Red House Museum is the latest museum to close as a result of council cuts

Red House Museum in Gomersal shuts its doors

Geraldine Kendall Adams, 21.12.2016
Kirklees Council invites local groups to take over building
Red House Museum in Gomersal is closing its doors today after Kirklees Council halved its funding for museums and galleries.

The popular local museum attracted hundreds of visitors to its final event, Red House Christmas, earlier this month.

The museum is housed in a 17th-century clothmaker's house decorated in the style of the 1820s. It features displays on local history and the Brontë sisters, who were frequent visitors to the house.

The loss of Red House Museum follows the closure of the nearby Dewsbury Museum in November.

Most of the collections from both museums are being placed in secure storage while the council considers how they should be displayed in future. A number of items on loan have been returned to their original owners.

The council is inviting expressions of interest from community groups interested in running the vacated museum buildings via community asset transfer. The asset transfer would include a covenant for community use, with the option of using up to 30% of the building for commercial purposes.  

If no groups come forward by the 6 March deadline, the buildings will be sold on the open market.

Graham Turner, the council’s cabinet member for resources, said: “The council did not want to be in this position. Nobody wants to close museums but we do need to react to these times of austerity and make savings.  

“I am sorry that people will no longer be able to access these museums, but I can assure you that we will do everything possible to look after the collections.

“Following our recent consultation, we know that the public support our plan to find new and innovative ways for them to view the collections, and we will be doing more of this in the future.

“Museums are not just about buildings, it’s about using the collections to tell the story of our past and how they influence what we do today.

“However if any organisation thinks that they have a business case for taking over the buildings for the benefit of the local community I would encourage them to fill out the forms on our website.”

Museums Journal understands that the Friends of Dewsbury Museum volunteer group is working on a business case to take over Dewsbury Park Mansion, which housed the former museum, and ensure it is kept for community use.

However, the Friends of Red House group is not in a position take over Red House Museum and the group is now being wound up.

The council has advertised for tenants to stay in the vacated buildings for security while their future is being decided. A decision on any asset transfer bids is due in April next year.

Alistair Brown, the Museums Association’s policy officer, said: “These museums were hugely popular and their closure will be a real blow for the people of Dewsbury, Gomersal and the surrounding areas.

"Unfortunately, Kirklees Council’s decision to close these museums is not an isolated incident. Councils across the country are being forced to make drastic reductions to their spending on cultural services as a result of deep government cuts to local authority budgets.

"We fear that more museums will close next year unless the government reconsiders its approach.”

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