Vale & Downland Museum Launches Jubilee Appeal

By Richard Moss | 15 November 2007
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a photo of an old house with scaffolding surrounding it

The Vale and Downland Museum has launched a Jubilee Appeal to fund desperately needed repairs. © Vale and Downland Museum

The Vale & Downland Museum in Oxfordshire is launching a special Jubilee Appeal to raise desperately needed funds to repair its deteriorating visitor centre.

The award-winning museum in Wantage will be celebrating 50 years in the business in 2008 and 25 years at its current location in Church Street.

In that time it has established itself as a dynamic museum very much at the heart of the local community, serving not only the town but also the surrounding areas of the Vale of White Horse district, from the Thames to the Ridgeway.

However the last quarter of a century has also seen the museum's visitor centre buildings deteriorate badly, with parts now in danger of serious structural failure. The museum has therefore had to spend a considerable amount of money to put this right. In this financial year alone, the cost will be around £95,000.

“The building itself really has to be dealt with, which has been deteriorating over a long period of time,” explained Museum Administrator Tony Hadland. “It was put together by volunteers 25 years ago and is a joining together of a 16th century building and a piece of 1960s architecture at its best. Where the two have been joined together we have the problems.”

Over the last few years roof tiles have had to be replaced, the flashing on the side of structure has failed, rotten timbers have needed replacement, the roof lights have failed and part of the roof has even fallen in.

Changes in the Construction, Design and Management Regulations introduced in 2007 mean that health and safety requirements have forced the the bill for the planned structural improvements up from £55,000 to £95,000.

a photo of the interior of a roof with brick wall and roof joists

Rotten timbers and splitting roof joists - now under repair. Courtesy Vale and Downland Museum

“£55,000 was within our range,” explained Tony, “but now we need another £40,000, which means we’ve got a serious shortfall. We have already diverted a £25,000 bequest which we had originally earmarked for other things and the trading company of the museum has put in £10,000.”

Unlike the museums down the road at Abingdon, Banbury or West Berkshire, all of whom receive substantial local council funding, Vale and Downland is not publicly funded. “I think a lot of people think we are publicly funded but we’re not, and we look very wistfully at some of our neighbours,” added Tony.

Money has come in from the WREN foundation (Waste Recycling ENvironmental) who have provided £30,000 towards the refurbishment and repairs and the Vale of White Horse District Council with a generous grant of £7,500 as well as the big-hearted Friends of the Museum who have given £2,000, but there is still a shortfall of about £25,000.

That's why a Jubilee Refurbishment Appeal has been launched. Any contribution is welcome but the museum is particularly inviting supporters to give £25 to celebrate 25 years or £50 to mark the Golden Jubilee. Also, you can become an official patron for a gift of £1,000 and companies can become corporate patrons for £5,000.

Anybody wanting to make a donation can phone the museum for more details on 01235 771447. “We can take credit cards or they can send us a cheque - and if it’s not too far away I’ll even pop round on my bike and pick it up myself,” added Tony.

To find out more about the Vale & Downland Museum, go to www.wantage.com/museum. For further information about the appeal, contact Tony Hadland on 01235 771447 or by email at museum@wantage.com

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