The Museum Extension
from hole in the ground to grand opening
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Thursday, June 1, 2006

Today Steyning Museum celebrated the official opening of the new extension. Friends of the Museum and many others who have contributed to the project arrived at Penfold Hall, next door to the museum. Refreshments, including delicious home baked cakes, were served to all. Our local press were there to record the event.

Historian Janet Pennington addressed the guests with an affectionate and humorous reminder of the museum's history.  She paid tribute to those who had worked for many years to create the museum we have today. Janet has always been an enthusiastic supporter herself.

Janet said she had visited the museum regularly in pursuit of her own historical research and always found there an ever growing resource of local information. She praised the welcoming and patient assistance of the volunteer staff. Janet introduced Jane Weeks, the Chairman of the Heritage Lottery Fund Committee for the South East.

Jane congratulated everyone involved in completing the project so quickly and efficiently. She said it was often many years before she was able to see the completion of a funded project. Her involvement in funding the Steyning Museum extension was therefore a particular pleasure. She reminded everyone that bids for another museum project would be welcome. (Did we hear a few exhausted gasps at the thought?)

Janet Pennington
Janet Pennington
Jane Weeks
Jane Weeks

Local Councillor George Cockman who, like Janet Pennington, has been a long-time supporter of the museum, also had his audience smiling and laughing. He was warm in his congratulations, especially to the curator, Chris Tod, who came in for some comic criticism about the way he rides his bicycle!

Chris in turn said he would resist the temptation to list all those to whom he owed his gratitude but he expressed special thanks to the people who had given their practical assistance during recent months.

The founder of the museum, in November 1983, was Harry Ford. Sadly, only his widow Betty was at the museum to see this day, along with  their son and daughter. Betty spoke in memory of her husband's ambitions for a local museum and asked the generation to whom Steyning Museum is now entrusted to preserve her husband's memory.

Betty was joined by Chris Tod's three grandchildren and a niece, representing the generations of the future. Betty put the scissors to the ribbon, ready to open the new extension at last. There was a crush of photographers, a blinding flash and the ribbon was cut.

There is so much to see in the new extension. Children's artwork and a corner for play reflect the museum's interest in providing education and enjoyment for young visitors. Steyning Man looks set to be the museum's star exhibit. Also very popular is the display set in the floor, showing the archaeological finds discovered below the building.

A cobbler's bench, obviously very old and well used, has been installed. It belonged to the Searle family at 32 High Street. Charles Searle set up as a bootmaker in 1880. There have always been bootmakers in Steyning and this bench may have been obtained by the Searle family from an earlier cobbler. If you know anything about swords, have a look at the impressive exhibit found locally but so far undated - and what are the mystery objects pictured below?

Displays in other parts of the museum have been rearranged a little, although the old favourites are still there. Chris Tod will be especially busy in coming months with the unfamiliar luxury of all this new exhibition space. There is also a new study desk, overlooked by a fine old painting of St. Andrew's Church. This is the perfect place for browsing the archives or researching local history.  Eventually, there will be a computer here for public use.

Betty Ford
Betty Ford
Mystery Objects

Cobbler's BenchThe Cobbler's Bench

There is just one more detail to add about this special day. What did the local press say about our wonderful new space?

Thursday, June 8, 2006

This is how the Steyning Herald covered the story. Steyning Man and the museum building are pictured at the top. The founder, Harry Ford, is also shown and Betty Ford is in the bottom left corner with three happy children. The museum publicity officer, David Haseldine is at the bottom right. David certainly did us proud.

Everyone is welcome to see what local fundraising and determination has achieved.  Visit the new Steyning Museum extension, and there will be a friendly welcome. The journey through our local history will be more fascinating than ever.

Steyning Herald Page





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Page last updated
16th August 2021