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Belford Museum

Founded: 2012        Governance: Independent trust       Scope: Local history   Visited: Autumn 2018

There's not much to Belford, to be honest, especially on a wet and windy afternoon in October. It used to be a big deal in mid-Northumberland, the area's farmers convening for its markets, travellers using its inns and hosting all the businesses which helped a rural economy function. But I felt blown along the pavement from one early-closed shop front to another. 

Which makes Belford Museum all the more remarkable. It's a completely volunteer effort funded originally by a Lottery grant in 2012 and opened that year in the old Reading Room, itself a relic of aristocratic philanthropy from the long past. I'd only ended up there at all after discovering that a museum I wanted to visit somewhere else no longer existed (if it ever had) and picking up a leaflet about Belford's in a tourism information centre. I discovered within the unassuming grey stone exterior a proud symbol of community identity, packed with detail (there's a lot on those information panels) and an exhibition about World War One coinciding with the centenary of the 1918 Armistice. Apparently the displays change frequently.

I was hugely impressed that a small community can produce something of this kind, but it was a slightly unnerving visit. I didn't encounter a single other human being, visitor or volunteer. It seems as though they open up, check the loo and then leave, perhaps trusting that anyone interested enough to hunt the museum out won't be up to no good. Perhaps I ought not to advertise that, come to think of it.

Belford Museum
Belford Museum
Belford Museum
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