‘Radical solution’ needed to save Manor House Museum

Wharfedale Observer: Ilkley's Manor House museum Ilkley's Manor House museum

Historical artefacts from Ilkley could be lost to the town unless crunch talks this month come up with firm plans for the future of Ilkley’s threatened Manor House Museum, it is feared.

Concern is growing that Bradford Council may withdraw its staff and close the Ilkley museum within months as part of proposed budget cuts, unless an agreement for community management is reached.

Further talks are due to take place this month, it has been revealed, as Bradford Council seeks to hand over the management of the museum to the community.

Local councillors and supporters of the museum were told last month the museum could be “mothballed” by Bradford Council if no group comes forward to take it over.

One of those leading the push to keep the museum open fears a withdrawal of professional museum staff could lead to the Manor House losing its museum accreditation – and pieces of local heritage being sent to storage in Bradford.

The Museum on Castle Yard, on the site of an ancient Roman fort, houses Roman and prehistoric finds discovered in and around the town, and exhibits donated by local residents.

But Bradford Council, which is currently consulting on its budget proposals for 2014 to 2016, has yet to announce what is to become of the Manor House if it is not successfully transferred to community management as planned.

Chairman of supporters group Friends of the Manor House, John Cockshott, told Ilkley Parish Council this week: “Withdrawal of all professional staff could mean loss of museum accreditation, so potentially diversion to Bradford central stores of Ilkley artefacts.”

The Friends has stressed it is not constituted to run the museum, but may provide some volunteers.

Mr Cockshott said the museum would be better off remaining in the hands of Bradford Council. He felt it was disproportionate for the Ilkley museum to bear the brunt of the cutbacks.

Councillor Brian Mann called for earlier notification by Bradford Council of such major changes.

He said: “It was at the meeting on December 16 that the bombshell was dropped that with three months notice the Manor House could be mothballed.” Coun Brian Mann added: “To be honest I don’t think that’s on at all.”

Parish Council chairman and Ilkley ward councillor, Mike Gibbons, is to request a meeting with Bradford Council Culture portfolio holder, Councillor Susan Hinchcliffe, about the museum.

Another ward councillor, Anne Hawkesworth (Ind, Ilkley), however, is urging those involved in the push to save the museum to come up with a “radical solution”.

She said: “Different people find one or the other the most interesting. For me it is the building – the contents can go anywhere. Much originally came from the library. I do not think jumping up and down is going to achieve anything on this occasion.”

Bradford Council officer Sue Gledhill, of the Keighley Area Co-ordinator’s Office, told parish councillors a co-ordinated approach to the council on such issues is good, but many representations from individuals on the budget proposals would give more credibility to the local case.

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