Keys to the Castle

21 April 2009

KEYS to the newly developed museum at the centre of the new Clitheroe Castle Heritage Scheme have been officially handed to Lancashire County Council in time for the public official opening next month. 

Ribble Valley Borough Council’s new museum, which is housed in the historic buildings on the Clitheroe castle site, will be run by Lancashire County Council’s Museum Service who already administer 12 museums and historic sites across the county.

The museum will be a premier all-weather visitor attraction and include a modern learning suite, interactive galleries, disabled facilities, temporary exhibition space and a new glass atrium housing the cafe and a souvenir shop.

The site will offer visitors an insight into the history of the ancient market town of Clitheroe and its position within the landscape of the Ribble Valley. This includes the history of the area, geology, fauna and flora, natural history and social history.

The museum will include a wide range of images and objects from the museum collection of Ribble Valley Borough Council, Lancashire Museums, Clitheroe Library, Lancashire Record Office and private collections. A unique feature is the extensive use of audio recordings from the North West Sound Archive which has been based in Clitheroe for many years and is also housed in the new museum.

County Councillor Hazel Harding, leader of Lancashire County Council, said:

“The museum is a truly wonderful and innovative visitor attraction, combining new dispalys and interactive technology whilst carefully preserving the history of the buildings. It will undoubtedly attract a broad range of people to the museum and to Clitheroe, including school children, families, local communities, and national and international visitors for years to come.

“I am delighted to see and experience the end result of what has been an ambitious project. The project has been developed in partnership over a five year period and is a credit to all those agencies involved. It will promote and safeguard Ribble Valley’s local heritage for future generations.”

The museum opens to the public on Saturday 23 May after a £3.5m two-year refurbishment funded by Ribble Valley Borough Council, the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Regional Development Agency and several private and public sector partners.

Ribble Valley Borough Council Leader, Cllr Michael Ranson, added:

“Ribble Valley Borough Council and Lancashire County Council have enjoyed a successful partnership in the development of this flagship project, and we are delighted to have created this family facility for Ribble Valley residents, and visitors from near and far, to enjoy for many years to come.”

Clitheroe Castle has dominated the Ribble Valley skyline since its construction in the 12th century by Robert de Lacy to protect the administrative centre of his vast estates. The Norman keep of Clitheroe Castle is said to be the second smallest keep in England. The keep was damaged after its capture by Parliamentary forces during the civil war, but was repaired in 1848 with the smooth limestone blocks now clearly visible.

The Clitheroe Castle Keep and Museum sit within 18 acres of formal gardens which include: a rose garden, traditional bandstand, skate park, labyrinth, bowling green and children’s playground.

The castle site is open to the public with several entrances. It is managed and maintained by Ribble Valley Borough Council. The Museum has an admission charge with concessions for pensioners as well as an excellent value season ticket. There is free admission for children.

The Clitheroe Castle Heritage Scheme, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, North West Development Agency, Ribble Valley Borough Council and the SITA Trust, is one of the biggest heritage projects in Lancashire.

The museum will be a key part of the Lancashire Museums’ portfolio alongside Lancaster Castle, Helmshore Mills Textile Museum and Gawthorpe Hall.

For information about Lancashire Museums visit online at www.lancashire.gov.uk/museums

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