Monday, July 24, 2006

Council scupper bid for funds to improve Jefferies Museum



Council scupper bid for funds to improve Jefferies Museum

Efforts to raise money from the Heritage Lottery Fund, to restore the grounds and out-buildings of the Richard Jefferies Museum at Coate, have been dealt a mighty blow through lack of support and commitment to the project by Swindon Borough Council.

The Jefferies Land Conservation Trust submitted a bid for funding in May after an officer from the national lottery body had visited the Museum and expressed delight at the proposals. Plans included restoring the little dairy, the pig-sties and barn as well as planting up the grounds with wild-life friendly flowers, trees and shrubs.

As Swindon Borough Council own the house, where nature writer Richard Jefferies [1848-1887] was born and raised, part of the requirement for funding depended on the Trust securing a 15 year lease and an access agreement. The council has been aware of this since March but no progress has been made to secure any written support for the proposals.

Jean Saunders, Secretary of the Trust said:

"We are bitterly disappointed to miss out on the funding but we will try again. The Museum has been transformed since volunteers have been working in the grounds. Apart from a grant of £500 from Royal Mail to buy plants, people have been willing to dip into their own pockets and give up their free time to beautify the place."

"I don't get it. The Council is quick to react to accusations that Swindon is a cultural desert. Yet on their doorstep they own a charming little Museum that was the home of one of England's finest nature writers but they won't spend a penny on it and do nothing to assist those who are prepared to help."

The Museum, on the corner of Day House Lane and the Marlborough Road at Coate, is opened by the Richard Jefferies Society on the first and third Sundays of the month between 2-5pm until the end of September and the second Wednesday of the month from 10am-4pm throughout the year.