South East Museums Look To Get Locals Through Their Doors

By Veronica Cowan | 06 July 2006
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an aerial view of a castle

Arundel Castle has signed up to Arun District Council's Holiday@Home scheme. © Arundel Castle

Arundel Castle, Tangmere Military Aviation Museum and Bignor Roman Palace are three of the museums and heritage sites participating in an initiative launched by Arun District Council.

The Holiday@Home scheme, which aims to regenerate local tourism, hopes to attract a grant of over £100,000 from the South East England Development Association.

Sussex has a high proportion of retired residents, who are part of a vital and growing sector of the visitor economy. Over 85% have friends or relations that come to visit at least twice a year, and the scheme wants to encourage the district’s 69,000 residents to take family and friends to visit the sites on their own doorsteps.

A privilege card has been delivered through every letter box in Arun, which will open the door to access goods or services at a discounted price. An information pack includes over £1,000 worth of special offers, and contact details for participating sites.

Richard Edwards, Arun’s head of tourism, explains: “Local heritage attractions often struggle to get local people as customers. It is hoped this project will help overcome that problem, by increasing awareness of heritage attractions in the locality and encouraging residents to visit, especially as they can save money with their privilege cards.”

Tangmere Militray Aviaition Museum is just one of the museums hoping to benefit from the scheme. © Tangmere Aviation Museum

The Duke of Norfolk, chairman of trustees at Arundel Castle, expressed himself “very pleased” to be participating in the scheme, while Tangmere’s chairman of trustees, David Baron, said: “We hope this will be mutually beneficial, to local people and ourselves, as a charity to remember those who, in two world wars, served their country in the air.”

The museum is home to historic aircraft such as Neville Duke's world record breaking Hawker Hunter, equipment used by agents carried into occupied France on 'black Lysander' flights from Tangmere, and a full sized replica of the very first Spitfire prototype.

Another participating museum is Amberley Working Museum, whose marketing manager Sandy Wilson said the local community was very important to the museum: “Anything that helps to consolidate our role in it helps.”

Smaller sites are also taking part. David Jennings, volunteer curator at Bognor Regis Museum, reports: “The museum was set up by the founder members of the history society 26 years ago to get a museum back in the town. It has a grant from the town council and Arun gives us the property, but it is run by volunteers and relies on donations and sales from the gift shop because entry is free.”

Bignor Roman Palace, which lies on the crest of a greensand ridge on the South Downs, cannot benefit from passing trade and hopes the publicity generated by the project will assist them increase knowledge of what it has to offer.

a photograph of an old fashioned bus parked in grounds next to a tree

© Amberley Working Museum

Its mosaics date mainly from the fourth century AD, which allows for an interesting comparison with the first and second century mosaics at Fishbourne Roman Palace.

Peter Allison, curator at Bignor, said: “We are participating because it is local and because the villa is a family-run enterprise and this is aimed at families in the local community. Because this is privately-owned we don’t generate the income that similar sites can. The only income the villa has is from people coming through the front door.”

Arun District Council’s award-winning tourism website, www.sussexbythesea.com will have a Holiday@Home section, constantly updated with the latest offers and ideas for great days out.

So if you live in the South East visit your local museums – use them or lose them.