Surrey Heath Museum to close after Easter

Over 30 interested and concerned residents were in attendance at a meeting of the Executive Committee of Surrey Heath Borough Council on Tuesday 6th March, where the future of Surrey Heath Heritage Services was discussed.

The plans for the future, as described in the council press release below, does not include a museum. While not stating the word closure, it says, “Whilst we will not be operating our museum service from the current site after the Easter holiday”, which means the same thing.

I’ll write more about the council’s decision in the coming days and weeks. My photo of one the many successful Museum exhibitions.

At a meeting of the Executive of Surrey Heath Borough Council last night (Tuesday 6 March) Councillors voted to adopt the changes proposed for Surrey Heath Heritage Services.  This followed a consultation about the future of Surrey Heath Museum and Heritage Services, which ran for several months at the end of last year.

The Council engaged with a wide variety of community groups and individuals, receiving more than 400 responses.  Feedback from regular museum visitors and local historical societies as part of the User Group discussion process confirmed the view that the museum is not in the right location. This was supported by declining visitor numbers to the premises at Surrey Heath House, Camberley, which was launched as a temporary site in 1986.

Feedback from the consultation has informed plans for the future of Heritage Services which include expanding the existing programme of events, workshops, walks and talks, outreach work with schools and other community groups and research.

Whilst we will not be operating our museum service from the current site after the Easter holidays, the Executive also approved proposals for further development of the service to include an improved online catalogue of the collection, a display in reception at Surrey Heath House; more temporary exhibitions and events at different locations around the Borough, and an extended exhibition in Camberley Town Centre throughout the summer – bringing heritage into the heart of our community, and helping reach new and wider audiences across Surrey Heath and beyond.

Surrey Heath Borough Council will continue to strive for Arts Council Accreditation for the collection, and is delighted that the mission statement which is essential to this process was unanimously agreed by the Executive:  “Surrey Heath Heritage Services exist to preserve, manage and document the heritage of this Borough. We will promote our unique heritage by public exhibitions, events, outreach and research access.”

Surrey Heath Portfolio Holder for Business Cllr Craig Fennell said: “The history of this Borough remains of paramount importance but we must stay relevant to what future generations want from a heritage service, and continue to reach a wider community.  These proposals will breathe new life into the service – the thousands of artefacts in the collection will tell the story of our past to current and future generations, enabling a wider audience to enjoy smaller, more frequent exhibitions in easy-to-access locations.”

More information about upcoming exhibitions and events will be available on our website. 

Surrey Heath Council update on its museum

Surrey Heath Borough Council has released an update on the future of Surrey Heath Museum, notice how the press release uses the word heritage services in place of Surrey Heath Museum. It’ll be interesting to see the report to be submitted to the Council’s Executive committee whether there’s  an  increase in funding for the Museum’s services to deliver a proper digital archive, or whether it’s an exercise in funding reduction. Here’s the Council press release,

Following the recent public consultation held regarding the future of Heritage Services in Surrey Heath, which closed at the end of December 2017, the results and feedback are currently being collated and reviewed, and the resulting report will go before the Council’s Executive in due course.

The consultation’s aim was to help Surrey Heath Borough Council develop plans to make its heritage service more accessible to the Borough’s residents and visitors.

The area’s heritage collection, like many similar collections across the country, includes thousands of artefacts and archives, and helps tell the story of the rich heritage of the area. These stores are currently based at Surrey Heath Museum in Surrey Heath House, Camberley.

However, much of the collection remains in storage for the majority of the time, so future plans could involve ‘taking the heritage to the people’ rather than relying on the public to visit a single physical location.

Since 2013, museum staff have been working with a committed group of volunteers to audit this collection and place it onto a database, with the aim of improving access to the collections, and future plans to make the collection available online.

This work has been invaluable in working towards Arts Council Accreditation so that the entire collection is formally recognised.

A discussion group with key stakeholders was also set up by the Council to engage and consult on future plans with those who are passionate about the area’s heritage. Members from a variety of local societies sit on the group, which is developing its own role, providing ongoing support and advice for heritage work.

While the consultation was running, the permanent collection remained on display at the museum, along with ‘Storetastic’, a display of fascinating items from the Museum’s stores. Current outreach programmes such as schools’ workshops and reminiscence sessions, family activities, local history talks and walks also continue.

The Museum is currently closed, but will reopen with its next exhibition, ‘War & Peace – the work of War Photographer and Artist, Kevin Weaver’ on February 1st.

Your opinions are needed to help Surrey Heath Museum

I wonder how many of you, dear readers, noticed that my four Museum Monday articles didn’t include Surrey Heath Museum?

The reason was so that I could highlight Surrey Heath Borough Council’s lack of ambition and support for its museum service. What I’d like you to do, dear reader, is to complete the Council’s online consultation about the future of Surrey Heath Museum. Click on image to link to the webpage.

Earlier this year the Council announced it’s plans for the Museum. The paucity of ambition exhibited in this Council Paper, and lack of mention of any commitment to invest funds into the museum. There’s talk, and councillor support for making Surrey Heath Museum a mainly online museum. There is no mention of staffing, timescales, or funds to digitise and scan its archives. The majority of the museums collections are mouldering in storage.

My idea is the build a two/three storey heritage centre, with museum, art gallery, and education space on the land in front of Camberley Library. It’s surely possible with the support of Surrey Council, transferring France Hill Adult Education to the new centre, the Heritage Lottery Fund, Arts Council, Local Enterprise Partnership, and Surrey Heath Borough Council.

If Woking can do it with The Lightbox, why can’t we in Surrey Heath. Heck, the Council have borrowed £115 million or more to become owners of Camberley’s shopping centre.

