Spotlight could fall on hidden civic treasures

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HIDDEN civic treasures may be dusted down to take their place in the spotlight in a re-shuffle at Morpeth Town Hall.

A new rota system could be set up for paintings, photographs and other assets held by Morpeth Town Council to go on display to the public.

Members of the council’s Property and Asset Management Committee were told that dozens of items are held, but the majority are stored away as there is not enough room to show them all.

Items include several paintings of the Queen and a sepia photograph of the Town Hall Ballroom from 1901.

Now councillors have asked staff to try to identify spots in the Town Hall where they can be shown on a six-month rota, perhaps replacing some of the items already on display.

Coun Andrew Tebbutt said: “If we can display them we should, but if not we have to make sure they are stored effectively so that they are preserved.

“We could do what some museums do and bring this stuff out on a rota, although we probably don’t really want to see any more pictures of the Queen and Prince Philip because we have enough of those around the place already.

“We should be looking to display pictures of people who have been local dignitaries, even if they just get an airing for six months.

“We have to identify where, if anywhere, we can hang two or three of the paintings.”

Council Clerk Gillian Turner said staff can try to draw up a rota during the summer recess period.

A full list of the assets was compiled last year, including photographs and descriptions, and councillors are keen for a popular booklet charting Morpeth’s civic treasures to be updated and re-printed.

The original Civic Regalia, Trophies, Antiquities and Other Treasures book was commissioned by former Castle Morpeth Mayor Isobel Smail 27 years ago to provide both residents and visitors with an easy-to-read guide to the history of the area, its authorities and their collections, and Morpeth Town Hall.

The guide was an instant hit and still survives today.

Coun Tebbutt said: “We could sell the booklet if it is written in the way of an historical record, particularly if we have got pictures.

“We are getting a lot of people coming into the Town Hall now for weddings and many will be interested in the history. There are all sorts of trading opportunities.”

Mayor Ken Brown added: “The state of the booklet is still reasonable so if we can just update it it will be a sellable asset.”

The committee also agreed to resume updating a brass plaque detailing the Mayors of Morpeth.

The list stopped in 1972 when the mayoralty passed to Castle Morpeth Council, but the position was reclaimed by the town when the borough authority was shut down in 2009.

Members agreed to draw a line under the previous list, with an explanation for the missing years, before continuing from 2009 onwards.

The council also holds a plaque for the Mayors and Chief Executives of Castle Morpeth Council.