A ‘milestone’ has been reached in Ottery St Mary, with the Ottery Heritage Society officially taking over the museum building from the town council. 

The Heritage Society runs the museum and has been using the Old Town Hall as its premises since 2017. 

On Thursday, June 22, the society signed a 25-year lease for the building. This will unlock major benefits for the museum, including opportunities to apply for grant funding, while freeing the town council of its responsibility to maintain the building. 

The key development is that, with the lease agreed, the Heritage Society can apply for official accreditation for the museum. This differentiates it from the collections of memorabilia that many organisations put on display, as museums have to meet national standards. 

Peter Shrubsall, chair of the Ottery St Mary Heritage Society, said: “The accreditation opens up opportunities for grants for all sorts of educational issues, access issues, funds to look after the place, and it also means the museum is acknowledged in the tourist industry as an accredited place to visit, meaning it meets safety standards, and has policies in place on how donated items are stored, looked after and displayed. 

“One of the things it will enable us to do is apply for grants to install a lift to enable people with mobility issues to access the main gallery – those sorts of funds would not be available to the town council.” 

At the signing of the lease last Thursday, Peter told the gathering of Society trustees and museum stewards - along with Richard Grainger, the new Mayor and Dean Stewart his deputy (both signatories) - how grateful he was to all those involved in reaching this agreement.  

He said: “Thank you to all of you for your support to me and also to those who were deeply involved in the past such as Dr Michael Patrick, but especially to those who are no longer with us who worked so hard; Robert (John) Neal, Chris Saunders and Quentin Bedall.  

“I particularly want to thank the Mayor and his deputy and all those from the council who had contributed so much too. This is a real milestone for the Town Council, the Heritage Society, but especially for the people of the town as it secures this community facility for them for the next 25 years.”