A new local history museum in Redditch town centre

Redditch suffers from the tag of “New Town” despite a history that stretches back nearly one thousand years. It’s 20 years since the topic of a creating a town centre museum to represent the diverse scope of our history was first raised.

The Redditch Local History Society, founded in 2009, became the latest organisation to pursue this ambition to provide facilities to safely store and give public access to our artefact collection.

As the archivist for the society, I looked at all the alternative options in term of location, cost and access to store the society’s collection and came to the conclusion that the only option we had was to take matters into our own hands and create the long-proposed town centre museum. After much debate by the society’s Management Committee it was agreed that a separate organisation should take on the project to protect the society from the risks involved.

This was ratified at the AGM of the society in 2019 and in November 2019 the Redditch Local History Museum was established as a registered charity. The decision to go with a separate organisation seemed to be vindicated as we were quickly plunged into the implications of the Covid pandemic and the activities of the society ground to a halt.

We were fortunate to identify an empty shop at 5 Market Place in Redditch town centre as a very good fit to our requirements. It has, in addition to the ground floor exhibition area, a basement in which to create an archiving facility and a first-floor meeting and exhibition room.

This has turned out to be a very shrewd decision as the owners of the property are also the owners of the shopping centre in Redditch and they have been very supportive of the decision to create the museum. Commercial lease negotiations were bit of an eyeopener for the trustees who had never previously had any experience of this, but the shopping centre management were very helpful. We were also pleased to be successful in obtaining a grant of £17,500 from the National Lottery Heritage Fund specifically to support the building of the archiving facility.

We took possession in late September 2021 and set about recruiting volunteers to help build and run the proposed museum.  Since then we have worked tirelessly to create exhibits and fit out the property. To do this we have begged, borrowed and scrounged fittings and services from local businesses and have, through Facebook and some good coverage in the local press, also attracted a pool of volunteers who are helping create the initial museum offering.

We opened to the public on 3 November 2021 and are currently open three days a week on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 10am-4pm. Feedback from visitors has been very positive, the essence of which is “Much needed, so much to see, we’ll have to come back.”

We are now planning our outreach activities for 2022 and are very pleased to have the support of Art Fund, who have awarded us a grant of £22,500 to support our proposed programme. We look forward to welcoming visitors both from Redditch, and the wider West Midlands area, to whom we can show that even New Towns can have an interesting local history.

Derek Coombes, Trustee, Redditch Local History Museum

Visit us at 5 Market Place, Redditch B98 8AA or https://rlhm.online/ 

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Pictured: Redditch Local History Museum town centre location; The newly fitted out Redditch Local History Museum.