24 May 2006 

OFFICIAL OPENING OF STEYNING MUSEUM EXTENSION

The keenly anticipated opening of the impressive new extension to Steyning Museum will take place at 11.45am on Thursday 1st June, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.  Prior to the opening, in the nearby Penfold Hall, the eminent local historian and official archivist of Wiston House Dr Janet Pennington will address members of the Committee, media, and invited guests.  She will be introducing Mr George Cockman, a prominent and active resident of Steyning and author of several books on local subjects, who will explain the significance of the Museum and its new facilities for the local and wider community.  Mr Chris Tod, Honorary Curator of the Museum, will speak about the extension project and the greatly increased amenities which it will enable the Museum to offer.

At the Museum, the official opening will be celebrated when Mrs Betty Ford, one of Steyning's longest lived and distinguished inhabitants and widow of Harry Ford, the Museum's founder, cuts a ribbon together with two of the present Curator's grandchildren - this will mark not only the extension opening but the shared interest of youth and age in preserving and passing on a knowledge of life in the past which is central to the Museum's purpose.

The new extension will include the impressively displayed remains of 'Steyning Man', the remarkably preserved skeleton of a male buried over one thousand years ago and only recently uncovered.  He was found in a part of the town anciently known as 'Heathen Burials' and is believed to have been buried there for some offence against the church or community.  He is impressively displayed in a sarcophagous of darkened glass which becomes instantly clear when the case is illuminated to show him lying in the original position of his interment, on earth recovered from his isolated grave.

Also on display, beneath a glass insert into the floor, are finds discovered on the site of the extension itself during an archeological survey conducted by Chris Greatorex of CG Archaeology prior to the digging of the foundations.  These are cleverly arranged on a stepped platfrom which enables the viewer to see them at different depths according to their relative antiquity.

The extension has been elaborately furnished with the most modern display boards, on which will be mounted a new exhibition when the extension is fully opened to the public later this summer.  When completely fitted out the Museum will offer a much richer display of its holding of local artefacts and documents, enlarged facilities for local history and family research, an IT centre with internet access for public use, and a childen's corner.  The planning and fitting out of the extension has been materminded and carried out by Chris Tod and Paul Norris, who is also the Committee's Treasurer.

The extension means that Steyning Museum offers a view of the past through the most modern of spectacles.  Access to the public, including the disabled and visually impaired, is greatly improved by the increased space, and visitors who come both from Sussex and across continents to find out more about how and where their ancestors lived and what life was like for them, fifty, five hundred, or a thousand years ago, will find friendly and helpful volunteers and expert advice and assistance to further their inquiries, as well as a fine permanent display and regularly changing themed exhibitions.  Museum stewards are all trained volunteers, organised by the Chair of the Committee, Sarah Leigh.  The Museum is always in need of more volunteers and anyone interested is warmly invited to contact the Museum.

The Museum will be able to improve the facilities it offers to the already frequent school visits.  Work with schools is organised by the Committee's Education Officer, Jacquie Buttriss.  IT facilities will also make the Museum a much more useful and friendly place for the younger generation of visitors.  The children's corner will offer parents the chance to look around the exhibits while their children are kept interested, or themselves to help the youngsters develop an interest in the past. 

The Museum also has a sales counter, supervised by Lianne Watt, stocking a wide range of books and pamphlets, reproductions of historic objects, cards and postcards, gifts and souvenirs.

On Saturday 14th October the Museum will be taking part in the nationwide Big Draw day, and especially invites families and children to come along and use the art and drawing facilities that will be laid on, to take a closer look at some of the things used and made during the history of the town and enjoy representing them with their own flair and style.

The building of the extension was done with great efficiency by Stringer and Kitson of Steyning and was generously funded by local contributions, and grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund and Viridor Credits.



David Haseldine
Publicity Officer
The Museum,
Church Street,
Steyning,
West Sussex
BN44 3YB

Telephone: 01903 813333
Email: contact@steyningmuseum.org.uk

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