New-home hope for treasured town items

Brought to you by the Morpeth Herald.
Brought to you by the Morpeth Herald.

A group of volunteers looking after artefacts relating to Morpeth’s social history is hopeful that council chiefs will find space for them in the new Riverside development.

And the Morpeth Antiquarian Society (MAS) has revealed that the items were recently moved from Newbiggin Library, which closed in October, to the Uniun Enterprise Building in Pegswood.

The books, photographs, memorabilia, equipment, oil paintings and more have been stored outside Morpeth since 2010 and next year it will be 20 years since the end of its museum facility at The Chantry.

Efforts have been ongoing to find a suitable location in the town centre and members of the society and the Friends of Morpeth Museum (FoMM) are looking at the Northumberland County Council announcement about the Riverside as a potential opportunity.

It revealed earlier this month that a new leisure centre, library, customer services centre, hotel and restaurant is being planned for the site.

A drop-in session for people to find out more is taking place at the current leisure centre in Newmarket on Tuesday from 3pm to 7pm.

Kim Bibby-Wilson, a vice president of MAS, said: “We’ve held discussions with the county council, Active Northumberland and the Woodhorn Trust, so they are fully aware of our stance that a museum displaying Morpeth’s treasured artefacts is needed in the town centre.

“Hopefully, residents can make this point to council officers at the drop-in session on Tuesday.

“The new development being proposed does present an opportunity as we think the museum would complement the library and leisure services and help to boost tourism.

“We are very much aware that being in limbo as we are at the moment means we only have a profile when we hold events or put items into the glass cases in the Town Hall, but we remain hopeful that we will end up having a strong visible and welcoming presence in the town centre.”

MAS did put in an application for the tenancy of the ground floor at a building in Newgate Street, but soon afterwards, an offer was made by another party to purchase the whole building.

After finding out in late September the closure date for Newbiggin Library, members urgently sought new premises despite having a three-month notice period as they did not want the artefacts to be in a vulnerable location.

The building in Pegswood is run by Groundwork North East and Cumbria. The society will soon begin a fund-raising appeal as the rent costs are higher than they were at Newbiggin.

Mrs Bibby-Wilson said: “We’re grateful to Groundwork for making the move as painless as possible, the Greater Morpeth Development Trust for facilitating the move, FoMM for underwriting the costs for the move – which required a specialist firm to carefully move the items – and certain individual members of MAS and FoMM for donating funds towards the rent for the first few months.

“However, this will run out in February and we don’t want to eat into our reserves as this would hamper future funding applications.

“Residents can support us in various ways, such as becoming a member of the society. MAS leaflets are available in the Town Hall and its books are available at The Chantry and in T&G Allan.”

For more information about supporting the society, email enquiries@northumbriana.org.uk