Tolson Museum. Image: ahisgett on BY

Tolson Museum to miss out on funding for vital repairs

Jonathan Knott, 25.04.2018
Museum will not benefit from £2.3m borrowed by council for upgrades
Kirklees Council is not planning to invest in vital repairs at Tolson Museum in Huddersfield.

The council revealed last week that it had borrowed £2.3m for repairs and upgrades to its buildings this financial year, but told Museums Journal that it was not planning to allocate any of this to the museum "in the near future".

A council review in 2016 found that the museum needed repairs totalling £4.2m, although the Friends of Tolson and Ravensknowle group said at the time that the amount required for urgent repairs was much lower than this.

The museum was one of three earmarked for potential closure in 2016, as the council looked to cut £531,000 from its budget for museums and galleries in 2017-18.

Two of these, Dewsbury Museum and the Red House Museum, closed later that year. But at the time of the decision, the council said that the Tolson would continue operating until a new museum and art gallery in Huddersfield town centre was in the final stages of construction.

Paul Kemp, the council's service director for economy, regeneration and culture said: "[The council] will be considering developing a new museum and art gallery to strengthen the cultural offer within the town centre. Until this work has been concluded, we do not know how this will affect the future of Tolson Museum and so at this moment in time, a significant repair programme of the building is not planned in the near future.”

He said that most of the money for repairs would go towards the upgrading the council's cemeteries, and the remainder would be "allocated to buildings where repairs will have the most impact on providing high quality services for local people".

Ann Denham, the chair of the Friends of Tolson and Ravensknowle, said that a room at the museum which displays birds has been closed for more than five years because of the risk that its glass roof could fall in.

She said that her group had been given “no indication whatsoever” by the council of when repairs to the building might be carried out. “At the moment the museum is staying open, but we just hope that nothing falls down so that it can’t open,” said Denham.

Last year, it emerged that Kirklees Council would receive a £39,863 Arts Council England (ACE) grant for repairs to Tolson Museum’s entrance hall. Museums Journal understands that the council also spent about £100,000 from ACE on renovating two rooms several years ago.

Tolson Museum is housed in a Victorian mansion in Ravensknowle Park, which was donated to Huddersfield’s municipal authority by Legh Tolson in 1919 as a memorial for his two brothers, who died in the first world war.

Alongside Tolson, Kirklees Council also operates Oakwell Hall and Country Park, Bagshaw Museum, and Huddersfield Art Gallery.