What started as a simple redecoration project at the end of last
summer has become an exciting project to reveal the original splendor of Fleetwood’s
former Custom House.
Anyone passing Fleetwood Museum on Queen’s Terrace since October
will have noticed the scaffolding and patchwork appearance to the front of the
building. Fleetwood Museum Trust took over the running of the site from
Lancashire County Council in April of last year. As part of the agreement, the
trust has to complete a series of repairs to an agreed list. Work started to
redecorate the front, but large areas of waterproof coatings started coming
off, revealing years of trapped water and extensive cracking.
‘With all we had to do to
get the museum open again after the announced closure in 2015, we had hoped the
painting would be straightforward. But what could have been a nightmare is
turning into a remarkable opportunity to return the building to its original
Georgian era appearance’ says Keith Porter,
chairman of the trust.
The trust has carried out extensive tests working with Wyre’s
conservation officer and specialists in historic roofing and stonework. Under ten
layers of paint coatings, the original historic render can be glimpsed, as
first applied in 1837. And all the window surrounds, entrance columns and high-level
parapets are in the familiar stone of the nearby North Euston Hotel. The trust
is now waiting for approval from Lancashire County Council and Wyre to proceed
with repairs. ‘We are hoping that the County
will let us use money allocated for a wide range of small repairs on these
urgent works’ says museum manager Ben Whittaker.
‘It will continue to take
us time to assess the full extent of the works required. One small part of a
gallery where water ingress has caused most damage over years, will be
temporarily closed. But we are reopening the museum as planned in April with a
new exhibition called Collecting Fleetwood, showcasing objects collected by the
trust. Later this year we will also be sharing discoveries made during the
redecoration that reveal the old Customs House to be one of the most important
coastal buildings in the country. This will help us bring forward our ambitious
plans to finally finish the extension to the building that was started in the mid-1990s. This includes rehousing the nationally
important historic boats ‘Harriet’ and ‘Judy’ in improved conditions, and
providing exciting new galleries about Fleetwood and the Fylde coast.’
Museum was the only one of five Lancashire museums threatened with closure that
was able to reopen in 2018 under local volunteer management. This was made
possible by the support of the people of Fleetwood through the Town Council.
The museum currently has 10% of it’s collection on display and, following
fundraising, the planned extension will allow even more objects to be displayed
that celebrate and explore life in the area.