Lookback at 2012 - Avoncroft Museum turns 50

By Tristan Harris Thursday 27 December 2012 Updated: 04/01 09:26

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2012 turned out to be an eventful year at Bromsgrove's Avoncroft Museum, which has been celebrating its 50th anniversary throughout the last 12 months.

The venue did not have the best start to its golden year when, back in January, high winds and heavy rain ripped off one of the sails on the iconic 200-year-old windmill, causing it to crash through the roof, causing £15,000 worth of damage.

But, thankfully, in June, the windmill, rescued from Tanworth-in-Arden in the early 1960s, was repaired by professional millwright David Empringham and is now in fully operational, ready for volunteers to begin milling in 2013.

Throughout its 50th year, the museum has had to battle one of the wettest years on record, but despite that, the crowds still came. There were good attendances at the Halloween and Bonfire Night celebrations, 609 went along to the Candlelit Christmas evening and more than 700 enjoyed the Easter Fun events - that's the second highest attendance in the last six years.

Hamish Wood, Avoncroft's head of project and interpretation, said: "We have had some really good events, which have been really well attended and exceeded expectations."

As well as the annual events, there were others lined up to toast the museum's magical milestone, with one of the picks being the 'Night in the Museum'. That saw a competition held to find someone to spend a night, living like a Tudor, at the venue's Merchant's House as part of one of Avoncroft's living weekend. It was won by Sue Bradford from Catshill, who lived like a Tudor for the night and documented her experiences.

Other highlights included the creation of the introductory exhibition, which details how the museum has expanded over the last 50 years. As part of that, an amateur film of the opening ceremony was uncovered and, with a vocal recording of the opening speech also found, the staff were able to put the two together to produce a complete package of the museum's official introduction.

Looking back over the half-century, there was also a special reunion to coincide with The Queen's Diamond Jubilee in July. That saw people involved with the museum past and present come together for a special tea in the Guesten Hall.

But the 50th anniversary year has not just been about the buildings the museum already has - this was also the year when two more were acquired. The first was an Edwardian garden pavillion, known as an 'airing court shelter', that would have been used at a lunatic asylum and the second was a two-up, two-down nailmakers' cottage in Lickey End, which dated back to 1871. The museum received a £100,000 Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) grant to dismantle the building, which it is hoped will be rebuilt at Avoncroft in the spring and give an insight, not only into Bromsgrove's nailmaking history, but also about some of the nailmakers who resided in that particular cottage.

The improvements and acquisitions have been continuing right up until the end of this year - only last week, the museum took stock of a new stove for the Toll House, which will enable volunteers to cook traditional meals on it.

Another thing to take off in 2012 has been filming at the museum - cameras from Come Dine with Me have been to Avoncroft this year, along with crews making a new BBC period police drama 'Fair Cop', which will be broadcast next year.

The museum's 18th Century wagon shed can also be seen on the big screen at the moment - in hit Brit Christmas flick Nativity 2: Danger in the Manger, which features David Tennant and Pam Ferris.

Hamish said: "Avoncroft has become a popular location for filming because of the eclectic selection of buildings can represent different time periods throughout history."

He said, overall, 2012 had been a fantastic, but very eventful, year.

And, as they plan for 2013, bosses at Avoncroft are hoping there will be more demonstrations in the museum's buildings next year and will be looking for more volunteers to participate in a variety of activities.

For more about the museum or the roles, visit www.avoncroft.org.uk or call 01527 831363.

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Buy photos» The sail broke off the windmill. s

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Buy photos» The airing court shelter prior to dismantling. Picture by the Avoncroft Museum of Historic Buildings. s

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Buy photos» Nativity 2 stars Marc Wootton and David Tennant during filming in Avoncroft Museum’s wagon shed. s

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