Red House Museum to close?

spn Red House Museum, Gomersal. (030420).
spn Red House Museum, Gomersal. (030420).
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RED House – ‘a cultural and educational gem’ – could be lost forever under council plans to sell it off.

Kirklees says closing the award-winning Gomersal museum and moving its exhibits to other museums would save £116,000 over two years.

However the plans have caused anger with critics saying it is yet another example of north Kirklees making the biggest sacrifices.

MP Mike Wood said: “We knew Kirklees was considering reducing the opening hours, and that was bad enough, but to hear they want to close it altogether was a bombshell.

“Red House is a credit to our area, and we cannot sacrifice it in a forlorn attempt to save money at all costs. Once it’s gone, it’s gone.

“It seems all we in north Kirklees are fit for is paying rates to keep open establishments in south Kirklees. Rather than closing Red House, they should look at the Tolson Museum in Huddersfield which is miserable and full of stuffed birds!”

Gomersal councillor Lisa Holmes, said she and her Tory ward colleagues would do their utmost to fight the plans.

“It’s an absolute shame,” she said. “I have spoken to the staff who are devastated, not just for their jobs but because they know the vital service it provides. We realise we have massive savings to make, but we will do whatever we can to find an alternative to closure. There is a big challenge ahead of us but we must protect our heritage.”

Vice-chairman of Spen Valley Civic Society Gordon North said: “People cherish Red House and I am sure they will be as disgusted as we are that the one museum in the Spen Valley could go.

“It attracts local, national and international visitors, and it’s not just because of its Brontë links. The Taylor family was incredibly important in the story of the Spen Valley – Mr Taylor was one of the first woollen manufacturers and opened the Bank of Gomersal, while his daughter Mary Taylor was at the forefront of the feminist and equality movements – and you might think that a Labour council might recognise that.”

Red House was bought by the old Spenborough Council in 1969 to be opened as a museum telling the story of the Spen Valley.

Former Spenborough councillor Michael McGowan, who went on to become an MEP, said only last year he had taken a group of visitors from New Zealand to Red House, because of Mary Taylor’s links with their country.

“It’s a fantastic resource, a cultural and educational gem, and we mustn’t lose it,” he said.

The move has also been condemned by Carol Brontë, who first visited Red House as curator of the Brontë Museum in Northern Ireland. Her husband, James Wallace Brontë, is the great-great-grandson of the Rev Patrick Brontë’s youngest brother.

“I’m absolutely devastated,” she said. “Why close this famous tourist destination? It’s a very special place and I would urge Kirklees to think again.”

Brontë Society trustee Stephen Whitehead said: “The Taylor family was so important to Charlotte that she featured them as the Yorkes in Shirley and Briarmains is an exact description of Red House. It is an irreplaceable asset and this is not the way to manage your heritage.”

President of Cleckheaton Rotary Club Bill Stevenson said they had great concerns about the length of time for objections – February 7 – and urged the public to attend Tuesday’s Spen Valley area committee meeting to air their views.

The meeting is at 7pm at the town hall, Cleckheaton.

A spokeswoman for Kirklees said difficult decisions had to be made.

“The proposal to close Red House Museum is one of a large number of measures up for consideration which have been proposed to fill a very big gap in the council’s budget and reduce expenditure,” she said.

No decision has been made yet and people are invited to make their views know by contacting communication@kirklees.gov.uk or Communities and Leisure, Museums and Galleries, The Stables, Ravensknowle Park, Wakefield Road, Dalton, Huddersfield, HD5 8DJ.

Follow me on Twitter @SpenG_Margaret. Email me at margaret.heward@ywng.co.uk.