On a chilly December Monday enthusiastic members and supporters the Ashford Borough Museum crowded into a formerly empty shop on the corner of Ashford High Street and the passage into the Churchyard,
They were welcomed to the Opening of the Ashford Museum Conservation Annexe at no 57 High Street by Christine Drury, chair of the Trustees and other trustees Mike Boulding , Karen Saunders and Roger Pitt.
Christine Drury said :
“This is the start of a journey for the Ashford Museum Conservation Team who Record and Care for Museum’s Collections . Ann Thomas and Wendy Jolly are here, but sadly not Janet Welch who is laid low with a virus. The Team have been working in a cramped upstairs corner of the Museum. This Annexe will enable them to look after the Museum artefacts to Museum standards . And it will enable the Museum to bring out and display items that have not been seen for a long time. Each item has its own unique story. In some cases like this remarkable tapestry rag rug we need help to tell the story: it is definitely a story of Ashford but who was involved in designing and making it and when? As soon as we hung it up people came in to look at it . Bringing the work of the Museum more into the public, and to recruit more museum volunteers is exactly what this Annexe is about.
“The story of making it happen has involved a lot of people : Calum at Stafford Perkins who let us in repeatedly while we planned ; Tom Jenkins from Ashford Borough Council who told us about the Empty Premises Grant, and was always available to encourage us ; Katy Barker, the architect 2 doors up the High Street at Direct Structures who put in our planning applications as this is a Listed building and we are in the Conservation Area; our landlord Catherine Hepburn who has always been helpful; Sarah Geering at Kingsford as our solicitor as we all battled with the only real problem we had which was getting the lease signed – that took until June 23rd . We persevered and were finally able to start engaging several local businesses to make it all happen : Mascalls to do the flooring, Lancasters to build the partition for the secure storage area; Medash to put up the Museum signage; Kingsnorth Electrical to change the lighting to more energy saving LED; SOS locksmith for the door key and ANP Security for our CCTV and Alarm: all the works needed for a Museum standard workspace.
“Around the walls are some of the display panels of Peter Green’s Railway photos from the 1950”s assembled for the recent Ashford 180 Event organised by AIMREC, and the Railway 19th and 20th& 21st century Timelines created for the 180 by the Museum’s Treasurer, Bob Shrubb. This will be the start of many events here , thank you all for being here .
I will now hand over to the Museum’s President , Sir George Jessel to say a few words before we move to the Opening Ceremony with the Mayor.”
The Museum’s President, Sir George Jessel DL said that he was delighted that the Leader, Cllr Gerry Clarkson and the Mayor Councillor Jenny Webb were present for the Opening of this Conservation Annexe to the Ashford Museum. Sir George paid tribute to the trustees and to the many hardworking volunteers who run the Museum and look after and display its many treasures. This Annexe will make their work easier while the Museum continues to look for larger, more suitable premises. Sir George then invited the Mayor to join him in cutting the ribbon to Open the Museum.
After the Ribbon Cutting the Mayor declared the Ashford Museum Conservation Annexe Open and said:
“Good afternoon everyone. I’m delighted to be here today for the official opening of the Ashford Conservation Annexe.
“As many of you will know I am passionate about Ashford’s rich history and heritage and being able to share this with as many people as possible. That’s why I was so pleased that the museum leapt at the opportunity to take advantage of the Empty Property Grant Scheme that was launched by the Borough Council last winter. The aim of the scheme was to bring empty properties back into use and breathe new life and vitality into the town centre.
“The concept of the Conservation Annexe seems to me to be the perfect fit for this type of project. Not only will it help to animate this part of the town centre, drawing interest from passers- by as it tells Ashford’s Story, it will also be a much needed, visible working space for the museum.
“The public will now be able to see and understand more about the detailed work and research that is carried out by the museum’s dedicated Conservation Team as they record and care for the Museum’s Collections. Hopefully this more prominent location will help raise both the museum’s profile and encourage more people to actively get involved with their own local history.
“I can see that a tremendous amount of time and effort has gone into transforming this empty property into the new museum annexe we see here today. For instance installing new flooring, partitions, shelving and storage, painting the interior and adding the smart new exterior signage and that’s all before the more exciting work of bringing together the collections and objects that tell the Ashford Story begins in earnest. I understand that the railway timelines in the window, created for the Ashford 180 anniversary celebrations, have already generated a lot of interest and that certainly bodes well for the future.
“However, we all know that none of this would have been achieved without the enthusiasm, passion and support of the museum’s many dedicated volunteers. The opening of the new annexe is a huge credit to all of you and so I’d like to extend my sincere thanks and gratitude for everything you are doing to conserve Ashford’s history and heritage for our future generations. It is very much appreciated and recognised.
“I look forward to visiting again in the near future and perhaps attending some of the events that you will be organising, but in the meantime I would like to wish you every success with the Ashford Conservation Annexe.
The Leader, Councillor Clarkson , said he was also delighted to be here . The Borough had delivered over £3.7 million in support grants of various forms including the Empty Premises Grants that had enabled this Annexe to be realised. The Council was fully supportive of the Museum. Knowing and celebrating Ashford’s heritage a vital part of place making and character as Ashford evolves. The Council leadership is fully committed and will continue to work with Museum to find the larger premises it needs. This Conservation Annexe on the High Street will draw more people to the Museum as volunteers and to appreciating Ashford’s heritage.
All present then participated in tea and coffee and biscuits and were able to examine the display of the Museum’s recording and conservation process set out on the shelving in the secure storage area with some of the Museum’s treasures including a pincushion from the era of the Boer War , and in the public area the displays of cobbler’s tools recently donated by Mr and Mrs Earl , and the intricate wooden models of farm machinery and of the lost windmill of Pluckley destroyed by a lightning strike in 1969, all from the Museum’s Collections.
The Annexe will be available as a point of contact, for donating objects and enquiring about volunteering and membership during the Museum winter closure period. Opening hours for the Annexe are subject to the availability of volunteers and the work that is being undertaken. Please message us before making a trip specifically to visit us in the Annexe.