Sheringham Museum goes under wraps in preparation for £1.4m extension

The 35.5ft Foresters Centenary lifeboat, which was built in 1936. Picture: KAREN BETHELL

The 35.5ft Foresters Centenary lifeboat, which was built in 1936. Picture: KAREN BETHELL - Credit: Archant

Precious exhibits at Sheringham's Mo museum have gone under wraps, in preparation for the start of a £1.4 million extension project.

After the museum closed at the end of the season two weeks ago, staff and volunteers worked to ensure the seafront building's contents were either removed or protected, before handing the keys over to Norfolk-based contractor Draper and Nichols.

As well as covering Sheringham's seven historic lifeboats with giant tarpaulins, the team had to protect paintings, fishing and agricultural artefacts, social history exhibits, archive material and six embroideries by Sheringham's famous fisherman artist John Craske.

The scheme, which kicked off with an appeal three years ago, has been funded by a £1.1 million Heritage Lottery grant, with additional cash from Arts Council England, North Norfolk District Council's Big Society fund and donations from museum members.

It will see new walkways and lifts added to the existing space, with a first floor extension providing an education centre, as well as additional exhibition space, new toilets and an archive store.

Museum manager Philip Miles said the new space would allow the Mo to host more school and community group visits and display the town's eighth historic boat, the Atlantic 75, which is currently in storage.

A gansey exhibition held in August saw a surge in visitor numbers, Mr Miles added, and the new room would allow staff to host similar 'blockbuster' summer shows.

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'We will be able to have large exhibitions and, for the first time, we will be able to display the full story of Sheringham's lifeboat history, which is wonderful.'

It is hoped that the first phase of the scheme – to refit the current building – will be completed in time for the museum to re-open in April 2016, with the extension due to open by the start of the summer season.

Mr Miles said: 'It has been quite a nerve-wracking time as we have had 11 days to effectively dismantle the museum and, when you think that the Manchester Unity of Oddfellows is 37ft long, protecting the boats was quite a challenge. But to have finally reached this point after three years makes all the hard work worthwhile.'