May 24 2013 Latest news:
Friday, March 22, 2013
One of Great Yarmouth’s most popular museums has been given a winter revamp which improves the visitor experience and retains its historic authenticity.
The quayside Elizabethan House Museum is set to open a new door on a new chapter on Monday, after a £100,000 scheme mixing modern gadgetry with a range of remodelling improvements.
The National Trust-funded project got under way in January while the museum was closed to the public leaving around a dozen staff and volunteers to get to grips with the changes.
Visitors will now enter through a side door straight into a light and airy welcoming space housing the reception and shop, instead of the dark hallway – once one of the old Rows.
James Steward, Eastern area manager for Norfolk Museums and Archaeological Service, which manages the house, said it was the most significant set of alterations since a major re-display 10 years ago.
He said despite the obvious changes, much of the work was unseen involving a new “intelligent” heating system, hi-tech security and CCTV, as well as innovative flood defences aimed at preventing the kind of inundation that was so damaging in the surge of 2007.
Installing gadgetry in such an historic building involved virtually dismantling the whole inside, he said, tracing cabling behind original panelling and devising fire sensors without intruding on decorative ceilings and detracting from their heritage value.
This week, ahead of the re-opening, staff were busy polishing and buffing, reflecting the “upstairs/downstairs” world traced in the domestic history of the Tudor and Victorian periods depicted. The new entrance on Row 83 also improves a public space and helps link the quayside and town centre, Mr Steward added.
The house was built in 1596 by Benjamin Cowper and was originally twice the size, also taking in number four.
It was undoubtedly among those described by Daniel Defoe as “little palaces” lining the “finest quayside in England, if not Europe,” in 1724.
It was converted to a museum in 1952 and currently draws around 12,000 visitors a year – half of whom are National Trust members.
Mr Steward said: “The investment has been made in recognition of the deep affection the house is held in locally and because of its potential to develop into one of the key historic visitor attractions in the county.
“It is a 16th century merchant’s house with all the sophisticated systems of a 21st century museum.”
The upgrade has also included the removal of a 1960s damp course which was causing the house to float, breathable membranes on walls and furniture flood bags which saves bulky items by allowing them to float.
The museum is furnished like a home, with a kitchen, bedroom, and playroom with modern and vintage toys to engage with.
Children can dress up in clothes of the period as well as enjoy a range of special activities in the school holidays.