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Golden future for maritime museum

PUBLISHED: 12:32 29 December 2008 | UPDATED: 22:06 05 July 2010

IT started with a small group of enthusiasts collecting fishing memorabilia, and now the Lowestoft and East Suffolk Maritime Society is celebrating its golden jubilee and preparing to open a new extension at its flagship museum.

IT started with a small group of enthusiasts collecting fishing memorabilia, and now the Lowestoft and East Suffolk Maritime Society is celebrating its golden jubilee and preparing to open a new extension at its flagship museum.

The society formed in December 1958 and 10 years later the group's collection of memorabilia, models and maritime equipment went on display when they turned the 19th century park keeper's cottage in Sparrow's Nest Gardens into a museum.

The maritime museum became home to hundreds of artefacts, paintings and collectibles from the town's seafaring history - from a torpedo fired from a German ship off Lowestoft in 1916 to models of the port's famous fishing fleet.

The building has twice been extended as the society's collection continued to grow and now a £350,000 Heritage Lottery grant has allowed work to start on a new building which will double the exhibition space and transform the displays.

Peter Parker, the museum chairman, said the exhibits will be rearranged into themed areas to tell the story of the town's fishing and naval history.

Mr Parker said: “We have lots of photographs and paintings which we've never been able to have on display here.”

The society has also secured a new exhibit to celebrate its golden jubilee year, as original items from the workshop of Christopher Cockerell, who invented the hovercraft in Somerleyton, near Lowestoft, are being moved into the museum.

A new education room will offer space for pupils from local schools to find out more about the town's maritime heritage and can also be used for research.

Colin Dixon, vice-chairman, said: “To double the size of the museum is an amazing achievement for a society which was founded by a small number of enthusiasts.

“Our dedicated team of volunteers have put in a lot of time and hard work to get the facility to the standard it is at today. The expansion project will put Lowestoft on the map by highlighting the stories of the fishing industry which created the town.”

The new layout will also make space for an audio-visual room, a replica wheel house and a canopy showing what Lowestoft's old fishing market would have looked like.

It is hoped the extended museum will be ready to reopen in May.

> To celebrate the society's golden jubilee, 200 limited edition barrel mugs have been commissioned from Great Yarmouth Potteries. To buy a mug, or for more information, contact the museum on 01502 511260.

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