Historic East Sussex museums and properties at risk of closure

Historic museums and properties in East Sussex are at risk of closure amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Wednesday, 17th June 2020, 12:58 pm
Updated Wednesday, 17th June 2020, 1:04 pm

The Sussex Archaeological Society has warned that unless funds can be raised to keep them open to the public, they could permanently close.

Properties it cares for in the county are Lewes Castle which includes the Museum of Sussex Archaeology in Barbican House; Anne of Cleves House in Lewes; Bull House in Lewes; Michelham Priory in Upper Dicker, Hailsham, and The Long Man of Wilmington, near Polegate, a mysterious chalk figure set in the South Downs.

A spokesman said: “The society has been hit hard by the coronavirus lockdown and has seen its income fall dramatically.

Michelham Priory in Hailsham. Picture: Peter Cripps

“Without sufficient funding the properties, closed since the lockdown in March, may never reopen; collections would then have to be dispersed or disposed of.

“To ensure the society can survive until its 175th anniversary in June next year, it has launched an urgent fundraising appeal as part of a Celebrating 175 campaign.

“It hopes to raise £1 million, to cover lost income.”

The society launched the fundraising appeal to coincide with Sussex Day on Tuesday (June 16),

The Long Man of Wilmington near Polegate

Catherine Cavanagh, society CEO, said more than 160,000 paying visitors a year were normally welcomed at its properties.

She added that it did not receive any government funding and relied heavily on money from the sale of admission tickets.

Other income streams have also been affected, such as gift shops and all planned events and educational workshops.

Speaking on Tuesday, she said: “Today is Sussex Day and many Sussex residents will have visited our properties as adults and also as school children on educational trips.

“Their closure will be a loss to future generations. We hope they will hear our call for help and support our work by donating to our Celebrating 175 Fund.”

Author and historian Tom Holland has agreed to be the appeal’s patron, Ms Cavanagh said.

She added: “This sudden loss of income has threatened the society’s future and its aim of conserving and sharing the county’s heritage.

“Sadly, our plans to build up to this date with some special events have been severely curtailed and we are concerned that we may not even survive until then.”

The society is based at Bull House in Lewes, a former home of the 18th-century radical writer Tom Paine.

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