The big day has finally arrived and the Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon is beginning its transformation.
Devon Contractors start work today – Monday 25 June – on the museum’s eagerly anticipated £2m Long Bridge Wing extension, which will increase the building’s footprint by 70%, making space for a new social history gallery, larger shop, café and improved education space. The project, supported by nearly £870,000 of National Lottery funding, is expected to take 12 months to complete, with the museum reopening fully in summer 2019.
The current museum was provided to the town by William Frederick Rock in 1888 as the home of the North Devon Athenaeum. Originally there was another building between it and the Long Bridge, but this was demolished in 1963 when the bridge was widened. The extension will be built on the site of the old building using brick and slate as the main building materials, in keeping with the existing museum building. Terracotta details, reflecting the work of Brannams and copper (which was used extensively by Shapland and Petter in their furniture) will be blended to create interest and soften the impact of the brick.
North Devon Council’s Executive member for Parks, Leisure and Culture, Councillor Dick Jones, says: “This project has been three years in the making, so it will be really exciting to see the scaffolding go up and the builders on site. The museum has remained unchanged for many years, so this is a momentous occasion in the history of this iconic building. The improvements we are making will give the museum the space it needs and deserves to showcase the history of North Devon to the many visitors we welcome through its doors each year.”
Museum Manager, Alison Mills, says: “We’ve already started work behind the scenes, moving collections into storage and clearing parts of the museum that will be affected by the building work. This has revealed features that haven’t been seen in years and hidden treasures we didn’t know were there, including a locked safe behind the underwater world display – we’re still looking for a key that fits! We are all really excited to be part of the museum’s transformation and can’t wait for the building work to get started!”
A temporary front of house is available at the ‘Pop-up museum’, across the road in Bridge Chambers, which is also the base for collecting stories and objects for the new Social History Gallery, so pop in and see how you can get involved.
For behind-the-scenes updates and progress of the build, follow the Museum Manager’s blog at barnstaplemuseumblog.wordpress.com. You can still contact the museum on 01271 346747, firstname.lastname@example.org or get in touch on the museum Facebook page.
The Long Bridge Wing Extension project is funded by National Lottery players through the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), the Coastal Communities Fund and North Devon Council, with additional contributions from the Arts Council Ready to Borrow scheme, Devon County Council and the Barnstaple and North Devon Museum Development Trust (MBND), which has secured significant contributions from the Garfield Weston Foundation, Fullabrook Windfarm CIC, Foyle Foundation and a host of local businesses, charitable trusts and individuals. A full list of the MBND funders is available on their website mbndtrust.org.
PHOTO: Museum manager Alison Mills and Cllr Dick Jones with the chosen bricks for the museum extension.