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Loss-making Wymondham Heritage Museum could close this summer, chairman warns

PUBLISHED: 12:07 17 April 2012

Wymondham Heritage Museum.

Wymondham Heritage Museum.

A decision to close a Norfolk museum could be made as soon as July or August following a poor response from the public to an appeal to save the heritage facility.

Arthur (Pip) Woodward, chairman of the Wymondham Heritage Museum committee, said only a couple of people had phoned to ask about becoming volunteers at the museum in the town’s Bridewell since he issued a “use it or lose it” plea earlier this month.

The committee, affiliated to the Wymondham Heritage Society, has been losing £7,000 each year due to the cost of maintaining the museum in the Grade II listed 19th century and the lack of visitors coming through the door.

Only 2,500 people walked through the museum’s doors in 2011 and Mr Woodward said this number would need to increase to 7,500 or 8,000 to be able to eliminate the deficit.

He also appealed for donations from businesses and individuals keen to save a museum that has a number of historic artefacts dating back to Kett’s Rebellion in the 16th century.

However, the future of the Bridewell itself, which used to house the town’s prison, is not in danger as the building is owned by the Bridewell Preservation Trust, which leases part of the building for the museum as well as a Red Cross shop and flats.

Mr Woodward said: “We have had hardly any responses at all. A couple of people phoned us up asking if they could become volunteers, but in terms of the museum closing we have only had stony silence.”

The society has £30,000 funds available to the museum, which would be enough to cover the current level of shortfall until 2015, but unless more cash could be found either through donations or grants a decision would have to be taken in July or August on whether to close when the money runs out.

However, Mr Woodward closing the museum would be a lengthy process as a new home would have to be found for the artefacts either in other museums or with the people who originally donated them to the museum, if they were still alive.

He said: “If we don’t get a significant improvement then we have to rethink the situation either by renegotiating the rent for the museum or possibly closing in 2015.”

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