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Fears over future of Allerford museum subside
THE future of an important tourist attraction and educational facility is looking brighter.
It was feared the West Somerset Rural Life Museum may not be able to open to the public for the April to October season after the National Trust, which owns the Honicote Estate, shut the public toilets at Allerford on January 2.
Visitors to the 30-year-old museum, which does not have its own facility suitable for the public, used the toilets, which have now been closed as part of plans to extend the neighbouring Reading Room toilet block.
Museum curator John Skudder was concerned the venue would not be able to fulfil health and safety rules without toilets being available and complained about the trust’s lack of communication.
He said: “No-one warned us this was coming – we haven’t been able to prepare for it. No-one at Holnicote has bothered to speak to me.
“We rely on passing trade, and many walkers were brought here by the signs for the toilets, but our main concern is that we don’t see how we could open to the public if we can’t offer them toilet facilities.
“Some money is made from the membership of about 40 people but entrance fees are the main part of our income. It is £2 for an adult to enter – we are not making a profit, we just want to keep the facility open for people.
“Our valuable exhibits, photographic displays and Victorian classroom means we are not only an important tourist attraction but also cater for educational visits and academic study.
“If the plans were changed to include a public part to the new toilets, that would be an ideal situation for everyone.”
Holnicote Estate general manager Andy Mayled said: “We supported the Reading Room’s extension application because of its importance to local people and the community but in doing so there were sacrifices, including the removal of the toilet block.
“There are possible solutions and we have offered to meet representatives from the museum to discuss the options available.
“The solutions we are looking to explore are either reaching an arrangement between the museum and the Reading Room to share the new toilets or improving the facilities at the museum itself.
"We own the museum building too and we have no interest in closing it down or making their lives difficult. There are solutions and it’s just a question of getting together to talk about it.”