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Battle to save Nelson Museum amid fears it could leave Great Yarmouth

PUBLISHED: 20:39 15 December 2012

Norfolk Nelson Museum. 
Photo: Bill Darnell
Copy: Mark Nicholls
For: EDP Centro
Archant © 2005 (01603) 772434

Norfolk Nelson Museum. Photo: Bill Darnell Copy: Mark Nicholls For: EDP Centro Archant © 2005 (01603) 772434

Archant © 2005

A battle to save Norfolk's only museum dedicated to Admiral Lord Nelson is under way, after falling visitor numbers left it in dire financial straits.

Museum bosses wanted to move the entire collection from Great Yarmouth’s Nelson Museum to west Norfolk, and it was within days of closure this summer it has emerged.

But when council chiefs heard about the historic attraction’s plight, a rescue package was made a top priority.

And people are being urged to vote with their feet if they want the riverside museum to stay - helping to drive up visitor numbers and preserve the resort’s reputation as a heritage destination.

Trevor Wainwright, council leader, said: “When we took control in May I was called to a meeting with the trustees and they said they were going to close the museum and move to somewhere in the west.

“We found out on a Tuesday, and they were going to close on Friday.

“Being a maritime borough, with the connection to Nelson, we didn’t want to lose the museum from Great Yarmouth.”

He explained that the museum’s budget is based on around 8,000 visitors per year, but just 3,000 passed through its doors last year.

“They’re struggling with visitor numbers which is having an impact on their cash flow,” he added.

And he persuaded trustees that they would help them “make it work”.

“We’re just looking to finalise an agreement with the trustees of the museum to work with them to stabilise the future of the Nelson Museum,” added Mr Wainwright. “We’re looking at working with current trustees and the curator and anybody involved with the museum to help them, as a borough council, to increase visitor numbers.

“We’re looking at helping to promote it and helping to make it remain viable.”

The museum was opened in South Quay in 2002 by HRH Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh.

The 2,000 item collection originated from the private collection of Ben Burgess, the late founder of Ben Burgess Agricultural.

It contains original material including letters by Nelson, papers written by Nelson’s protege Captain Sir William Hoste and his brother-in-law George Matcham.

And museum volunteers are determined that the collection stays in Yarmouth, with its many links to Nelson.

Nelson ward councillor Kerry Robinson-Payne, who is also a volunteer at the Nelson Museum, said: “We’ve lost the Jetty already and Nelson has a very important history with Yarmouth.

“He was such a national hero in his day and we want to promote what he did.

“We might not be here today without him.”

She and fellow Nelson ward councillor Michael Jeal were appointed to the Nelson Museums Management Board at the last full council meeting, aiming to help the museum.

The Jetty - believed to date back to the 1560s - was demolished in January 2012 as the council deemed repair work too expensive.

Nelson had landed at the jetty in 1800 after the Battle of the Nile and in 1801 and set sail from it with the fleet to the Battle of Copenhagen.

He disembarked there after the battle to visit the wounded at the Naval Hospital in Yarmouth.

During the Napoleonic Wars, the fleet was also frequently assembled in Yarmouth’s sheltered waters.

Mr Wainwright added: “There may be other things we can do.

“As a borough council we thought it was important to give it our best shot to keep it open.

“With close working with the museum and with anybody else with an interest we hope to increase numbers to make it viable.”

Details of the rescue package for the Nelson Museum will be printed when they have been agreed.

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