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Golden landmark for enthusiasts

PUBLISHED: 09:59 12 December 2008 | UPDATED: 22:00 05 July 2010

NEXT week marks a very special landmark for one local group of volunteers as they celebrate their golden jubilee.

The Lowestoft and East Suffolk Maritime Society was formed in 1958 and 50 years later it has continued to grow as the fishing industry in the region has declined.

NEXT week marks a very special landmark for one local group of volunteers as they celebrate their golden jubilee.

The Lowestoft and East Suffolk Maritime Society was formed in 1958 and 50 years later it has continued to grow as the fishing industry in the region has declined.

On December 18 it was founded by a small number of local enthusiasts who were interested in the history of Lowestoft's fishing fleet and the collection and preservation of items relating to it.

Leading the group were founder members Capt Darnell, engineer Captain Malet-Warden and skipper Lieutenant Soloman.

“The latter as recorder was responsible for acquiring over the years a substantial part of the collection now at the museum,” said Joyce Aguss, of Grange Road, Lowestoft. “His untimely death in 1978 was a great loss to the society.”

Members would meet together at each other's homes but as the collection continued to grow they needed somewhere to display the items, which were occasionally shown in local shops and exhibitions.

In 1968 a permanent museum would be established when the borough council granted the society the lease of the cottage at Sparrow's Nest. The members would convert each of the rooms to feature different aspects of the fishing industry, including trawling, drift net fishing, tools and equipment, and a special collection devoted to the Royal Naval Patrol Service.

Around 10 years later, the cottage had become too small to accommodate the society's collection and fundraising began to build an extension. Members joined with local businesses, residents, patrons and the district council to raise funds and on June 12, 1978, the Bill Solomon extension was officially opened by Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh.

A further extension was added two years later allowing a number of donated pictures to be displayed.

One of the prize exhibits in the museum is the Prunier Trophy, awarded by Parisien fish restaurant owner Madame Prunier between 1936 and 1966 for the largest nightly herring haul in the year.

Today, as the society gets set to celebrate its golden jubilee, there is more extension work underway.

Last year it was announced that the museum had received £345,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund and this is being used to expand and modernise the cottage once more. In total, the museum will almost double in size, as an educational room is added alongside a number of other features.

“As in previous extensions much of the work of fitting out will be carried out by the volunteer members of the society, and when completed it will be officially opened next year,” said Mrs Aguss, who is press officer for the society.

The museum, which is a registered charity, is open seven days a week from Easter to the end of October. It is run by a committee and manned daily by voluntary attendants.

The society meets on a monthly basis on the last Thursday of each month, while there is also a friends of the museum group, which includes over 100 people who no longer live in the area.

To celebrate the society's golden jubilee, 200 unique limited edition barrel mugs have been commissioned from Great Yarmouth Poterries. To buy one, which costs £10, or for more information on the museum, call 01502 511260.

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