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Ipswich Transport Museum upbeat after lottery rejection
By Linda Walker
BBC Suffolk

Bus at the Ipswich Tra
The museum is on Cobham Road in east Ipswich

The Ipswich Transport Museum has been in operation since 1975 and houses a collection of artefacts that showcase transport and engineering in Suffolk.

In July 2009, the museum submitted a bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund for which they were unsuccessful, however they remain optimistic.

The museum has plans to develop the site, generating more space for additional storage and restoration.

The museum will reopen for its 2010 season in March.

When, in 1965, transport enthusiast Eric Mauser purchased an old Dennis bus with plans for its restoration, he couldn't have imagined that almost 50 years on that same bus would have pride of place in a museum which houses the largest collection of transport items in Britain devoted to just one town.

"We point to this vehicle because it still hasn't been restored, and say to people, 'look, this is how it all gets out of hand'," explained Peter Bannister, chair of the museum.

Peter Bannister of Ipswich Transport Museum
Peter Bannister is the chair of Ipswich Transport Museum

Since 1988 the museum has occupied the former Priory Heath Trolleybus Depot, which they shared with the Ipswich Corporation gritting carts until 1995.

The museum is now managed by a 60 strong team of volunteers who look after maintenance and the museum's many visitors.

"We have about 7,500 visitors a year and the admission money pays for the upkeep of the building and the running of the operation," said Peter.

"That money doesn't pay for the restoration of the vehicles and the development work that we want to do in the longer term."

Accreditation and funding

In October 2009, the museum received a welcome reward for their hard work when the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council awarded them with their national standard of accreditation.

"The accreditation standard allows us to convince people, that might give us a grant to develop and restore the vehicles, that we're the right sort of people to look after their public money," explained Peter.

Sadly the accreditation wasn't enough to secure a financial boost from the Heritage Lottery Fund who rejected the museum's July 2009 application.

"It was disappointing because applying for grants is not simple," explained Peter.

Ransomes, Sims and Jefferies logo
Ransomes, Sims & Jefferies is part of the engineering history of Suffolk

"We'll continue to fundraise ourselves and we've got plans to develop the site which will be a little bit different.

"It might be one of those things that in a few years time we can look back and say that we're glad we didn't get the lottery money because we can now do it a different way and be successful at doing it that way."

One of the main reasons the museum wants to expand is so that they can continue to accommodate the vast number of offers they receive from people wishing to donate exhibits.

"One of the things about our collection that we spend a lot of time doing, unfortunately, is turning things away. The one thing we turn away more than anything is lawnmowers," said Peter.

In fact the collection still boasts a huge number of lawnmowers, almost one of every variety made by Ipswich-based engineering firm Ransomes alongside a number of pieces which celebrate Ipswich's engineering past.

"We have a big black crane with the words Pickfords on it and that was made by Ransomes and Rapier in Ipswich," said Peter.

"That's interesting because we believe it is the oldest mechanical self powered crane in the world."

Prams and sedans

The sedan chair
The sedan chair and prams often take visitors by surprise

There is more than you might expect on display at the museum. Far from the typical display of buses and emergency service vehicles there are commercial vehicles, horse drawn carriages and even prams.

"The pram collection is quite interesting," said Peter. "We often get people in and you find yourself standing chatting to them after they've found the collection and hear them say 'oh, I used to have one of those'.

"We also have a sedan chair here and it has a lovely history.

"It was a lady up near Bury had it and in the early part of her life she was quite rich so she could afford two people to take her to church on a Sunday.

"But later in her life she could only afford one man so it was converted so that one man could pull the chair instead of two."




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