Save the Judges' Lodgings Museum in Lancaster

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Save the Judges' Lodgings Museum in Lancaster

This petition had 5,553 supporters
Independent Lancaster started this petition to Jo Turton (Lancashire County Council) and

The Judges' Lodgings museum is Lancaster's oldest town house. It has been a wonderful museum since it opened in the 1970's and has featured in television programmes, helping to bring tourists to the city.

The government budget cuts for local councils has forced Lancashire County Council to take drastic measures including closing down local facilities and putting thousands of people out of work. The Judges' Lodgings museum along with several other Lancashire museums, have now been scheduled to be shut down in Spring 2016.

The three storey house, originally the home of Thomas Covell who was involved in the Pendle witch trials of 1612, is also home to a Childhood museum of toys dating from present day back to the Georgian times as well as a recreation of a Victorian school room and children's home nursery.

The museum's jewel in their crown is the Gillow furniture collection. It has the largest museum collection of Gillow furniture on permanent display, not only in the United Kingdom, but in the world . The collection also spans the longest period from the mid eighteenth century to the 20th century. The Gillows collection is so important in fact, that further information regarding this stunning collection is available at the bottom of this petition.


As well as being of great historical importance to Lancaster and a wonderful venue for the public to visit, this building also serves as a fantastic location for school visits where the children are able to learn about history like never before in a hands on, fully immersive environment with specially trained actors. The Judges' Lodgings period rooms, furnishings and architecture offers a wonderful educational experience that can't be recreated in the classroom.

The Light Up Lancaster event in 2015 used the Judges' Lodgings as a fantastic backdrop to their displays, performing to large crowds. During school holidays, exciting events and workshops take place at the Judges' Lodgings, giving parents and their children fun activities to take part in, crafts to make and shows to watch. The Judges' Lodgings team of garden volunteers have only just recently put the finishing touches to the garden. Tucked away at the back of the museum and well received by the public, the garden has already been utilised for Edwardian summer fair and vintage cream tea days. And every Christmas the Judges' Lodgings steps straight out of a Dicken's novel as it is filled with carol singers, bell ringers, mince pies and holly wreathes during their Victorian Christmas weekend.

If Lancashire County Council goes ahead with these drastic cuts, all of that will end.

We must immediately appeal against this decision, encourage the council to put our objection to the government and request in the strongest possible way that funding be secured to allow us to keep this culturally and educationally significant venue open. We ask that the council look again at the figures and see if there may be another solution to finding the money necessary to save the Judges' Lodgings museum.

So many people are going to lose their jobs throughout the museum service because of the council's cuts, but even more than that, children are going to lose a wonderful venue to visit with their schools and Lancaster will lose a very rare and beautiful piece of it's history, the loss of which will continue to impact Lancaster for decades to come.



Additional and more in depth information specifically regarding the world's largest collection of antique Gillows furniture contained within The Judges' Lodgings follows:


The Judges Lodgings ceased to be the residence for the assize court judges in the 1970s, and became a museum shortly after. The core collection was the furniture purchased in the 19th century for the judges including items supplied by Gillows.

It has been expanded and developed over the years by generous grants, donations, and with financial support from national institutions, such as the V and A and the National Art Collectors fund. Due to this generous support and donated furniture the collection now includes superb pieces such as the Rawlinson bookcase. This stunning example of 18th century craftsmanship was made for the widow of an important West Indies merchant Mary Hutton Rawlinson as a gift to her daughter in 1772.

This provincial masterpiece, inlaid and carved by the Dowbiggin brothers (Gillows best workmen), was made in their workshop just yards away from the Judges Lodgings where the bookcase resides now.

The Denton desk (made for Sir James Ibbetson of Denton Hall, West Yorkshire in 1778) is another important piece of furniture saved for the nation. It was made by Gillows to a design from Thomas Chippendale's DIRECTOR published in 1754. Sir James complained about the price, but Richard Gillow who had gone to a great deal of trouble to make alterations to the drawers, retorted that it was made in the best manner of workmanship and labour, and the extra work meant that it was worth the ' charged or more'. The handsome sum paid some two hundred years later, by the National Art Collection Fund, and V and A, and with other generous grants and public donations fully justifies Richard Gillow's pride in the firm's workmanship.

The ladies work box by the Gillow brothers inlaid with 72 samples of wood from around the world was made for a Welsh customer in 1808. It is not only a superb piece of workmanship in mint condition, but because the catalogue naming the woods used has also survived is an important study piece, for collectors, dealers, and furniture historians.

Other pieces, to name but a few, are the chair made in 1835 for the MP Thomas Greene of Whittington Hall near Kirkby Lonsdale. This chair also features in a painting by Richard T. Lonsdale of the drawing room at Whittington Hall, a painting which now hangs above the chair itself in the dining room of the Judges' Lodgings.

The Gothic walnut chair made circa 1857-58 by Gillows and Co. for the Speakers Rooms at the New Palace Westminster, is another important piece on loan here.

The Gillow collection at the Judges Lodgings museum, is of more than interest and importance to just Lancaster, or Lancashire residents alone. It is of national and international importance.

It is a unique collection containing examples of superb British workmanship spanning two centuries, which through the survival of the Gillow Archives tell us the story of the furniture and the people who made it, and exported it across the world.

The Gillow furniture collection is a jewel in the nation's crown. If the Judges Lodgings Museum were to close, this would inevitably mean the dispersal of the finest permanent collection of Gillow furniture in the world, housed yards away from where it was manufactured hundreds of years ago. If you care about our British history and heritage you must unite to stop the closure of this important museum.

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