Letter: Museum in middle of renaissance

Calderdale Industrial Museum
Calderdale Industrial Museum

It was good to read in the Courier of December 30 about the plans to boost tourism in Calderdale in 2017.

Next year will see exciting cultural developments right across the region but especially in the south east quarter of Halifax town centre.

This is set out in your article on page four, and in the coverage of Holly Lynch’s excellent work to bring more visitors to the town. But please don’t forget Calderdale’s award winning Industrial Museum, which is right in the middle of this renaissance.

In April last year the council voted unanimously to authorise expenditure to repair the fabric of the building and to proceed with plans to grant a licence to CIMA to take over the running of the museum. That handover took place in August and the authorised building works are now getting started.

We are working with the council, with the Piece Hall/library contractors, and with the Piece Hall Trust, so that the Industrial Museum can re-open to the public at the same time as the Piece Hall and the new Central Library and Archive, in the summer of 2017.

Before then our amazing team of volunteers have a massive task to bring the museum back to life. Over the last three or four years we have held occasional open days to remind the public what a priceless collection of historic, industrial exhibits is housed in the middle of Halifax but we were not able to operate these machines so that people could actually see them working. But now that we are running the museum, we are able to run the machines (under museum guidelines).

We already have the water wheel and fulling stocks working. In the next six or seven months, we plan to get as many as possible of the machines back into running order. For our four steam engines, this will require the purchase of new, modern, steam-raising plant, for which grant-funding will be necessary. This might be possible by August/September but it will be a big challenge.

Quite apart from the machines on display, we have many other projects under way - including: a new reception and shop area; a new entrance from the museum yard, incorporating a Victorian, water-powered lift to improve accessibility; a new education/meeting facility, to be funded by Lloyds Banking Group; extension of the second staircase to provide a second fire-exit from the top floor, and repair of the main lift (already working) to improve accessibility to all floors, funded by a grant from Green Business Network; two major displays on the top floor, looking at textile manufacture, from domestic, hand-operated processes, through to the mechanisation of the 20th century...

So, next time you’re passing that derelict looking brick, Victorian warehouse between Burger King and the new library, spare a thought for all the work going on inside - is there anything you could do to help?

We have a growing team of volunteers but always welcome new recruits. This will be especially important later in the year when we will need a rota of volunteers to work in reception or as room stewards so we can offer regular weekly opening to the public. If you’re interested, call in on a Tuesday or Thursday when the museum is open for volunteers.

Or could you help financially? In addition to supporters named above, we have financial support from Calderdale Council, Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, Community Foundation for Calderdale, and Halifax Round Table. Following our last Open Day in September we had a very generous donation from visitors Peter and Christine Farmer. All this support has helped greatly with our running costs but we need to raise more funding to complete all the projects listed above.

This is going to be a momentous year for Halifax and we’re looking forward to playing our part.

Tim Kirker, Chairman Calderdale Industrial Museum