By David Borrett

Many of us were shocked to learn that plans are afoot to close the Andover museum after Hampshire County Council intends to reduce funding to Hampshire Cultural Trust by £600,000 in an effort to balance their books.

Since 1981, we have all become accustomed to this building being our local museum and from 1986, the extensive Museum of the Iron Age has been a superb home for the wealth of artefacts found at Danebury and local sites elsewhere, long before Andover as a town was conceived.

The original house was built by George Noyes in 1742 who was then the town clerk.

Andover Advertiser: The original building of what now comprises the two Andover museumsThe original building of what now comprises the two Andover museums

Over the next 100 years it was home successively to the Andrews family, followed by a vicar, a naval captain and then a doctor, until it was bought by Martha Gale in 1847 for £1,500.

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She gifted it to the Andover Charity Trustees for use as a grammar school, a replacement for the older school then on the opposite side of the road.

It was said that Miss Gale wanted a better view of the church that her late uncle Dr William Goddard had built, from her home at Priory Lodge.

In order to provide new classrooms, a large extension to the south side of the building was completed in 1888, and this is what today houses the Iron Age museum.

It remained as a grammar school until 1925 when a new school was built off Weyhill Road and the New Street building was bought by church organist and local historian Arthur Bennett who lived there with his sister.

Bennett died in 1947 and it subsequently became the property of Hampshire County Council who returned it to an educational use, becoming the Juniors section of Norman Gate School next door.

It was rather neglected after 1966 when the school removed to Balksbury but was renovated and opened as the new Andover Museum in 1981.

After a period of joint administration of the museum by both Hampshire County Council and Test Valley Borough Council, Hampshire Cultural Trust was formed in 2014, to safeguard the cultural assets of Hampshire.

This, it was hoped, would remove them from the political pressures of funding and enable access to national grants and donations for specific projects that were not available to local councils.

The charitable trust is a separate legal entity which produces annual company accounts and is administered by a number of trustees, supported by over 190 employees and 300 volunteers, who no doubt all work hard to promote and finance the trust’s activities.

However, from Andover’s point of view, it is largely a Winchester-based entity which inevitably looks south towards Southampton and east to Basingstoke, Farnham and Alton, rather than north towards Andover.

Of its 24 visitor attractions, museums, art galleries and art centres for which it is responsible, as far as I can see, the Andover museum is the only representative to the north of the county.

Reading the lengthy 2023 trustees’ report of its activities, there is almost no mention of Andover.

Rather than lose the museum, it seems to me that it would be far preferable if Test Valley Borough Council were to take it over and, if necessary, buy the building.

It should not be impossible for a hitherto county asset to be transferred to a borough one, given the political will; and surely if the alternative is a closed building with its exhibits all removed elsewhere and unseen, it makes much sense.

Test Valley is not a poor council and has recently said that its many prudent investments mean it is not without funds.

If a new trust with a board of enthusiastic trustees is the best way to oversee the museum, then so be it.

Maybe also, this is a project in which the town council could get involved. No doubt there is much to be discussed.

The recent £18.3 million funding grant received for the revamp of the Chantry Centre, bringing the theatre into the centre of the town is a great windfall but the terms of the grant are specific and could not be used for a new project.

But surely the existence of the Andover Museum and Museum of the Iron Age was a pertinent factor in the application and the winning of what was essentially a cultural grant.

If Andover is in any way to be a ‘cultural hub’, it needs its museum and closure is unacceptable.

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One would hope that some outside funding might be available, especially as the Museum of the Iron Age is nationally important.

Perhaps indeed, if the museum were actually to be ‘ours’, interested local people could be enthused to raise money for the museum themselves and, dare I suggest, make a bequest to a future Andover Museum Trust in their will, as was the habit of philanthropic Andoverians of long ago who wished to help the poor.

If you are interested in local history, why not join Andover History and Archaeology Society? Details can be found at