Brixham Heritage Museum Faces Closure After Council Cuts

By Ben Miller | 06 January 2009
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A picture of the tall red-brick building where the museum is housed

Brixham Heritage Museum will face closure if planned council funding cuts go through

Organisers at a popular Devon heritage centre have expressed their shock at council funding cuts which may force the museum to close.

Brixham Heritage Museum, which was the first of Torbay’s three museums to gain national accreditation status from the Museums, Libraries and Archives Commission, will have its grant aid axed from September under new proposals by Torbay Council, a plan the authority admits may “affect the sustainability of the museum in the future".

“These observations by the council do not adequately cover what would be lost to future generations of Torbay residents and visitors,” warned administrator Lesley Smith, who is part of a tiny team running the 50-year-old centre.

“If we lose our funding completely from Torbay Council it would ultimately mean the closure of Brixham’s museum. This is surely contrary to the Mayor’s vision for the regeneration of Brixham and a loss of an important tourist asset, not to mention depriving local schoolchildren of an educational resource.”

The council aims to save £11,000 by withdrawing the funds, having already planned to halve the £22,000 annual remit it has provided the museum with since 1989. Last year nearly 400 schoolchildren visited the museum, which hosts a mass of artefacts documenting the social and industrial past of the town dating back to the 18th century.

The museum will already have to make its part-time curator, Dr Philip Armitage, redundant and dramatically scale back its range of services if the initial grant reductions are passed when the council’s scrutiny committee meets next week.

“That would lead to us having the dubious distinction of being the first museum in south west England to lose accreditation status through no fault of our own,” explained Mrs Smith, outlining the disastrous knock-on effects of the news. “We would face consequent disqualification when applying for grants from fund awarding bodies.”

Museum staff are also frustrated at what they perceive as preferential treatment for the nearby Torquay Museum, which will continue to receive a full grant. “Once again they seem to feel that Brixham can be deprived,” argued Mrs Smith.

“We are a centre for research in family history, appointed as a Devon Record Office Service Point, and we have published more than 20 books and journal articles. All of this is achieved with a part-time curator and a part-time secretary, assisted by society members who do it all voluntarily because they think that we should preserve the past for the benefit and interest of the future.”

Online contributors to local newspaper the Herald Express reacted angrily to the news. “£11,000 is a small amount to pay to maintain the culture and history of a community,” said one visitor.

“We should be cerebrating the distinctive parts of Torbay, and not surrendering to the idea that all towns should be clones of each other.” Another Brixham resident suggested funding the museum with a pay cut for the Mayor, describing it as “incomparably better value for money.”

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