River Gallery's official opening celebrated

PUBLISHED: 02:01 10 April 2008 | UPDATED: 21:42 15 June 2010

TOPSHAM Museum celebrated the official opening of its £315,000 River Gallery extension with a ceremonial ribbon cutting by the Lord Lieutenant of Devon, Eric Dancer CBE. The ceremony marked the end of a five-year project to save the infamous four boats fr

TOPSHAM Museum celebrated the official opening of its £315,000 River Gallery extension with a ceremonial ribbon cutting by the Lord Lieutenant of Devon, Eric Dancer CBE.The ceremony marked the end of a five-year project to save the infamous four boats from destruction and extend the museum space - a formidable accomplishment for a museum run solely by volunteers.The event was attended by Heritage Lottery Fund representatives, who donated £216,000, Exeter's Lord Mayor Councillor Hazel Slack and MP for East Devon Hugo Swire. David Sekers, Heritage Lottery Fund Committee Member for the South West, said: "The gallery will tap into people's past and touch everyone in Topsham. The partnership, between town and museum, is what really distinguished this project."Topsham Museum Society acquired the four historic boats, Cygnet, Ruby, the Exe Lugger and skiff, in 2003 for £1 from the Exeter Maritime Museum where they were found rotting away.The boats have close links with the Exe estuary, and the Cygnet is still remembered fondly by local residents - the Mayor, who as a child had seen it on the river, expressed delight at the restoration and the supporting exhibits.The grant from the Lottery was not enough for the enormous ambitions of the project but impressive donations from the local community and £15,000 from Exeter City Council made up the balance.David Clement, Chairman of the Museum society, said: "We did have cash flow problems, but fundraising ideas like buy-a-brick helped and, over the last three days we have seen a higher footfall, double the usual number of people."The new gallery also develops the Sail Loft and adds a new exhibition of Exe Estuary birds hosted by the RSPB.Tony Whitehead, media and education officer for RSPB, said: "We have no visitor centre in the area but have the bird sanctuary which attracts people so we will be running events with the museum like bird watching."The museum is at the beginning of an exciting development phase and many people at the ceremony expressed their respect for the symbiotic relationship the museum has with the town.

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