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What now for Great Yarmouth Museum of Memories following death of its devoted founder?

PUBLISHED: 12:27 28 March 2017 | UPDATED: 08:31 29 March 2017

Valerie Howkins in the David Howkins Museum of Memories which she set up on King Street, Great Yarmouth.

Picture: James Bass

Valerie Howkins in the David Howkins Museum of Memories which she set up on King Street, Great Yarmouth. Picture: James Bass

Archant Norfolk © 2013

It was one woman’s passion - a private collection made public for the benefit of good causes and as a memorial to a beloved son.

The David Howkins Charity Museum in King Street, Great Yarmouth.
Happy and Glorious themed as a tribute to Her Majesty's Diamond Jubilee.
Valerie Howkins


Picture: James BassThe David Howkins Charity Museum in King Street, Great Yarmouth. Happy and Glorious themed as a tribute to Her Majesty's Diamond Jubilee. Valerie Howkins Picture: James Bass

But a question mark hangs over the future of the David Howkins Museum of Memories following the death of its remarkable founder.

Valerie Howkins died in November hoping that the kaleidoscopic display would continue to delight visitors at the former gas showrooms in King Street, Great Yarmouth.

And this week her daughter Eva said she was committed to making that happen, but uncertain as to how to proceed.

Because of her mother’s generosity, always giving to charity, there were no funds to dip into and the museum itself was never a big money-spinner, she added.

The David Howkins Charity Museum in King Street, Great Yarmouth.
Happy and Glorious themed as a tribute to Her Majesty's Diamond Jubilee.
Valerie Howkins


Picture: James BassThe David Howkins Charity Museum in King Street, Great Yarmouth. Happy and Glorious themed as a tribute to Her Majesty's Diamond Jubilee. Valerie Howkins Picture: James Bass

The businesswoman who owns Fitness 2000 in Southtown Road has appealed for volunteers to help run the attraction and is in talks with other local museums and organisations to see if they can help.

MORE: Woman’s campaign to give elephant man a decent burial

The collection was started by Valerie’s mother and spans royal and circus memorabilia, boasting some unusual items including The Elephant Man’s death mask.

At the opening in 2012 Mrs Howkins described the eclectic display as “a collection that comes from never saying no,” dedicating it to her son David who died of pneumonia aged 18.

Valerie Howkins has opened the upstairs tier of her King Street museum of memories which include a room filled with  furniture covered in thousands of postage stamps created by Albert Schafer.

Picture: James Bass

Valerie Howkins has opened the upstairs tier of her King Street museum of memories which include a room filled with furniture covered in thousands of postage stamps created by Albert Schafer. Picture: James Bass

She added that she wanted it to be “a fun museum of memories” and that she hoped everyone would “leave with a smile.”

In 2014 she opened the upstairs in order to display her tableau of picnicking bears and the famous stamp room, an injured circus clown’s obsessive pastime covering a whole

Victorian parlour in the sticky squares.

Eva said: “It was mum’s dream and it was her baby. She set it up as a memorial to David and it was what kept her going.

Valerie Howkins has opened the upstairs tier of her King Street museum of memories which include a room filled with  furniture covered in thousands of postage stamps created by Albert Schafer.

Picture: James Bass

Valerie Howkins has opened the upstairs tier of her King Street museum of memories which include a room filled with furniture covered in thousands of postage stamps created by Albert Schafer. Picture: James Bass

“I would love to think it could open again, but we have to be practical.

“If it does not go ahead this year it doesn’t mean it wont happen. It needs to have someone who is able to take on the day to day running, and there will be bills so we need to get volunteeers and fundraising.”

The colleciton started with her mother who at 18 was so infatuated with the Prince of Wales she pledged to marry the first Englishman she met, just so she could be in the same country as the man who would be king.

In the event Sarah-Jane Schaeffer from Long Island, New York, nicknamed “Kitty”, found herself in conversation with circus clown Arthur Van Norman who she went on to marry.

Valerie Howkins has opened the upstairs tier of her King Street museum of memories which include a room filled with  furniture covered in thousands of postage stamps created by Albert Schafer.

Picture: James Bass

Valerie Howkins has opened the upstairs tier of her King Street museum of memories which include a room filled with furniture covered in thousands of postage stamps created by Albert Schafer. Picture: James Bass

Darren Barker, of Great Yarmouth Preservation Trust, said the trust was happy to work with the new owners to save the collection and help with grant applications.

He said it would be a shame if it were broken up, adding: “It has the typical Yarmouth quirkiness about it.”

To help or volunteer contact eva@fitness2000.co.uk.

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