted.

As a next step, the report recommends that £240,000 be allocated to allow a feasibility and costing report to be carried out.

The overall cost of the entire project some have estimated to be between £4 and £5 million.

The report suggests that the council should invest £2.3 million into the new extension project with the shortfall to be raised through fundraising. Authority is being sought by Mr Whiteman to set up: “…a fundraising strategy and related fundraising committee with a view to identifying and securing external grants and funding for improvements to the museum.”

The report’s summary concludes: “It is clear that to achieve the desired improvements to the museum, there will need to be a great deal of planning to ensure that we get this right. Incorporating the views of the public and partners will be vitally important…

“There is potential to deliver a really exciting and modern museum for Guildford.

“Discussions with the SAS [Surrey Archaeological Society] are ongoing.”

Museum supporters regard the archaeological society, which has been in situ for over 100 years, to be an essential co-located part of the museum. The society owns 55 percent of the museum’s exhibits.

It was the service of an eviction order on the society last summer that triggered outrage among some of its members and supporters of the museum alike.

Emma Corke, speaking on behalf of the SAS, said: “We are very enthusiastic about the council’s new plans and want to be a part of it for the future of the museum. We are in detailed negotiations about what way we will be included and hope that we remain an integral part of the museum.”

Ms Corke confirmed that a temporary extension of their Quarry Street lease until July this year has been granted while the negotiations continue.

Gavin Morgan, who, concerned about the museum’s future, set up the Guildford Heritage Forum last summer, said: “This report is good news after a very long wait.

“Last summer many of us feared that the museum would be severely downgraded. We have come a long way. The museum will be staying in its historic home in Quarry Street.

“The plan to link the museum  to the Castle Grounds means we can extend the visitor experience.

“We appreciate the support the council is providing to the museum. The creation of a development group shows they have listened to our calls to allow the public to get involved.

“There are still important issues to resolve and we have a long road ahead but we can now get started and work together to create a fitting museum that celebrates the wonderful heritage we have in this town.”

The future of the Victorian Schoolroom in Castle Street, as an educational facility for local schools, should, the report recommends, also be reviewed by the Museum Working Group.

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Responses to Guildford Museum: Supporters Welcome Council Report

  1. Russell Morris Reply

    April 17, 2016 at 6:45 am

    I hope this proposal comes to fruition.

    Better integration of the museum with the castle is the obvious way of hauling in punters for both. A good cafe away from the busy shopping area would certainly be valuable and valued. I’ve never seen an empty cafe at a National Trust property, so I’m sure one would be well used here.

  2. Bernard Parke Reply

    April 17, 2016 at 10:04 am

    It is a pity that we do not have control of The Chestnuts [home of Charles Dodgson’s (aka Lewis Carroll) sisters where he regularly stayed].

    The plaque on the gate was never replaced.

  3. Valerie Thompson Reply

    April 18, 2016 at 8:43 am

    At last some sense about the future of the Guildford Museum. I made the suggestion last year that the museum should be linked with Guildford Castle, to create a major historic centrepiece for Guildford.

    There needs, also, to be better signage from the High Street and clear, outdoor maps at strategic places, to inform visitors of all of Guildford’s interesting historic sites.

    The tourist office is well-located in Guildford House, but its windows are full of knick-knacks rather than tourist information. Many people do not realise it is there.

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