North Walsham museum charting history of St John Ambulance officially opened

It is an organisation which over the years has helped save countless lives – now its history has been put on show for the public with the opening of a newly refurbished museum in Norfolk charting the rise of the St John Ambulance Service.

The St John Ambulance Museum in Preference Place, North Walsham, was officially opened yesterday by the former head of the British Army, General Lord Richard Dannatt.

Also on hand to mark the occasion were the Lord Lieutenant of Norfolk Richard Jewson, the High Sheriff of Norfolk Georgina Holloway, who is also St John Ambulance county president, and other senior St John personnel.

The museum includes history both on the North Walsham division, set up in 1924, and St John Ambulance as a whole, with interactive displays and television footage looking at the service over the years from pre-1918, through to the present day.

There are also numerous artefacts on show from the first aid kits used years ago through to the medals awarded to different members of the service, the exhibition even includes a Victorian wheeled stretcher.

Dave Pollitt, area youth officer for the North Walsham division, said they were planning to have 'themed' displays as they had so many pieces and artefacts to display and would change things round every so often.

The museum at North Walsham used to be housed where the main building now is, inside one of three cottages. When those cottages were eventually demolished, the pieces in the museum were put into storage.

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But they are now back on show in the new museum building. The division were also able to secure display cabinets and touch screen monitors from the The Museum of The Order of St John in London.

Peter Fraser, St John Ambulance county commander, said: 'This is a long awaited day and has been the culmination of a two-year project and 2,000 volunteer hours.

'The display we have in the museum provides a vivid picture of St John Ambulance. For people who come here, they will be fascinated by the story of St John Ambulance. This museum is a tribute to past and present St John Ambulance members.'

Lord Dannatt said: 'I think this is a tremendous museum which tells the story of St John in North Walsham and North Norfolk. It has been beautifully presented and all the artefacts laid out really well. It will provide a lot of information for the future generations who visit.'

The museum, which is next to the town's divisional headquarters, is now open every Thursday of each week until the end of October from 10am – 3pm.

Admission to the museum is free, but donations are welcome.