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Southwold’s Alfred Corry Museum revives extension plans

06:59 16 May 2014

Curator Frank Upcraft outside the Alfred Corry Museum.

Curator Frank Upcraft outside the Alfred Corry Museum.

Plans to extend Southwold’s Alfred Corry Museum are being revived more than five years after the proposals were last considered.

The museum’s management committee is finalising plans to build an extension to house an education centre and create more exhibition space at the attraction in Ferry Road.

If approved, the scheme would enable museum volunteers to give talks to school children and visitors, display more artefacts and run activities to help bring the history of lifeboats in Southwold alive.

An earlier application to build an extension to house a display area, office, reception and storage space was approved by Waveney District Council in 2009 but permission has now expired.

The details of the new extension have yet to be agreed but Jim Blythe, chairman of the museum management committee, said it was hoped the scheme would progress soon.

“We are trying to go strong on school parties,” he said. “We find that the kids are so interested in the museum and they ask the most pertinent questions.

“We are looking to have an extension on the side to give us room to adapt for school visits and coach parties.

“If we do get a crowd in at the moment we don’t have an awful lot of room.”

The Alfred Corry museum is housed in the old 1923 Cromer Pier lifeboat shed, which was transported to Southwold Harbour by sea in 1998.

It is home to the 121-year-old Alfred Corry lifeboat, which served Southwold between 1893 and 1918, launching 41 times and saving 47 lives.

The museum’s primary focus is the restored lifeboat and her crews, but the attraction also features a number of displays which offer an insight into the various lifeboats and crews that have served the town since 1840.

The attraction regularly hosts school visits but the restored lifeboat takes up much of the room in the building and there is little room for further activities.

Museum curator Frank Upcraft said the extension project was being considered now because restoration work on the Alfred Corry lifeboat had been completed, the boat shed was now watertight after several thousand pounds of work and, for the first time, the museum had enough volunteers to open every day.

He said: “It has been a slog but now it is levelling off there is more time to discuss the future and get people to help us achieve our plans.”

The proposals currently being discussed include creating a new entrance at the side of the building so that the full-height boatshed doors at the front can be closed to protect the exhibits, volunteers and visitors inside.

Mr Blythe, who is also a trustee of the Alfred Corry Charitable Trust and volunteers as a museum steward, said: “When you walk in at the front it is magnificent but when you stand there on a winter’s day with rain driving in, and when the dust starts blowing in when the wind gets up, it is not very nice.

“We would have a door in the side instead but we don’t want to spoil that view. We are talking about having two big port holes in the doors in keeping with everything so people can see what we have got.

“We are trying to push what we have here. We get people from all over the country coming through here and we want to make sure they don’t miss our lifeboat.”

Mr Blythe said the cost of the project was not known yet as the plans had still to be finalised. However, he said the design would be sympathetic to the boat shed and it was hoped the funds could be raised through grants and donations.

The Mayor of Southwold Ann Betts, who took up her post on Monday, has nominated the Alfred Corry Museum as one of the charities she will be supporting during her year in office, along with Sole Bay Care Fund.

She said she hoped to raise up to £5,000 this year to split between the two causes. She is planning to hold a marmalade stall outside Southwold Town Hall in August and host a ball at Southwold Golf Club on October 11 to help her achieve that goal.

■The Alfred Corry Museum is run by volunteers and is open daily from 10.30am to noon and from 2pm to 4pm until the end of October. It is currently running a number of special exhibitions, including a display looking at the impact of the First World War on Southwold’s fishing industry and an exhibition of 100 years of the harbour railway, which includes an 8ft model of the harbour and railway exactly as it was in 1914.

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