Agenda and minutes

Venue: The Council Chamber, Thetford Town Council, King's House, King Street, Thetford, Norfolk IP24 2AP

No. Item


Minutes (Agenda item 1) pdf icon PDF 70 KB

To confirm the Minutes of the meeting held on Thursday 10 July 2014.


The Minutes of the meeting held on 10 July 2014 were confirmed as a correct record, subject to noting that it was Robin Hanley who had the title of PHD and not Oliver Bone.


Apologies (Agenda item 2)

To receive apologies for absence.


Apologies for absence were received from Councillors Hebborn and Richmond, Mr S Millar, Head of Museums and Mr M Oakes, Friends of the Ancient House Museum.


Chairman's Announcements (Agenda item 3)


The Chairman welcomed everyone to the meeting.


Urgent Business (Agenda item 4)

To note whether the Chairman proposes to accept any item as urgent business, pursuant to Section 100(B)(4)(b) of the Local Government Act, 1972.


In the light of proposed budget cuts to local museums, the Chairman proposed that this matter be discussed under urgent business.


The first details of how the latest round of budget cuts at Norfolk County Council could hit cultural services in the region had been revealed.  Norfolk County Council was facing a £13m budget shortfall in 2015-16 and the £900,000 contribution from areas such as museums, libraries and arts would be considered by Councillors at a meeting being held on Tuesday, 21 October 2014.


The report due included proposals for increasing income from museums such as introducing car parking charges at the Gressenhall Farm & Workhouse Museums and charging for entry to the Ancient House Museum during the winter months.


As this affected the Breckland Area Museums Committee, the Chairman felt that this would be the only opportunity to discuss these matters prior to the NCC meeting next week.


Councillor Paul Smyth, the Chairman of the NCC Communities Committee was in attendance.


Dr Robin Hanley stated that all curators were required to look at options for saving money and generating income and a report had already been prepared for the Communities meeting next week.  He pointed out that there were a number of Museums that already charged for parking and his proposal going forward was to introduce a modest charge at Gressenhall.  Card Pass Holders would not be charged which was in line with the National Trust.  He felt that this could provide an additional incentive for those who visited the Museum quite regularly to invest in an annual pass.  Pay and display machines would be located in the front car park consisting of a minimal monitoring regime.  Members were informed that Ironbridge Museum had recently introduced car parking charges as well as an entrance fee and a decrease in footfall had not been noticed.


Dr Robin Hanley said that he was mindful of the implications of those people trying to avoid paying to park such as parking elsewhere on other roads but he was aware that most people who visited the Museum visited for half a day or a full day and would not mind paying a nominal fee.  The detail still had to be worked out.


The Ancient House Museum currently offered free admission to visitors from October to March the same as Kings Lynn; however, for this particular Museum there was a funding agreement in place to cover lost income; unfortunately, Ancient House did not have such an agreement in place.  He felt that this could be a barrier to potential visitors but there would be some flexibility in place for certain visitors such as various groups/parties.  There was also an opportunity to introduce a Museum Pass.  The Ancient House Museum needed to concentrate on increasing visitor numbers and retail sales.

Mr Blackburn from the Charles Burrell Museum asked what proportion of the £88,000 was the Museums budget.  Members were informed that the budget was made up of Norfolk County Council funding and Arts Councils funding around £4m;  ...  view the full minutes text for item 19.


Declaration of Interests (item 5)

Members are no longer required to declare personal or prejudicial interests but are to declare any new Disclosable Pecuniary Interests that are not currently included in the Register of Interests. Members are reminded that under the Code of Conduct they are not to participate and must leave the room, for the whole of an agenda item to which they have a Disclosable Pecuniary Interest. 


In the interests of transparency, Members may also wish to declare any other interests they have in relation to an agenda item, that support the Nolan principles detailed within the Code of Conduct.




Gressenhall Farm & Workhouse (Agenda item 6) pdf icon PDF 139 KB

Report of Western Area Manager.


