The disappointing case of Barnet Council, HADAS and the Church Farmhouse Museum.

The following letter has come to our attention and as we believe that the recipient would like to remain anonymous, We have omitted his name, otherwise the letter is exactly as it it, other than we have emboldened certain parts for your attention.

Dear xxxxxx

Hendon and District Archaeological Society (HADAS) has since its foundation in 1961 had close association with the Museum in Greyhound Hill. We have had displays at the museum and have donated a display case. One of our collections was lodged at the museum. In addition, we have on a number of occasions had excavations in the museum grounds and have involved local schools in some of these. In 2010, we dug in the grounds and also, with council permission, opened up two second world war air raid shelters in Sunnyhill Park at the back of the museum. The Hendon Times published information on this and included encouraging and complimentary comments from Councillor Rams.

On 3rd December 2010, the council started a consultation period of 6 weeks on a proposal to close the museum, a period covering Christmas and the New Year, and the school holidays. The documents for this were not published until 17th December. It was stated that local organisations connected to the museum were notified. Somewhat surprisingly this did not include HADAS. Once we discovered the situation, we consulted a number of other groups and contacted the council to declare an interest in taking over the running of the museum.

However, in order to do this we needed information on what we were taking over. Details of the rent that would be charged (a piece of vital information) was not forthcoming, there was no inventory of fixtures and fittings, no inventory of the collection either in the form of up-to-date accession lists or identification marks on the objects. The use of the building for other purposes as well as a museum proved problematical with issues around disability access and toilet facilities. Solving these issues needed a lot more time.

We sought meetings with the council staff to discuss these points, and this meeting took place on  3rd March. Details of recent museum operating costs were sent to us on 14th March, but no information regarding the possible rental arrangements. On 14th April, we were advised that the council would give us three months starting from 1st April to develop a business case, but that we should submit our proposals by 31st May. This period included 5 bank holidays. No information regarding rents was provided. We again requested that information but as at 27th April, it was still not available.

Meanwhile, the museum had closed on 31st March, and the Curator made redundant. Visiting the site, we found that a number of items had been consigned to a skip, and we then discovered that items were being offered to another museum without our knowledge.

In order to get the necessary volunteer and financial support we needed to be able to tell residents and potential supporters, at a minimum, how much it was going to cost per annum and then we needed an adequate timeframe to prepare an acceptable proposal. The lack of relevant information made this an impossible task. As a result we have reluctantly and sadly come to the view that we were unable to proceed with preparing a proposal to run the museum.

We have been extremely disappointed by the apparent lack of interest, co-operation and urgency displayed by the Council and its staff. HADAS hope that that despite our withdrawal the museum and, more particularly, the Grade II* listed building will be maintained and kept safe in the care of the London Borough of Barnet as it has for over 60 years.

Don Cooper
HADAS – Chairman

We are trying hard to be non-political but in the case of the Church Farmhouse Museum, of which one of our volunteers is/was honorary secretary of the Friends of the Church Farmhouse Museum, and is very unhappy at the way the museum has been forced to close, even though a voluntary body was willing to take it over.

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Posted in Barnet Council, Buildings, Education, History, People, Politics. Comments Off on The disappointing case of Barnet Council, HADAS and the Church Farmhouse Museum.
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