Tolson Museum has been earmarked for closure since 2016

Kirklees to develop strategic vision for museums and heritage

Catherine Kennedy, 10.04.2019
But council's plans for at-risk Tolson Museum remain unclear
Kirklees Council in west Yorkshire is planning a £70m regeneration project that aims to transform the area into a hub of arts and culture.

The project will include an 18-month programme to develop a vision for the council’s museums, art and heritage assets.

Funded by a £216,000 grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund’s (NLHF) Resilient Heritage Fund, the programme will bring together an advisory group to develop plans for a proposed new Huddersfield Museum and Gallery, as well as considering options for Tolson Museum and Huddersfield Art Gallery.

Masterplans for Oakwell Hall in Birstall and Bagshaw Museum in Batley will also be tested and developed.

In addition, “strategic priorities” for heritage across the district will be identified, with members of the council’s museums and galleries team working alongside an NLHF-approved mentor.

But campaigners have called for more clarity on the future of Tolson Museum, saying its place within the new programme remains unclear. The museum has been earmarked for closure since 2016, when the council first unveiled plans to merge its collections with those of Huddersfield Art Gallery and create a new museum at a more central location.

Last year, Tolson Museum missed out on a share of a £2.3m loan secured by the council towards essential repairs and upgrades. The council was forced to close two other museums in 2016, Red House Museum in Gomersal and Dewsbury Museum, due to budget cuts.

Ann Denham, the chair of Friends of Tolson and Ravensknowle, said: “At the moment there is no change. We still do not know what is to happen to the museum.” She added that, despite talk of a new museum, “no one knows where [it would be] and what would happen to Tolson if this came about”.

Denham highlighted the significance of the museum’s building, Ravensknowle Hall, given to the people of Huddersfield in 1919 by Legh Tolson in memory of his nephews who were killed in world war one.

“Tolson Memorial Museum is really important to the people of Huddersfield,” she said. “The museum was to be all about Huddersfield – its history, archaeology and environment – and still is.”

Kirklees Council is hoping to secure £25m from the government’s High Street Fund to create a cultural quarter in Huddersfield Town Centre as part of the regeneration project. The quarter would include the proposed new museum, as well as a town centre library and art gallery and a new live music venue.

This funding would come in addition to £45m allocated by the council’s cabinet last April for redevelopment of the Huddersfield’s piazza, market and leisure centre.

Karl Battersby, the director of economy and infrastructure at the council, said: “I’m delighted to confirm we’ve submitted this bid. This is an opportunity we had to grasp with both hands. The future of our town centres is a huge priority for us. We want our town centres to have something for everyone, including families, and this funding would help us take a huge step forward.

“Bringing better culture and leisure experiences to the town centre is crucial to increasing footfall and attracting more visitors. Town centres can no longer rely on retail alone.”

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