100 years of Bexhill Museum

Bexhill Museum c1930
Bexhill Museum c1930

Bexhill Museum was opened in 1914. The Reverend J.C. Thompson FGS and Kate Marsden FRGS were instrumental in the setting up of the museum and the Reverend Thompson was Hon Curator until 1924. The museum was housed in the Egerton Park Shelter Hall, built in 1903. This had been a small entertainments pavilion for the use of visitors to the park. The building was owned by the Bexhill Corporation, who leased it to the museum and provided a small grant.

HenrySargentHenry Sargent started work at Bexhill Museum in 1920 and remained in post until his death in 1983. The museum’s governing body, the Bexhill Museum Association, was founded in 1923.

The collections built up by Henry Sargent were largely in the fields of natural history, geology and archaeology. Mounted birds were extensively collected and came to dominate the early displays, alongside table cases of stone tools and local fossils. The display and storage conditions were far from ideal because the glass roofed hall suffered from extreme changes in temperature and high light levels, while the basement storage was liable to flood with sea water.

Without sufficient support or funds and with no prospect of a replacement Henry Sargent stayed in post much longer than was desirable. When Sargent died in 1983 the Museum would have closed had it not been for a small group of volunteers from the Bexhill Museum Association, who kept the building open and persuaded the local District Council to continue to support the Museum.

In 1986 Rother District Council appointed Stella Bellem as a professional curator for the district. Her main task was to begin to reverse the decades of neglect at Bexhill Museum. Improvements were made to the insulation and lighting of the galleries. The toilet blocks on either wing of the building were converted into the Temporary Exhibition space and an environmentally controlled storeroom.

In 1990 Brenda Mason was appointed as Curator of Bexhill Museum, with additional responsibilities for the museums within Rother District. The Rother Museums Strategy of 1995 sought to ensure an equitable service for the six independent museums in the district. After a period of negotiation between the Bexhill Museum Association and Rother Council, a management agreement and a lease for the museum building were arranged. Julian Porter, the District Curator, was seconded to Bexhill Museum as Curator.

The primary purpose of Bexhill Museum is to collect, conserve, display and interpret objects and associated information related to the history and natural environment of the surrounding area. This work is undertaken for the benefit of the public and, in particular, the residents of Bexhill and district, local schools/colleges and visitors to the 1066 Country area. The emphasis of Bexhill Museum’s activities is on education through displays and exhibitions in the gallery and by outreach work in the community.

Bexhill Museum is an independent museum and a registered charity. It is run almost entirely by volunteers.

Our Mission Statement

“Bexhill Museum exists for the enjoyment, inspiration and education of the people of Bexhill and district, as well as visitors, thereby improving their quality of life.”

 

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