The future of the Museum

Our Secretary Jeff Kingaby reports

Let me up-date you on the long Saga of the alterations and improvements to our museum. To me it is like one of the soaps we see on television with the story constantly changing; perhaps it has not been running as long as Coronation Street or East Enders, but the proposed alterations have been in hand to my knowledge since 2005 and long before my time as Secretary.

In 1981 the Society of Friends (Quakers) invited the museum to occupy number 32 High Street as a museum and since that date they have charged a mere £50 per annum in spite of the fact that they have paid the fire insurance annually and a few years ago re-roofed the building at a cost in excess of £3,000. As you can see they have been very generous and without their help the museum would never have got off the ground and for this we say a very big thank you.

Over the years the building required some repairs and it was necessary to provide an additional staircase to the first floor for safety purposes and at the same time the Quakers were compelled under the new Charities Act to charge an economic rent, which was £2,500. The Quakers then agreed to grant us a 15 year lease and a reduced rent if we obtained the grants to improve the building.

The History Society then arranged for plans to be drawn up, planning permission, building regs. and Conservation Officers approval and we started applying for grants.

We asked the Quakers for £25,000 towards the cost of the £95,000 budget, provisionally obtained other grants and were almost there but,:when it came to the terms of the lease we found that we could not possibly accept the terms suggested by the Quakers. We tried to compromise but failed to reach an agreement and had to give notice that we would close the museum at the end of September.

We approached the Town Council with a view to displaying some of the artefacts in the Town Hall but this suggestion was turned down by the Town Council.

Much to our surprise the Quakers have now made a further offer off accommodation and the History Society’s committee has agreed to it in principle but it has now gone to the owners Property committee to decide the rent and terms of the lease but we are fairly optimistic that there will be a Wincanton Town museum to open in April next year.

If this comes about our committee feel that we could possibly have better premises than we have at present but we will have to go down the planning/ Building Regs and grants route once again.