Dr Robin Hanley presented the report that covered the summer months from July to September 2014 which had been one of the busiest periods for Gressenhall.


Events and Activities


During the 2014 season Gressenhall had continued to offer a broad programme of events, based around three operational models:


  • Main event days – major events such as Apple Day with a full event staffing establishment including the use of parking fields. Free to Museum Pass Holders.
  • Days with a Difference – smaller themed event days such as Horse Power requiring a smaller staffing complement and utilising core parking.  Also free to Pass Holders.
  • Ticketed Events – pre-booked and pre-paid events such as Ghostly Gressenhall.  Reduced charge for Pass Holders.


The costs of delivering and marketing the Gressenhall event programme continued to be subsidised with funding from the Arts Council England (ACE).


On 26 July, Gressenhall worked in partnership with Breckland Council to deliver the third Festival on the Farm.  This successful family focused event day attracted over 1500 visitors.  Both Gressenhall staff and Breckland staff had worked well together.


The main event Village at War ran over two days of the August bank Holiday weekend and marked the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War.  This event featured a World War One home front theme on the farm, including a period Girl Guide camp and displays from the Royal Norfolk Regiment Living History Group.  The Museum also featured the traditional World War Two home front theme.  Despite very wet weather attendances reached over 3,000 across the two days.  This year’s flypast by the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight was performed by a Dakota, the first time this addition to the Flight had visited Gressenhall.  It was a real spectacle to watch.  To help promote the Village at War event, members of the Royal Norfolk Regiment Living History Group paraded in Dereham Market Place, where they were all inspected by the Mayor of Dereham.  This made excellent media coverage (the press coverage was circulated).


Gressenhall once again supported the National Heritage Open Days (HOD) programme and all tours were fully booked and represented the largest total for a HOD event to date.  The programme included tours of the recently re-organised Norfolk Collections Centre stores.  The final event of the year and normally the biggest was Apple Day which was being held on Sunday 19 October 2014.  This event would be delivered in partnership with the East of England Apple & Orchard Project.


In advance of the schools breaking up, leaflets had been distributed to schools about the activities at the Museum during the summer holidays.  The same had been done for Thetford.


On Monday, 20 October, an events review meeting was being held providing staff volunteers and freelancers with an opportunity to review and evaluate the 2014 event programme and begin the process of shaping the programme for 2015.


Other Museum Developments


Phase 1 of the Shine a Light project funded the Esmee Fairbairn Collections Fund had been completed.  £90,000  ...  view the full minutes text for item 21.


Ancient House Museum of Thetford Life (Agenda item 7) pdf icon PDF 618 KB

Report of Curator, Ancient House.


Oliver Bone provided the Committee with an update of the events and activities that had taken place at the Ancient House Museum from June to September 2014.


Thetford and the First World War Exhibition


A Role of Honour for Thetford was circulated with conscripts dating from 1915; gaps had been left so that others could be added.  This particular one came from St Cuthberts Church.


A local photographer had managed to digitalise slides belonging to the magic lantern.  The photographs were circulated. A card had also been restored with funding awarded to the Museum and this was circulated too.


The Museum display made use of the old kitchen and included a figure made by sculptor Dr Phillips representing Leonard Newton, a casualty of the war who once lived in Ancient House.  He joined the army in 1914 and was killed at Ypres in 1915.  Museum staff recently found out that Private Newton had been remembered at the Hooge Crater Museum at Ypres with a display of his cap badge and memorial plaque.


On the 11th November 2014, the exhibition would be enhanced with the opening of its second part of the display using the Museum’s exhibitions room.  On display would be objects and photographs to tell some of the local First World War stories including the experience of teenager Florrie Clark who took over from her father as town crier and bill poster when he went off to fight in 1916.  The exhibition would run until November 2015.


A book was being published on the First World War Experience and would be on sale at the Museum.


Museum staff had also produced pop-up display panels for visitors to see at the town’s Dad’s Army Museum and Charles Burrell Museum.


