This post has been updated as of 25/1/20. For the latest on Stockport Museums, scroll down to the ‘News Update‘ section below. Otherwise, if you have not read the article before, just read on…
Stockport’s town museum (The Stockport Story) and Chadkirk Chapel are both under threat of permanent closure. Stockport’s remaining museums are to have reduced opening hours and increased admission prices.
Stockport Museum currently holds the very important findings from the archaeological community dig at Mellor’s Iron Age hilltop settlement, which took years to complete. Its other important collections feature artefacts from the Stone Age, Medieval, Civil War and Victorian times, as well as World War 2. The very popular Strawberry Studios exhibition has now been made permanent.
Chadkirk Chapel is in a country estate that includes the church, St Chad’s Well and a walled garden. The council is proposing to remove all funding from it in the hope that it could be run by volunteers. The Friends of Chadkirk Chapel have stated that they do not have the resources to do this.
Stockport Council hopes to save £150,000 by closing the two museums and reducing the opening hours of their other museums, namely The Hat Works Museum, Staircase House, Air Raid Shelters and Bramall Hall. They have launched a consultation on the matter (which is now closed) but have been criticised for failing to make the public fully aware of the consultation.
It seems short-sighted to close these venues for two reasons:
Firstly, Stockport Museum is a draw for people to visit the town. Standing next door to the Staircase House, people will often visit both venues. To close one means it is less likely people will come and visit the other. A town centre needs more than just shops (a sector that is having trouble of its own). If a town takes away leisure facilities and destinations that encourage people to visit and spend money, this will also impact on the retail business around such venues.
The other argument against closure is that culture and history in and of themselves are valuable. To constantly cut back, close and deny people access to these places is damaging to civil society. Our history matters, and to deprive people of the knowledge of such an important asset is wrong.
There is still time to make your voice heard. Although the consultation is over, Change.org has a petition that you can sign. You can also leave a comment on the website if you wish. Access the website here.
News Update 25/1/20
After two months of consultation, Stockport Council has announced the following:
The decision to close Stockport town museum (The Stockport Story) has been deferred until September 2020. Chadkirk Chapel will no longer be a museum, but there is a possibility that local volunteer groups will run it from March 2020. The remaining museums, namely Bramhall Hall, Staircase House, Stockport Air Raid Shelters and War Museum Art Gallery will all have their visiting hours cut and their admission prices increased.
It is to be welcomed that there is a pause before the decision to keep open or close Stockport Museum is taken. In the consultation many members of the public have put in alternative ideas to help reduce costs, and councillors have promised to consider these and assess their viability.
On a personal note, during a recent trip to Stockport we visited the town museum and tourist information centre, then went next door to go around Staircase House. After this we then went back through the museum to have lunch at the historic Blackshaws Kitchen café. These buildings are all next to each other and are mutually supporting. To remove the museum would have a direct effect on the footfall to the Staircase House and Blackshaws Kitchen. These building stand right next to the market place and other shops, and must positively their trade.
As Peter Wadsworth, organiser of the Strawberry Studios exhibition at the museum has said, it is important to have a free museum at the heart of the town. You can sign his petition here.