Yearbook 2020

Photo:The Museum November 2019

The Museum November 2019

After Completion of the Renovation

Reports by the Chair of Trustees and the Curator

By Peter Greener

As you can read from the Operation Stop Rot report the museum has had a momentous year. The renovation work has meant much upheaval but we have tried to keep our normal routine going as well. In preparation for the builders our first task was to clear the entire old part of the building something that had not been done since the museum opened in 1930. We retreated to the far end of the museum packing everything neatly into stacks of boxes and making a cosy little office. Our smaller museum remained open plus the bonus of free entry. With the work completed we have two beautiful rooms that offer us a great opportunity to refresh the way we present the collection.


We have been able to carry on the day-to-day business of running the museum because so many volunteers have put in hours of work. We have been keeping up with our social media presence not only on Facebook but also on Instagram, Twitter and the museums online catalogue and community archive. There are work groups on Monday evenings when you can often meet the Archaeology team washing and sorting recent finds. On Tuesday afternoons we document, display and conserve the collection but on the second Tuesday of the month we have the popular ‘Makers at the Museum’. This involves a talk by an enthusiast and a look at related items from the museum followed by a practical session and a cup of tea. Subjects have included dolls houses, scrapbooks and bookbinding and more are planned. You are always welcome to drop in to share your memories or find out more about Ashwell.


The flow of new exhibits, all closely related to Ashwell, has continued to delight and surprise us. Herts County Council decided to dispose of their School Art Loan Scheme by selling most of it or finding appropriate homes, like us, where possible. We were given two pieces by Marie Whitby: ‘School Hour’, an oil painting from 1959 and ‘Cricket Team’, a fine example of her larger pottery tableau. We were intrigued by a large flat canvas bag with leather straps inscribed Major W A Fordham (He lived at Ashwell Bury) which after much detective work we discovered it was an Army Bed Roll.

We have been given sets of documents which are no longer required to be legally kept by householders.  The museum offers a constant archive while people come and go. If you feel you have a little gem of Ashwell history but do not wish to part from we should have the means to recording it. We have acquired, with the aid of a grant, a special scanner that makes the copying of documents easier and has opened up many new ways of using our resources.



Many thanks must go to everyone who has had a hand in making the museum what it is today, especially with the extra effort needed this year. The trustees, the curatorial and research volunteers, the Friends association, the cleaning team and fundraisers all of whom form the heart of the museum.


It takes all sorts of skills to run the museum to modern standards and we have room for many roles to be filled. We started in 1930 and with a solid and stable building will continue to look after Ashwell’s heritage for future generations. It is your history in your museum.



Peter Greener and Sarah Talks


Operation Stop Rot 2019

The Rescue of Ashwell Village Museum


An open meeting was held by the Museum Trustees on 6th September 2018 to announce that it would be necessary to carry out extensive repair work on the original part of the Museum, where we had discovered long-term issues that for many years had been dealt with only by low-grade maintenance.  For example, in the mid-20th century it was considered appropriate to deal with problems such as leaks using concrete infill etc, and there was little money available to do much else.  However, if this deterioration continued, the entire wooden framework of the building would be at risk, as would the Museum artefacts.


A preliminary survey had shown rather frightening results!  So in the summer of 2018 the Trustees decided to “take the bull by the horns” and eliminate the continuous rotting.


The estimated costs of about £200,000 were shared with the public meeting in September.  Accurate costing and builders’ estimates had not been carried out yet but we had to start somewhere!  The meeting expressed clearly the enthusiasm of the whole community to “rescue” the Museum.  One of the questions someone asked was, “How much money was currently available?” to which the answer was "Nothing”.  And that is where it all began.


First things first: we needed a very good architect and we got one.  Three firms, all recommended by Historic England, bid for the job and we awarded it to Peter Rawlings, which has turned out to be an excellent choice.


Next, we needed a very good builder, sympathetic to old buildings.  We received quotations from four companies recommended by Historic England.  Valiant Builders were chosen.  Their previous work in Ashwell was there for all to see and they proved to be a great team to work with.  Nothing was too much trouble and the issues discovered during the renovation were always overcome with the minimum of fuss.


And then final ingredient we needed was MONEY to pay for it all!!


Grants were applied for, but these days it is not a case of filling in forms and waiting for the money to arrive.  No such grants are available unless there is evidence of a considerable cash input by the applicant.  We had some extremely helpful and highly skilled people helping with our grant applications.  Best of all, we were able to demonstrate the commitment of the whole community.  That open meeting showed just how much expertise, talent, kindness, determination and generosity exist in Ashwell.  Before the chairs were cleared away at the end, people were signing up to register their support and all sorts of offers of help were coming in, which was unbelievable.


The people of Ashwell village overall produced over £40,000 from donations, auctions, public performances and other events, sales, gift aid and the list goes on and on…. All this was carried out with aplomb and everyone concerned quietly gave of their time and efforts.  The challenges occurring during these fundraising events were dealt with by those concerned with no complaints and that is to be admired.


Returning to the grants, we were successful in obtaining a grant of approximately £130,000 from Historic England.  Trudi Hughes, from the Cambridge office of Historic England, was extremely helpful and supportive to us throughout the project.  This grant was phased.  For example, the first amount was structured so that with our contribution we were able to carry out Phase 1 which enabled the drawings, quantities and all the necessary needs for the building to be calculated and plans drawn up.  The full cost of the project was estimated at £176,000. 


North Herts District Council generously donated £46,000 from their Community Facilities Capital Grant Funding Scheme, again after we had satisfied the criteria of what had been independently raised for the project by the village community.


Without these two large grants, despite all the local input we would not have been able to pass the starting line and we are extremely grateful to Historic England and NHDC.


After a great deal of work by those volunteers who maintain the Museum, the area was cleared to enable the builders to commence work which was signified by the erection of scaffolding and a covering which protected the building. This was on 10th June 2019.


Work continued through the summer and autumn and the site was amazingly clean. There were lots of comments from residents noting this.  Regular meetings took place between the architect, builders and representatives from the Trustees.  Throughout the project, materials as near to the originals as possible were used or replicated, including a final exterior limewashing to protect the completed work.


All those carrying out fundraising projects continued raising money…


The builders carried on building…


(How easy it all appears when writing this down!!).


And the end result was that the building works were all finished on time on 15th November 2019 and within the available budget and the Museum reopened on Sunday 8th December.


It all seems a matter-of-fact so easy, which of course it wasn’t.


One of the most difficult tasks in writing this synopsis of what went on is the glaring omission of so many people who did so much for the project.  The Trustees and everyone associated with Ashwell and the Museum are aware of the input and hard work made by so many, and to attempt to mention all your names and the roles you played a would be impossible.  We hope nobody is offended by this.


Thank you so much everyone to everyone involved.


Martin G Hoffman,Chairman of Trustees 



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