National Brewary Centre Closure 2022
A statement by Chair Mick Clifford on behalf of the Burton Civic Society
Like everyone else, I was surprised and shocked when the news about the National Brewery Centre closure appeared. The first I heard of this development, was when a member of the Executive Committee sent an email asking if the rumour was true. Since then, having made enquires of various people in East Staffordshire Borough Council, Molson Coors, and the custodians of the archive and artefacts, the National Brewery Heritage Trust (NBHT), I think the situation at the moment is as follows.
Originally opened as the Bass Museum in 1977 to celebrate the bicentenary of the founding of the Bass Company, it became, with a change of ownership in 2003, the Coors Visitor Centre. In June 2008, Coors [now Molson Coors (UK) Ltd] took the commercial decision to close down the centre. Within days of the announcement, the then Member of Parliament for Burton, Janet Dean, called a meeting which led to the formation of a task group, determined to save the museum and maintain it as a focal point for the town and region. This task group, worked closely with Molson Coors to identify a suitable solution that would result in the centre reopening. In November 2009 Molson Coors, with the support of the group, reached an agreement with the leisure company Planning Solutions to run the museum and visitor centre. It reopened in 2010 following some refurbishment work. The task group then began working with Planning Solutions to ensure the future success and vitality of the museum and its collections. That group, in due course, became the National Brewery Heritage Trust.
Moving on to now
Molson Coors had made it known that they have been considering the future of their current High Street offices, so as part of the Town Deal Plan, an informal agreement was made for the site. This part of the plan is known as the High Street Linkage Project and formed part of the consultation that took place as part of the Town Deal plan. As part of the High Street Linkage Project the possibility of having a Town Museum in Town House, which as you probably know, was the house that William Bass moved into when he bought the brewery in 1777, was suggested. A committee formed to consider taking this idea forward began discussions before Molson Coors’ announcement of the decision to close the National Brewery Museum. I understand that when the government informed the Town Deal Board in August this year that the plans laid out were acceptable and the money would be available to continue, Molson Coors were informed. Molson Coors intend to adapt the building that is currently used as the entrance to the current Brewery Museum, shop and the Brewery Tap as their new office space. Apart from restoration work, nothing will be changed on the exterior of the building. At present, it is Molson Coors intention to leave the Joiners Shop untouched for the time being and as this is where most of the artefacts are stored, then there is no immediate danger to them. I do not know when the final decision to close the National Brewery Centre was made, but I am led to believe that it is a recent decision and that other potential office sites in the town were considered. As this change has only just been announced the timetabling of the move is unclear, and work has only just started to assess what is required to make the site of a new town museum in High Street (Bass House and Town House) suitable for both the town and its brewing heritage.
I believe very careful consideration needs to be given to the funding, operation, and securing of a sustainable long-term future for a new museum. We do not want to face a crisis again. We need to ensure that the exhibitions are attractive to the public of both Burton and a wider audience. We need the new Town Museum to have changing exhibitions, telling different stories about the town and brewing, explaining the relationship between the two as well as highlighting common threads that are relevant in today’s world. This could include for example: the migration of people to the Town over time, the development of infrastructure and how it relates to the industries that use it, and the relationship between science and engineering to the advancement of the industries of the town. Regularly changing exhibitions would make this New Town Museum an interesting place to visit on a regular basis, creating footfall contributing to a successful and vibrant centre of which Burton can be duly proud
Bargates Development : Our Vision
The Bargates site offers a unique town centre regeneration opportunity. The Society has objected to plans currently under consideration to build 140 dwellings on the site, half of them sheltered housing. What we would like to see is a high-quality, mixed-use development with an active frontage to the Washlands making the most of the riverside location. The images and video sequence below illustrate this vision. They have been produced to support efforts to attract alternative proposals.
Other Images of the Bargates Site for you to viewImage 2 Image 3 Image 4 Image 5 Image 6
Video (which could take a while before playing)
Ferry Bridge Restoration
In 2007, Burton Civic Society initiated a project to secure the future of the historic Ferry Bridge, and to explore the feasibility of replacing four large heraldic plaques and other ornamental detail, removed following a structural assessment in 1969.
An on-site meeting followed with representatives of Staffordshire County Council, East Staffordshire Borough Council and English Heritage. This led to a detailed structural survey above and below the waterline that identified the need for urgent maintenance with an estimated cost of exceeding £1.3 million. SCC agreed to replace missing quatrefoil decoration on the exterior lattice work, but replacement of the missing plaques fell outside SCCs statutory remit, and could only be achieved if outside funding could be secured.
Independently of the Civic Society’s efforts, a grassroots campaign ‘Friends of Ferry Bridge’ Facebook Group emerged with similar objectives, and a joint working group was set up. Local businessman and Civic Society member, George Lawson established that a mould could be taken from an original plaque on display at the National Brewery Centre, and four new plaques cast in durable, lightweight aluminium.
The cost of making moulds, casting the plaques and painting them in the colours of the original was £17,400. Burton Civic Society and Friends of Ferry Bridge began fund-raising.
Grateful thanks are due to all the individuals, councillors, and organisations who donated and who supported the effort to make the restoration of the plaques possible. Generous contributions from the Consolidated Charity of Burton upon Trent, and Staffordshire Local Community Fund are particularly acknowledged, as is the dedication and hard work of Friends of Ferry Bridge.
The major refurbishment, which began in September 2015, included overall structural strengthening, repairs to seal cracks in piers, a new timber deck and parapet, replacement bolts, replacement of missing quatrefoils, and the stripping back and re-painting of metalwork. On 21 October 2016, the wraps came off and our historic Ferry Bridge re-opened.
Work to replace a missing ‘Thornewill and Warham’ makers’ nameplate is continuing.
Useful links: www.staffordshire.gov.uk/News/full-restoration-of-historic-staffordshire-landmark-set-to-begin.aspx
For those with a facebook account: www.facebook.com/groups/278606155635034/
Planning Applications and Appeals The Civic Society monitor each month planning applications, particularly those that affect conservation areas and listed buildings or that may be contrary to the spirit of the current Local Plan, in which case they will make appropriate representations to the ESBC.