St Albans businessman donates £30,000 for museum project, but more funds needed

PUBLISHED: 17:00 15 August 2016

Portfolio Holder for Sport, Heritage and Leisure for St Albans City and District Council Cllr Annie Brewster outside the Old Town Hall.

Portfolio Holder for Sport, Heritage and Leisure for St Albans City and District Council Cllr Annie Brewster outside the Old Town Hall.

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Hundreds of civic-minded locals have heeded the call to write their names into St Albans’ history, and help raise the final £1.1 million needed for the city’s new museum and art gallery.

Oak panel honours boards will be installed in St Albans' new Museum and Art GalleryOak panel honours boards will be installed in St Albans' new Museum and Art Gallery

The transformation of the landmark Grade II* listed Town Hall and courthouse has been considerably boosted after a community campaign raised over £100,000 in just four months.

For a donation of £250, hundreds of people have requested names to be engraved on oak panel honours boards, creating a “Benefactors’ Walk of Fame” inside the building.

An illuminated oak panelled corridor will connect the newly excavated basement gallery with the Georgian courtroom dock and the 19th Century prison cells.

The oak panels are being made by local artist Maria Meyer, whose design is based on the historic wooden panels in the courtroom and the graffiti left by prisoners awaiting trial.

Cllr Annie Brewster, trustee of the St Albans Museums and Galleries Trust and the district council’s portfolio holder for heritage, said the support shown by locals for the project was “quite incredible”.

The total cost of the new Museum and Gallery is £7.75 million, the bulk of which has been provided by the Heritage Lottery Fund and St Albans council.

Among those supporting the trust’s fundraising bid to secure the final £1.1 million is local businessman Rae Borras who has sponsored the first-floor landing gallery with a donation of £30,000.

He said: “St Albans has proven to be a fantastic place for us to start and grow our business. We believe the completed scheme will re-energise this historic building well into the future. A modern attraction linked to the Cathedral by ancient French Row will provide visitors to our city with a real insight into what makes this place so special.”

Many businesses have become £5k ‘Gold Sponsors’ and their logos will be featured on the new artistic hoardings around the building this autumn.

Among those donating money towards the honours boards is Elizabeth Muskett, who is honouring her father, Peter.

She said that her dad “has lived for nearly 60 years in St Albans and has made contributions to the city. He was a governor of several schools and a councillor in the old Town Hall and I believe having his name on the honours boards will be a lasting memory of his life and time in St Albans that his family can be proud of.”

Cllr Brewster said that while some people wanted to add their own name to the honours boards, many had chosen names in memory of loved ones or as a present to children or grandchildren, or as a surprise anniversary gift.

She added: “We are amazed by the extraordinary support we are receiving for this new chapter in St Albans’ cultural history. Witnessing so many people with current or past links to this great city, and the stories behind them, is very moving.”

Jean Day is keen to see the name of David Berridge on the boards. She said that he “was a dear friend of mine who died last year. He was well known in the town as a teacher at Marshalswick School (now Sandringham) where he became head of English. Whenever we were in town we always heard a passing voice shouting ‘Hello, sir!’

“He was also a star of the local Operatic Society excelling particularly in comic roles, yet he was also a thoughtful director and an avid opera fan. He was kind man and a dear friend to many people and had a lot of fun in his life. Last year his remains were buried alongside his twin brother in Yorkshire – so it would be wonderful to have a lasting memorial to David, here in St Albans, where he spent the greater part of his life and where so many people remember him with such affection.”

The St Albans Museums and Galleries Trust is looking for contributions from charitable organisations, local businesses and the community to reach the remaining required match-funding.

• To donate money and add a name to the honours boards, visit www.honoursboard.org.uk or call 01727 296148 for an application leaflet.

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