The museum is likely to close in June next year

Campaign launched to save Lowewood Museum

Geraldine Kendall Adams, 24.12.2019
Local history museum faces closure after agreement between councils breaks down
Lowewood Museum in Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire, is likely to close next year after a service agreement between the two councils involved in its management broke down, leaving it in financial difficulty.

Epping Forest District Council museum service, which has run and staffed the museum for seven years on behalf of Broxbourne Borough Council, gave 12 month’s notice last June that it would terminate this agreement.

Epping Forest’s decision to end the partnership came after Broxbourne Borough Council backed out of a plan to apply for a £1.5m lottery grant to redevelop the museum and move it to a different site.

Broxbourne council had planned to invest around £200,000 in the redevelopment and raise further funding from local developers, but the project was shelved after the local elections in May left the council under new leadership. Broxbourne subsequently told Epping Forest it could no longer justify the redevelopment due to economic uncertainty and a projected gap in its finances.

Relations between the two local authorities were also damaged after a senior Broxbourne councillor made “uncomplimentary and unfair” remarks about Epping Forest’s running of the museum, according to those with knowledge of the situation.

After Epping Forest terminated the agreement, Broxbourne approached the Friends of Lowewood Museum group to ask it take over the museum on a voluntary basis, without offering ongoing practical support. The request left the group's members “totally gobsmacked”, according to David Dent, a committee member and former chair of the Friends.

“Asking a group of untrained, mainly older volunteers to run what should be a professional service – it was not an option,” he told Museums Journal. The Friends group told Broxbourne it did not have the capacity or expertise to take on the facility.

Another proposal to set up a trust to run the museum failed to get off the ground. At a cabinet meeting last week, Broxbourne councillors recommended that the closure of the museum should go before the full council in February 2020 for approval – prompting supporters of the museum to walk out en masse.
 
The Friends group has launched a campaign and petition against the planned closure, with local schools, businesses and heritage groups expressing support. A public meeting will be held on 21 January to discuss further action. The meeting will take place at 7.30pm at the United Reformed Church Hall in Broxbourne.

The chair of the Friends, Pat Styles, wrote in the group’s newsletter last week: “We hope to succeed but it is not going to be easy. As chairman of the Friends and a volunteer who knows the collection inside out and the importance of it to the borough, I am saddened that this council cannot see this and cares so little about its heritage.”

A spokesperson from Epping Forest District Council said: “It is with heavy hearts that we are saying goodbye to Lowewood Museum. We have a passion for museum, culture and heritage services and have made many friends in Broxbourne over the past seven years. It is a great shame that our partnership cannot continue but we wish our friends in Broxbourne all the best for the future, while we concentrate on the continued enhancement and delivery of our own museum service.”

The museum displays artefacts and photographs connected to the history of Hoddesdon and the surrounding area.

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