In short, the people of Surrey Heath deserve better, since the Museum collections belong to them and they have a right to enjoy them and benefit from their tourism and educational potential.

Surrey Heath Museum: ‘Storetastic’ exhibition, November and December 2017

Surrey Heath Borough Council announce a new Surrey Heath Museum exhibition [Click on image to expand].

Surrey Heath Museum has existed since the 1930s and covers the history of the area from Stone Age times through to the modern day. Our collection is diverse with many hidden treasures.  The museum usually runs four to five exhibitions a year based on the collections and has an active programme of events.  Since the summer, Surrey Heath Borough Council has been asking local residents what they want from the service and how the museum can continue to meet the community’s needs in preparation for proposed changes in spring 2018.

The consultation comes to an end at the end of December.  To encourage more participation, museum staff are staging an exhibition called ‘Storetastic’ which features a plethora of items from the museum’s stores; anything and everything people have created, read, worn,  developed or used for over 1000 years is on display.  The Storetastic exhibition reveals the museum’s strengths and provides an insight into the history of our area.  The exhibition runs until Friday 22 December.  We welcome anyone to pop in during our opening hours and have a chat about our local heritage.

2018 Surrey Heath Museum Calendar is now available

The 2018 Surrey Heath Museum calendar features architectural drawings from the Poulter brothers (local practising architects from the 1900s). Many of the drawings are the origins of the buildings we see around us today. The drawings are beautiful images in their own right; however, each month of the calendar is set alongside images of the building today (if it still exists) and historical photographs. Over 230 architectural drawings are in the collection, many have only recently been catalogued with volunteer help; all are now publicly accessible.  The calendar costs £6 and is available at Surrey Heath Museum or at the Heritage Gallery, Obelisk Way, Camberley.



Surrey Heath Museum, Knoll Road, Camberley, GU15 3HD Tel:  (01276) 707284. Open 11 to 5, Wed to Saturday. Admission Free.

We’re Surrey Heath’s milestone heroes

Should you be a reader here, you’ll know, and perhaps be bored of, myself and my chum Reg Davis cleaning and painting nine milestones in Surrey Heath.

Motivated, both, by the loss of a milestone on the A30 in Yorktown we set about the task, which was harder work, and took longer than we’d both anticipated. Our excellent Surrey Heath Museum manager, Gillian Riding, unbeknownst to us, arranged for a press release about our accomplishment, and a small gift presented to us by the mayor. Here’s the press release, and it’s accompanying photo. Click to expand.

Surrey Heath PR5167

In the photo from the left, Reg Davis, Tim Dodds, the Mayor – Cllr Valerie White, Cllr Josephine Hawkins

Mrs Rosette Savill’s story told in the Camberley News

Pippa Anderson continues to do her ‘Woodies’ proud. ‘Woodies’ being girls who attended Paddock Wood Finishing School in Lightwater, of which she is one. Pippa is the instigator, along with Gillian Riding of Surrey Heath Museum of the Blue Plaque recently unveiled, on the remaining building of the now closed school.

I feel sure that its Pippa wanting the story behind the blue plaque, commemorating the work of Mrs Rosette Savill, to be told for everyone to read, and ensured the Camberley News & Mail covered the story, see copy of the article below. [Click on image to expand]

The Frith Hill Trench Walk led by Roy Sellstrom BEM

The walking group for the Frith Hill Trench Walk, organised by Surrey Heath Museum for Heritage Open Days, met at Tomlinscote School in Frimley,

Led by Roy Sellstrom BEM, the walk revealed the earth movements and visual signs of the use of the area as a military training area. Frith Hill was a practice area for trench warfare, and the site of a German Prisoner of War camp during the First World War.

In his researches Roy discovered a map of the trenches in Frith Hill. These have now mostly be filled in. It’s fascinating to realise that of the paths in the area, though difficult to recognise, many are on the filled in trenches.

Roy pointed to post World War II trenches, some small and for only two soldiers. He also pointed out a mine crater [see photo below], previously thought be elsewhere, see Remains of Mine Explosions, and read the following report of the event at the time.

“Blackdown Camp, October 1916, Wessex Field Company Royal Engineers: The company moved into an excellent hut-camp, … leaving No.4 section to complete Claycart Bridge. The chief interest at first was the mine that had been made on Frith Hill, some of our men assisting in the tunnelling. It was to be blown up by 5,000lbs of gun cotton, and was the first of three that were to be blown for experiment and training. To make the affair more like an operation at our front line, our company made wire entanglements all about the imaginary ‘No man’s land’ above the charge, and practised the consolidation of the mine craters after seizure by infantry.”

“On the great day , VIP’s arrived, the Sandhurst cadets came over and were shown by us how to consolidate a crater. All the windows for miles around were left open, so as not to be blown in by concussion of the explosion. At the last moment the spectators, numbering several thousand, were moved from ½ to ¾ of a mile away. The guns and trench mortars began to fire blank, machine guns and rifles the same, up went the mine, and attacking parties seized the craters with much cheering and throwing of dummy hand-grenades and bombs, while our Sapper party, under Lt Davidson, started entrenching in the lip of the craters.”

“The actual explosion and upheaval of the mines was most disappointing. The charge had been divided, by order from above, so that two little craters were made instead of one large one. We hardly felt any concussion, heard no noise, and the spectacle was far from alarming. The soil was thrown up about thirty feet, in the form of a plum-pudding, then it subsided through a dense volumes of smoke. So slight was the effect that it was said that parties in a dug-out 300 yards away did not know the charge had been blown under they were told of it by a runner.”

Here are the photos from the walk,