Wirksworth Heritage Centre has been working with Lincoln-based conservators WHConservation to both improve the condition of the museum collection and to help train a team of volunteers in basic conservation cleaning techniques.
Earlier this month some of us visited the University of Lincoln. WHConservation has been carrying out some of the hands-on conservation work in the laboratory spaces there alongside students studying for a BA(Hons) in the Conservation of Cultural Heritage.
We were able to visit while this work was going on – observing and speaking to the students. We also had a most enjoyable tour of the department as well as an introductory session on ‘conservation basics’. We’ll be able to put some of what we learnt into practice over the next few months when the conservators return to Wirksworth to supervise us undertaking the cleaning of certain items that will be on display in our new centre next year.
Also I’m pleased to announce that our raffle and “T’Owd Man Rocks Again” event helped raise more funds towards our cause. Once final bills are paid we should have made around £1,000. The Wam Bam Band did not disappoint and we were incredibly lucky to secure their services before their now legendary Christmas special. It’s been a while since I had a ‘pie and peas supper’, and was pleasantly surprised to discover I adore mushy peas with mint!
Finally, I want to let you know about our ‘Picturing Wirksworth’ event on the December 2 at Wirksworth Town Hall. We will have a small exhibition of photographs from the heritage centre collection, and we are hoping people would come along and share the memories they are sure to evoke.
With luck local people will bring along their treasured photos as well – perhaps there will be some hidden gems there of Wirksworth past. There will also be opportunity to see our very latest plans, with a chance to speak with the project’s interpretative designers, Headland.
Although the project team has yet to issue tender documents for the construction work, we have already seen some physical progress. Various walls in Webster’s have been opened up for assessment by the structural engineer and telephone and electricity engineers have also been in too.
The various modifications, over more than a hundred years, that were revealed as the plaster came off have been something of an attraction in themselves. As the Webster’s premises have been closed to enable this work, the heritage centre was unable to play its usual part in the town’s carnival and well dressing activities two weeks ago.
However Sally and Nicole did host a walk for a group of U3A members from Liverpool, which took them around the town and all the well dressing locations. Our hilly terrain was too much of a challenge for some of them but all thoroughly enjoyed learning about the history and techniques of this Derbyshire tradition. This month the volunteers and members learnt more about the project and the work still being done on the collection at a briefing update in the Memorial Hall, hosted by our chairman and the two consultants.
This was very informative and well attended although, personally, I thought there could have been more at the open briefing immediately afterwards. The two new trustees which I hinted at before, Michelle Laverick and Jo Higton Metcalf, have now been introduced and have attended their first board meeting at the project office. Like me, Michelle is fairly new to the town but Jo’s family has been here for many generations. They obviously bring welcome skills to the team, as Michelle’s background is in IT and Jo’s in education, but I can well imagine they will find plenty of other things thrown at them over the course of the project – including the odd turn with us in the shop.
With the impending building work looming, we have been looking for alternative premises. With the kind support of the owner, we have therefore moved our retail and information operations to the empty shop previously known as Granny Smith on the corner of Coldwell Street and North End (Thank you Caroline).
What a fun week it was – cleaning, painting and shifting furniture and stock – all with the great support of other volunteers. Sue Cooper Whilst not quite as central as Webster’s the new shop is highly visible and we hope we can generate more visitors than before owing to its place on the route from the station. Opening hours are still 10.30am to 4.30pm on Fridays and Saturdays but will soon be increased.
After their research tours around the country our trustees are delighted to have appointed. Headland Design to carry out the exhibition and interior design for the new heritage centre. Headland is a highly experienced interpretive design and heritage practice based just outside Chester. They have worked on a wide range of projects throughout the UK including Saddleworth Museum and the People’s History Museum in Manchester which both really caught the eyes of the trustees.
April means it’s time to send out renewal forms to members along with notification of this year’s annual general meeting, which will be held on May 30 at a venue yet to be decided. The game-changing award from Heritage Lottery Fund will obviously be a major feature in Joanna’s report as chair but the accounts for 2016 may not be quite as exciting. The Wirksworth Book Festival and the Big Book Day were as great a success as we expected and the “two-pub” book quiz did turn out to be trouble-free. All enjoyed the weekends very much and I can’t help thinking that Wirksworth needs more events like this for town residents – and visitors – to share.
Well it’s in! After months in the preparation, the trustees have submitted our application to Heritage Lottery Fund for the funds to complete our redevelopment project. It comprised hundreds of pages and we couldn’t have done it without our two consultants who have given us far more than we, and probably they, could have expected.
However it is too early to raise a glass to Jim Oribine and Lucy Godfrey as we must now wait until January before we know if we have been successful. There again, perhaps we should just raise that glass anyway! We have come a long way since we first asked for the views of the town’s residents on the sort of heritage centre they wanted and whatever happens now we have given it our best shot.
We all feel we deserve success in turning Mrs Webster’s building into the heritage centre and community hub that Wirksworth deserves. Assuming that we do win the award, we still have to raise our own share of the project cost before we can go ahead. When my husband and I first fell in love with Wirksworth, the icing on the cake was the fantastic atmosphere generated by the two weeks of art, music and drama of Wirksworth Festival – the like of which we had not seen before.
It is the biggest event of the year for the town and kicks off with the Art and Architecture Trail on September 10 and 11. The heritage centre will again be an arts venue that weekend so we are currently in the throes of reorganising Webster’s to accommodate the pen and ink drawings of Peter Wheatcroft. His cityscapes should look all the more futuristic in our olde-worlde beamed surroundings. Joan, our renowned cakemaker, will be head-down in her kitchen and it will be all hands to the pumps all weekend to staff the art display, the shop and the courtyard café. We can only hope the weather is good and that there are plenty of visitors with deep pockets and a need to rest their legs and enjoy some fine refreshment,