Museum extension to open for half term events

Museum extensionPhoto Credit: Devon Contractors

Posted on: 10 October 2019

The new Long Bridge Wing of the Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon officially opens this half term.

Countess of Arran and local philanthropist Keith Abraham will cut the ribbon a a special ceremony at 10.30am on Monday 21 October.

The £1.8m Long Bridge Wing was made possible by over £860,000 from The National Lottery Heritage Fund and funding from Coastal Communities Fund, South West Museum Development, Arts Council England, North Devon AONB, Devon County Council and North Devon Council. Funding through the development trust came from Keith Abraham, The Garfield Weston Foundation, Fullabrook CIC and The Foyle Foundation.

The events planned for half term week are:

  • Wednesday 23 October from 10am – ‘The Big Draw‘, part of the world’s biggest drawing festival. The new learning room will play host to a free family drop-in workshop from 10am, where everyone is welcome to come and draw to their hearts content. The theme this year is drawing for well-being and centers on beautiful botanicals.
  • Thursday 24 October from 4-7pm – Tea party in honour of all the story givers and community experts who have contributed stories to the social history gallery. If you volunteered a story, please do come along and enjoy a hot drink and some cake.

The museum has been closed since May 2018 while building and refurbishment works have been carried out. The new Long Bridge Wing will increase the building’s footprint by 70%, making space for a new social history gallery, larger shop, café and improved education space.

One of the first exhibitions planned for the new gallery will be an exhibition of Frederick Richard Lee, the only member of the Royal Academy from Barnstaple and a very popular landscape painter during the 19th century. He was the brother of local architect Thomas Lee, who designed Barnstaple Guildhall and Arlington Court.

Musuem curator, Alison Mills, says: “This has been a massive project for everyone here at the museum and we are so excited to open the brand new extension in time for half term.  As well as building the new wing, the rest of the museum is still being refurbished and won’t be entirely finished until Spring 2020. However, we still have lots of exciting things planned for the new extension. We know that the outside of the new building has created a bit of a buzz on social media and, love it or hate it, before you make your mind up we would like you to come and have a look at the inside too.  My thanks go to all the organisations and individuals who have donated to this project.”

Leader of North Devon Council, Councillor David Worden, says: “The opening of the new Long Bridge Wing is a huge milestone in the history of North Devon. This project has taken years of planning and I would like to extend my thanks to everyone who has worked so hard to accomplish it and all the musuem staff and volunteers, in particular Alison Mills who has been the driving force behind the extension.”

The National Lottery Heritage Fund’s Area Director London & South, Stuart Hobley, said: “This is an exciting milestone for the Long Bridge Wing project which will provide new spaces and opportunities to discover North Devon’s stories. It comes at an exciting time for the National Lottery too, which is just about to celebrate its 25th birthday and over £7.9billion invested in saving, sharing and celebrating the UK’s heritage.”

Project Architect for Ferguson Mann Architects, James Crick says: “The new wing transforms the wider experience at the museum and provides additional, much needed, gallery space. The new entrance hall and facilities are designed to befit a cultural destination, decluttering the existing historic interiors, including the Victorian stairhall. Approached from the square, the Victorian Atheneum’s significance is respected, with the extension revealed only from the bridge, or upon entry through the retained façade of the Coach House. The elevation’s brick bonds, handmade terracotta tiles and copper-work are inspired by the existing museum’s decorative elevations, and the town’s famous Shapland & Petter furniture, whilst the new metal-lined staircase evokes the spirit of Victorian engineering.”

Museum volunteers are still needed so if you love North Devon, history and engaging with people there are opportunities including:

  • cataloging and caring for collections
  • introducing visitors to the building and its collections
  • helping with the museum’s learning programme
  • assisting in the tearooms and museum shop

Visit their website to find out how you can get involved.  The musuem extension will be open Monday to Saturday from 10am to 5pm until the end of October, and 10am to 4pm from November to the end of March.

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Posted in: Leisure