© South Ribble Borough Council 2019

Museum turns 40!

A loyal army of volunteers have marked the 40th anniversary of South Ribble Museum and Exhibition Centre at their annual Christmas thank-you lunch.

The museum, tucked away in the corner of Leyland’s ancient churchyard, in Church Road, opened in 1977.

And in the last four decades it has been staffed almost exclusively by volunteers – who have donated the equivalent of more than £500,000 in wages.

The volunteers have ranged in age from 18-years-old to 104-years-old, with volunteers including former teachers and factory workers, to one person who helped set up the National Football Museum in Preston.

The 16th Century building was first home to the Leyland Free Grammar School for around 300 years before closing in 1874 and being acquired by the church for £200.

South Ribble Borough Council eventually purchased the school from the church, for just £1. It was fully restored and the museum first opened its doors on 7, December 1977.

Since then, the museum has had only two curators, Mrs May Knowles retired in 1981 and current curator, Dr David Hunt, took over in 1982.

Dr David Hunt, Museum Curator, said: “Few of the people who gathered at the newly-opened building in 1978 could have anticipated just how successful it was to be in its new life as a museum and exhibition centre. No small part of this is due to its volunteer friends.”

Over the last four decades the museum has staged many hugely successful exhibitions, including the Kathleen Ferrier commemoration, and rare First World War photographs taken by fighter pilot Captain William Chambers, which last year won plaudits from around the globe.

More than 15,000 local school children have had their work exhibited at the museum, and more than 2,500 paintings by local artists have been showcased at the annual Open Art Exhibition, with a number of participants going on to become professional artists.

Councillor Peter Mullineaux, Leader of South Ribble Borough Council, said: “For 40 years, South Ribble Museum and Exhibition Centre has been the go-to place for lovers of history, art and culture. I’d like to thank all the volunteers, past and present, for all that they’ve done to make sure this excellent local facility keeps running and keeps on educating people of all ages in South Ribble. Long may it continue.”

The museum is open from 10am till 4pm on Tuesdays and Fridays, and on Thursdays (1pm till 4pm) and Saturdays (10am till 1pm). Free admission for all. Currently on show is the Leyland Invitation Photographic Exhibition which runs until Friday, 22 December. See upcoming exhibitions and events here or call the museum on 01772 422 041.