Wiltshire Publications

Heritage Centre to move into historic building

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Westbury’s Heritage Centre could soon be getting a new lease of life with a move to one of the town’s most prestigious historic buildings.

Plans to move from the current premises in the High Street to the first floor of Westbury House, home of the town library, were unveiled at the Heritage Society AGM last month.

If the scheme goes according to plan, it will mean a dedicated space for displays of the town history, as well as the society’s large collection of local artefacts. Provided the funding is agreed by Westbury Town Council, the move is likely to take place early next summer.

The space will be a dedicated heritage centre. The visitor centre, which is also housed in the current building will not be making the move. However, the Heritage Society reassures residents and visitors to the town that all information currently available at the visitor centre will be available from the library including maps, tourist information and public transport timetables. 

Concern had been raised about the financial future of the Heritage Society which depends solely on the town council for its rent at the current High Street premises. However, it is now carefully scrutinising each grant to insure best value for money, so the society decided to explore more economical options.

The new style heritage centre would be on the first floor with a storage facility on the top floor. There are also plans for more outreach activities with schools and local organisations including talks, walks and exhibitions.

“This is a great opportunity to showcase Westbury’s heritage in a most appropriate setting.” said chair of the Heritage Society, Sally Hendry. 

“With the continued growth of our town, it is really important to conserve and promote our heritage and make it available to everyone, so residents new and old can be aware of their town’s interesting history. 

“We are delighted to be working closely with both Wiltshire Council and Westbury Town Council on this project. Without their help and cooperation it would not be possible.

“Our only objection to the building is that it doesn’t have a lift to enable the elderly or disabled to the first floor. However, we have visited museums that are on the first floor, that also don’t have access, and they still seem to work. It is a Wiltshire Council owned building, so we could bring up the idea of a lift, or even a stairlift at the very least. But for now, it does have very broad stairs with a large handrail that will hopefully help.

“A lot of the finer details are still in negotiation with us, the town council and Wiltshire Council.”

The move would mean an opportunity to work more closely with the library which is already a popular venue for people researching their family history. 

The library also has a comprehensive display of local history books which would complement the society’s collection of historic photographs, documents and books.

Basil Nankivell, community library manager, Trowbridge and Westbury Libraries, welcomed the prospect of the heritage centre sharing space with the town library.

He said, “We have similar set-ups in our libraries at Bradford on Avon and at Warminster and they work very well. I am sure that sharing the premises will bring benefits to both organisations and allow the public better access to local historical resources.”

The application for grant funding for the new premises will be shortly discussed by the town council. In the meantime, the society is looking for helpers to update the catalogues of artefacts and photographs. If you can help, please contact the society at info@westburyheritagesociety.org.uk or pop in to our High Street premises.