Greendale gets the keys to the Priest’s House Museum as work starts on exciting new project.

On Friday 7th June, Rob was delighted to be invited to the Priest’s House Museum in Wimborne where, at the end of an exclusive live theatre event, Echoes of the Past, performed by the Wimborne Community Theatre, and Millstream Theatre Group, where guests had the chance to meet the various characters who have lived in the historic Grade II* listed building over the centuries, Emma Ayling, director of the museum, handed the museum keys to Rob as a symbolic handover and entrustment of the historic building prior to the start of a major refurbishment programme Greendale is carrying out.

Many of the funders, benefactors, trustees and volunteers associated with the museum were at the event. Staged in six different locations and in 6 different periods, the play really brought the important and interesting history of the museum alive.

The final scene, played out in the original shop area based in the early 1060s when Hilda Coles be-quested the ground floor of her property to the Elders of Wimborne Minster for them to open as a Living Museum and Community Hub, was acted out as a Wimborne Historic Society meeting, and it was at the end of this final segment where Greendale was entrusted with the keys to the museum for the next 10 months, adding another layer to the deep history of the building

The work carried out by Greendale will take us until February 2020, and will comprise of: Internal alteration works to this historic grade 2 listed building with alterations throughout the museum; minor refurbishment in some areas and full strip out and redecoration in others.
Front elevation will change with improved entrance facilities; new entrance to the museum and Tourist Information Office; new platform lift, ramps for access for all and new M&E.
New staircases will be created with new doors and refurb of existing, and partition glazed screens.

This is a High Street location with a tight site, and gardens to the rear and tea shop, but Greendale’s experience and expertise will overcome any logistical issues we may be faced with over the coming 30 weeks!

The extensive restoration work – ‘The Revival Project’ – is being made possible by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, H B Allen Charitable Trust, Garfield Weston Foundation, The Talbot Village Trust, The Foyle Foundation, Dorset Council, the former East Dorset District Council, The Pilgrim Trust, The Valentine Trust, The Georgian Group, Bloor Homes, Renaissance Homes, Teacher’s Building Society, The Civic Society and the local community.

A little piece of history nestled in the heart of Wimborne Minster…

The oldest parts of the grade II* listed building date to the 16th century; originally there would have been an open courtyard at the front, but it was enclosed about 200 years after the house was first built. Despite its name, there is no record of a priest living there, and the present name in fact appeared for the first time on an Ordnance Survey map only in 1889.

The property held some status in the late medieval period. From about 1687 it was occupied by John Bowdidge, a ‘gentleman’. For part of the 18th century the building was divided into four units, indicating a lowering in status of the property. The King family reunited the house in the mid 18th century.

Part of the building had been let to the stationery business run by the Low family. When John Low closed the business in 1872, he gave the eccentric instruction that the shop was to be boarded up and remain untouched until his death. When he died thirty years later, Tom Coles found and kept a range of items of Victorian stationery which in due course came to the museum. Among them were more than 350 Valentines which now form one of the best collections in existence and are regarded as of national importance. The room that was the stationer’s shop forms one of the displays in the museum.

From the second half of the 19th century, the building was mainly an ironmonger’s shop, taken over by Tom Coles from his father in 1899. Tom was born in the house and, in 1907, so was his daughter, Hilda. Hers was a lively, intelligent personality, but she saw it as her duty to help her father in the business and to take over the running of it on his death in 1953. In 1960 Hilda took the decision to close the shop and, having inherited her father’s passionate interest in everything connected with the history of Wimborne, fulfilled her long-cherished wish to make the building into a town museum. She worked in association with the Wimborne Historical Society, whose leading light, Sir Kaye Le Fleming, a local doctor, had deposited his collections at the Dorset County Museum on the understanding that they would be returned as soon as Wimborne had its own museum. That was achieved when the museum, consisting initially of just three rooms, opened on 31 July 1962.

The earliest section of the building is the stone-built L-shaped hall and north wing, and was possibly one and a half storeys in height. It was increased to two storeys and an attic, possibly in the early 17th century. The south wing is timber-framed and was added in the early 17th century. In the mid 18th century the courtyard between the two wings was in-filled, the ground floor today occupied by the museum shop. A brick-built single storey service/kitchen range was added in the early 18th century.

The name of the building is first recorded on an Ordnance Survey map of 1885. However, there is no documentary evidence to suggest that it was the house of one of the canons of the Minster Church.

We are thrilled to be involved in this exciting project, and look forward to bringing you updates via to blog and social media channels. Please do follow the Priest’s House Museum on their social media channels for further progress updates whilst the museum is temporarily closed for the renovation.

Priest’s House FB page

Instagram @priests_house_museum 

Twitter @priestshouse

The Priest’s House Museum Collections Trust is a separate charity and owns the collections


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