Cumbria museums damaged by floods - Museums Association

Cumbria museums damaged by floods

Water damage to Wordsworth House and Garden
Several museums in Cumbria and Lancashire were closed today due to floods in the region, with water damage occurring in at least two institutions.

The National Trust-owned Wordsworth House and Garden in Cockermouth was flooded on Saturday. Alex Morgan, the interpretation and communications manager for the property, said that the house’s cellars, which are on the visitor route, had been flooded with five feet of water, leaving behind “a sea of mud and silt”. The gardens, which are home to heritage plants, were also flooded. “It looks as if everything has been churned up in a giant washing machine. Everything that wasn’t bolted down has been hurled about,” she said.

The house itself escaped flooding because of its elevation, but humidity levels were still a problem. However, Morgan said that the situation was slightly less serious than the damage that followed a flood in 2009, which cost £0.5m to repair. Before the flood, the house was already closed for the winter, and Morgan believed that it would be able to reopen as planned on March 12 with “round the clock” work.

Abbot Hall Art Gallery
in Kendal, which is next to the river Kent, was also flooded on Saturday. Prints and oil paintings were among the artworks that were damaged before staff could move them to safe areas.

Gordon Watson, the chief executive of Lakeland Arts, which runs the gallery, said: “Our office space and cafe were flooded and we also had flooding in one of the stores. There were staff here at the time and we were able to take the artworks out of the store. There is some damage, but we were prompt to act. We think we have managed to limit it significantly.”

Watson said that some staff from Lakeland Arts had come in at short notice to help. He said it was too early to estimate the cost of the damage or how many items had been affected. “The next steps are to get the works dried off and assessed by conservators,” he said.

The gallery will open tomorrow, but some rooms will be closed. Watson said that the worst-affected areas will be sealed off to help control humidity. The cafe will be closed, and staff have had to move location within the site. The Museum of Lakeland Life and Industry, which is separated by a courtyard from Abbot House Art Gallery, was not flooded but was also closed today. Blackwell, The Arts and Crafts House, which is also owned by Lakeland Arts, was closed over the weekend due to poor road conditions but was open today.

Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery, which partners with Abbot House in the Cumbria Museum Consortium, was not flooded but was also closed today following problems with the heating, IT, phone lines and staff travel caused by floods in the area. Andrew Mackay, the head of collections and programming, said that the museum was likely to open on Wednesday.

At the weekend, Mackay was part of a team that helped Keswick Museum and Art Gallery narrowly escape flooding. “We spent all of Saturday sandbagging around the museum and moving collections,” he said. “The museum was saved but it was a complete island – the whole surrounding area was swamped.”

Other National Trust properties in the region were affected. Fell Foot, a park on the edge of Lake Windermere, was flooded, as were parts of the gardens at Sizergh. Wray Castle and Hill Top were also closed today, although a National Trust spokeswoman had received no reports of flooding from these properties.

It is thought that The Beacon in Whitehaven, Maryport Maritime Museum, and The Dock Museum in Barrow-in-Furness were unaffected by flooding.

Museums in Lancashire also closed. A spokeswoman for Lancashire County Council said that Lancaster Maritime Museum was closed due to flooding and needed to be assessed before it could be reopened. Lancaster City Museum and Lancaster Castle were also closed today, because of power problems, but were due to reopen tomorrow and on Wednesday respectively.


The chancellor George Osborne has announced a £50m fund for families and businesses affected by floods in Cumbria and Lancashire.

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