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Would you like a museum in Melksham?

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THE chair of Melksham and District Historical Association wants residents to share their views about whether a museum should open in the town, exhibiting historical artefacts to showcase Melksham’s rich heritage.

Paul Carter became chair of Melksham and District Historical Association in November last year and aims to fulfil the association’s charter when it was started, in 1962, of opening a museum in the town.

From fossils discovered at Clackers Brook from nearly 100,000,000 years ago, to a 160-year-old fireman’s helmet, and items recovered from the war, Melksham has a broad collection of historical artefacts that are currently not being seen.

Paul said, “We have got so much that people could see, it’s criminal that currently it’s all locked away. In the ‘80s, there was a small museum that opened in the Rachel Fowler Centre and in the ‘90s, there was one that opened in the Round House and there has been individual exhibitions in the Town Hall over the years.

“We want to open this museum for people to learn about Melksham’s heritage. It could also be a fantastic resource for education for schools and as a source of nostalgia for people. If we wanted, we could open a museum tomorrow as we’ve got all of the items but we want to learn about people’s views and whether the museum could be sustainable over a long period of time. We want to know if people would be willing to give their time to run it, how it could be paid for, where it could open.”

This call for a museum follows a recent Melksham Town Council meeting, where councillors discussed preserving and exhibiting items from the Avon when it closes in December. Paul said, “At one stage in history, the Avon had nearly 5,000 people working there and nearly every family in the town had a member who worked there. It’s a massive part of our history that we want to exhibit.”

Local history enthusiast Lisa Ellis, opened a museum exhibiting items from Melksham in her home but due to Covid-19 she had to close the museum doors to the public. Lisa is now working with Melksham and District Historical Association to open a new space.

She said, “Having researched Melksham history for more than 20 years, my resolve to have a museum in Melksham to tell these fascinating stories prompted me to open a museum in my own home. Although Covid closed the doors except by appointment, this gave me the opportunity to focus on transcribing documents and help with enquiries from those researching their family and home history. People are still bringing me their prized family Melksham-related possessions in hope that an even bigger space can be found to display the collection that’s outgrown the premises.

“Teaming up with Melksham and District Historical Association brings an incredible opportunity to really showcase Melksham’s important history, from pre-historic finds to Bronze Age discoveries, Domesday to Kings’ hunts, markets, flower displays and royal visits, industry and inventions that changed the world. And, yes, the occasional madness and mayhem. Melksham has it all. We just want to show it off.”

Melksham and District Historical Association is holding an event on Thursday 15th June to exhibit some items from Melksham’s past in the Melksham Assembly Hall. Entry costs £3 entry and there will be paper surveys for people to fill out, for anyone who does not want to do this online.

Paul said, “After this event, we will collate the survey results and go from there. I have had conversations with Heather Perry with the Museum Service of Wiltshire Council along with David Dawson of the Wiltshire Museum in Devizes to learn more. More details will follow probably at the end of June but this is yet to be confirmed.”

To take part in the online survey visit, https://s.surveyplanet.com/ z6za7mr8

Pictured: Chairman Paul Carter with a 100-year-old fireman’s helmet outside Melksham’s old Fire Station in the Market Place.

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