Gloucester Life Museum earmarked for closure

Council report proposes “managed decant” from two sites to one
Jonathan Knott
One of the two museums run by Gloucester City Council is earmarked for closure under plans agreed last month.

The council currently runs the the Museum of Gloucester and Gloucester Life Museum. But a report prepared by the council’s corporate director, and approved by its cabinet, said that operating across two sites was stretching budgets and proposed a “managed decant from two museum locations to one”.

Gloucester Life Museum, known as Gloucester Folk Museum until 2015, is situated in adjacent historic buildings, a Tudor merchant's house and a 17th-century town house. The council plans to transfer this site to Gloucester Civic Trust, a local heritage charity. 

It is in early discussions with the trust, which is interested in “taking ownership of the site” as an administrative base that would also provide heritage displays, a cafe and room hire, according to the report.

The document says that the move to one site will create net savings of £30,000 a year, because the council will no longer have to pay the building running costs.

If a transfer is agreed, the council will apply for resilience funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to help it consolidate the museum service to a single site. The grant would also be used to develop plans and audiences for this venue and consult on a future application for a major capital project.

But the authority also admitted that closing the museum could mean partially repaying grants to HLF and Arts Council England (ACE), and jeopardising future applications, if these bodies thought that the purposes they originally funded were no longer being met.

In 2008 the council was awarded £755,000 from HLF for work on the two museums, which included creating the Ed Shed, an education building that opened in 2012. And in 2014, it received £43,000 from ACE, which was partly used to buy new furniture for the Ed Shed.

Earlier this year the authority was awarded £1.49m from the joint ACE and HLF Great Place Scheme to support regeneration plans which included an aim to “devolve custodianship of culture to a new, diverse and active Gloucester Culture Trust”.

Museums Journal understands that the former manager of Gloucester’s museum service and two curators have recently left the council as part of a restructure that has amalgamated the museum service with other services including the Guildhall events venue and the tourist information centre. The curators will be replaced by learning officers, who will carry out an element of curatorial work.

Lise Noakes, the cabinet member for culture and leisure at Gloucester City Council, said: “These changes will strengthen the city museums service. It does a great job of putting the landmark historic building in Westgate Street in the care of the civic trust who are the right people to do it.

“The building will be far more vibrant than it is now because it will have the civic trust and all their volunteers and activities in there. The cafe will be open again, and we'll have a fantastic museum in the Brunswick Road which has already grown from strength to strength.”

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