Planning application submitted for Barnstaple Museum extension

Sam Bevan, Museum Assistant and Alison Mills, Museum Manager with the model showing the extension at the museum.

Posted on: 5 December 2016

A planning application has been submitted to North Devon Council for an extension at the Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon.

The museum was awarded £69,000 by the Heritage Lottery to develop plans for a £1.8m extension on the Long Bridge side of the existing museum building. Bristol-based architects, Ferguson Mann, have drawn up the designs, which are now on display in the museum.

The extension will provide a brighter and bigger entrance to welcome visitors to the museum, as well as 75% more display space, including a new 20th century gallery. With a new education room, improvements to the shop and tea room and increase storage space it will help the museum be more sustainable going into the future.

The design is contemporary, rather than a reproduction of the previous Victorian building it is replacing. English Heritage requests that additions to listed buildings should be “of their own time” rather than imitations of the original architecture.

The current museum was provided to the town by William Frederick Rock in 1888 as the home of the North Devon Athenaeum, whose collections it still holds. Originally there was another building between it and the Long Bridge, but this was demolished in 1963 when the bridge was widened. The extension will be built on the site of the old building and as this side of the main museum building was never intended to be seen, it is the only practical option for the extension.

Red brick and slate have been chosen as the main building materials, in keeping with the existing museum building. Terracotta details, reflecting the work of Brannams and copper (which was used extensively by Shapland and Petter in their furniture) will be blended to create interest and soften the impact of the red brick. Incorporating lots of glass in the design has not been possible, as light can damage museum collections. However, as many windows as possible have been added to areas that will have a low impact on the collections, such as the education room.

A copy of the plans and a scale model of the extension are on display in the museum tea room. The public is encouraged to visit the museum and talk to staff about the proposals and make their views known in the comments box as part of the display.

Executive Member for leisure and culture, Councillor Dick Jones, says: “We are really excited to reach this stage of the project. We know not everyone’s going to like the design – it has quite a striking and contemporary look, which at first glance people might not understand. To get a true sense of the scale of the new extension and the reason behind its design, it’s important to have a good look and read through the proposals before making a judgement. We can’t replicate what we already have, but we must be sympathetic to the existing building and that is what the architects are trying to achieve. Alison Mills, our museum manager, is doing a magnificent job on our behalf to make this project happen. Come down to the museum and speak to Alison or any of her staff and volunteers to find out more.”

Copies of all the drawings and plans are also online under planning application number 62191. You can comment online or email planningcomments@northdevon.gov.uk, or send your comments in writing to North Devon Council Planning team at Lynton House, Commercial Road, Barnstaple, EX31 1DG quoting the planning application number.

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