Bath’s world famous Fashion Museum could well be homeless in a couple of years but any thought of parting with the collection would be’ like selling the family silver.’
That’s according to the newly-elected cabinet member responsible for the district’s heritage – Cllr Paul Crossley – in a lengthy interview he has given Bath Newseum.
The National Trust – who own the Assembly Rooms, and in which B&NES are tenants – say they want to take back possession – at the end of the current lease – to ‘celebrate this important building, bring its story to life and showcase its central role in the society of Georgian Bath.’
The Trust plan to produce an immersive experience for visitors ‘that will transport them back to Georgian society – as well as exploring the role the rooms can play in the life of the twenty-first century city.’
All of this means the Fashion Museum may have to move out towards the end of 2022 and the search is on to find a a new home.
Cllr Crossley told Bath Newseum that selling the collection would be like selling the family silver as it was an important part of the ‘mix’ Bath offered the world.
We talked over possible temporary solutions which might involve discussions with Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution in Queen Square, a temporary home at No 4 The Circus and even a short-term home in a newly-sold redundant church.
Long term, we considered how tourism may come to the rescue and even – if things could be worked out with a sponsor or business partner – creating a brand new Museum of Bath which would include the fashion collection.
I started by asking Cllr Crossley whether the sudden announcement from the National Trust had caught B&NES on the hop?
Meanwhile, Bath’s Fashion Museum gets a special mention in the authority’s annual heritage review.
The head of Heritage Services, Stephen Bird MBE, announced another record year for the Roman Baths and a record number of visitors year for the Victoria Art Gallery.
The Fashion Museum, he continued, ‘saw a rise in visitor numbers thanks to the Royal Women exhibition, while its world-class collection continued to be in demand with important items loaned to exhibitions in London, Dresden, Copenhagen, New York and Victoria, Australia.’
Meanwhile the press release from the National Trust is given in full below:
“The National Trust will be sharing the history of Georgian Bath, and revealing the stories of its social life, when it takes on the day to day running of the iconic Bath Assembly Rooms from March 2023.
Owned by the National Trust since 1931, the Assembly Rooms are currently leased to Bath and North East Somerset Council and are used to house the Fashion Museum and as a venue for events and meetings.
The Bath Assembly Rooms are a significant part of the World Heritage Site of Bath and the Trust’s ambition is to celebrate this important building, bring its story to life and showcase its central role in the society of Georgian Bath.
The National Trust plans to produce an immersive experience for visitors that will transport them back to Georgian society, as well as exploring the role the rooms can play in the life of the twenty-first century city.
Working with creative partners, partner organisations and with the local community, the National Trust will use the next four years to develop an exciting and relevant future for the building. The Trust will draw on research and historical records to ensure the full story of the Assembly Rooms is told and can be enjoyed by visitors.
Tom Boden, National Trust General Manager for the Bath Portfolio, said ‘We hope to work closely with our many friends and partners in the City to develop our plans for the Assembly Rooms. Bath benefits from a wide range of high-quality museums and visitor attractions, and we want to complement and support their existing offers.
‘This is a hugely exciting opportunity to bring this important building to life. It will allow the National Trust to develop new experiences in the centre of Bath, telling the stories of the Georgian city in a building that was the heart of its social scene in the late eighteenth century, and making these relevant to today.’
Income generated by the Bath Assembly Rooms will help support conservation work at other National Trust places nearby, including the 500 acres of countryside that helps to provide the green setting for the City of Bath.”