All the Fun of the Fete – Thetford Festival Finale Event


Oliver Bone conveyed his thanks to Thetford Town Council for allowing this event to be held in the King’s House Gardens.  The traditional garden fete was themed on the eve of the First World War including games, afternoon teas, an allotment show and a re-enactment of enlisting members of the public to join up which included a practice drill.  The event had been well received and more than 1,400 people had attended.


Art Exhibition


The art exhibition took place in St Peters Church in the town and had been a great success.


The Museum was looking forward to the publication of a new book called “A Small Fragment of the Great War”.  The cover was circulated. 


Toys and Games


The popular I Love Toys and Games exhibition had been extended until the end of the school half term period and would now close on 25 October 2014.




The Museum delivered a range of activities for children and families over the summer including a programme of engaging museum trails.  A loyalty scheme card proved a popular way for families to be able to experience a repeat visit.


Social Media


A strong social media presence remained for the  ...  view the full minutes text for item 22.


Presentation by Emily Shepperson and Tabitha Runacres (Agenda item 8)

To recieve a short presentation on their work experience and training.


Emily Shepperson and Tabitha Runacres both provided the Committee with a detailed overview of what they did at the Museum.  Emily was currently on a Teaching Museums scheme that offered an apprenticeship and she worked 4 days a week with one day off a week for training.  The training covered collections care, conservation, museum management and a museum as a business.  There were currently 8 trainees on this particular scheme covering all sites.  All kept learning logs to keep track of what each person was doing.  Emily had been working on the Trails Programme at Ancient House and the loyalty card.  She had thoroughly enjoyed delivering some of the training and she was now getting an idea of what a museum curator actually did.


Tabitha was a Heritage Learning trainee in relation to the Skills for the Future scheme.  There were 10 such trainees based at Gressenhall Museum but her time was based half in the Ancient House Museum and half in the Fens.  She explained the different activities that she had been involved in such as the Teenage History Club which she planned and delivered and incorporated the history of the destruction of Thetford castle.


Members were very impressed with what they had heard and thanked both Emily and Tabitha for attending the meeting.



Charles Burrell Museum, Thetford (Agenda item 9)

To receive a presentation by John Waple, Museum Manager (Volunteer).


John Waple, the Curator of Charles Burrell Museum in Thetford was in attendance.   Charles Burrell was the company of Thetford for many years.


Twenty volunteers had managed to work on 3 steam engines of which all had been involved in a tour of the UK.  One of the engines, called ‘Old Glory’ ended up in a magazine; apparently, it had been found that people had been looking for this one engine and a plaque was officially presented to the Museum earlier in the year.  All three engines were present at the Weeting Steam Rally and this was the first time that they had all been seen on a field together.


An apprentice day had taken place for youngsters wanting to learn to drive such engines.


Mr Waple said that he had been very pleased with the visitor figures this year and even though entry was free, the Museum had managed to bank over £2.5k from donations etc.


A Trustee meeting had been held earlier in the year at the Thomas Paine Hotel.  Mr Waple stated that the meeting had been rather awkward to start with but the air had been cleared and now he had been invited to all Trustees meetings in future.


The Museum building would be tidied up during the winter months whilst closed.


The Museum was now storing Jack Jones’ Butchers van for the Dad’s Army Museums as it did not have room.  All Museums worked very closely together and all were pleased to help each other out.


Most visitors were real steam enthusiasts and many frequented from far flung parts of the world to visit the Museum.


An archive had been based at Thetford Town Council and the owners of Thomas Paine Hotel had pictures of the Charles Burrell’s engines.


24 November 2014 was closure day for the winter season but all three engines would still be out and about on the road.


The Chairman thanked Mr Waple for his update.



Next Meeting (Agenda item 10)

To agree a date for the next meeting.


Councillor Darby suggested having the next meeting in Swaffham and combining the meeting with a tour of the Museum.


It was agreed that the next meeting would be held in February 2015.  Date to be confirmed.