Howden Civic Society had long harboured an ambition to open a Heritage Centre. Despite having a legacy from Tom Asquith, a previous Chairman, and an assessment of the feasibility, no progress had been made.
In September 2016, a Howden Town Councillor convened a meeting to consider the development of a Heritage Centre. Several buildings were considered as options and the Chairman of the Civic Society applied to the Celebrate Lottery Fund for a grant of £10,000 to fund the project (this was approved on 6th December 2016). Publicity was raised during November and questionnaires distributed during late night opening in December. Three exhibitions were held in the Shire Hall during January 2017 to establish the level of support amongst residents for a Centre within Howden. In January we were introduced to the new owner of the vacant HSBC bank premises at 16 Market Place, which was being redeveloped, and this was our chosen option.
The premises were in a poor state of repair and needed much refurbishment. Fortunately the new owner provided new heating and a new ceiling throughout. Meetings were held with museum managers from ERYC Museum Service and Goole Museum to help plan the layout and advise on the method of operation of the Centre. We joined the Association of Independent Museums as another source of advice and guidance. A start was made on the recruitment of volunteers to operate the Centre.
During March we started to receive donated objects and the refurbishment was progressing so that an opening date was fixed for 14th April 2017. We decided that the Centre would best be operated by the Civic Society instead of the creation of a new charity.
The Centre was opened by Councillor Caroline Fox, then Deputy Chairman of East Riding of Yorkshire Council, on 14th April. The opening was attended by over 100 visitors during the day.
The scope of the Centre was restricted to matters relating to Howden although we would like to cover all of Howdenshire in due course.
Collections are developing according to the material that is donated. These include the following:
Howden Minster and its peel of bells
Howden Horse Fair
R100 and the airships built at Spaldington, near Howden, and the connection with Barnes Wallis
Records of attendance at Howden Junior School
A collection of objects loaned to the Centre by the Curator
Records of licensed premises in Howden over the years
A table top display case was loaned by Goole Museum and later octagonal display cases donated by the Courtyard in Goole and the North East Lincolnshire Museum in Scunthorpe. A further display case was donated by the University of Leeds.
A collection of DVDs was assembled which were in the possession of the Civic Society and equipment was purchased to display the DVDs in the Centre.
A selection of books about Howden’s history, postcards and books about aspects of the east Riding are also available for sale in the Centre.
Unfortunately on 21st December 2018 we closed the Centre for good. Although it has been successful in attracting over 6,000 visitors in the 20 months since it opened, lack of funding has forced its closure.
However, we are maintaining and expanding the collection working from a store so we can hold pop-up exhibitions at various venues and improve our digital presence. This should enable more people to see and examine our collection but at a much reduced cost.