Major restoration works are being carried out at Carmarthenshire Museum – one of the county’s cultural gems – with a £1.2 million council investment.
The former Bishop’s Palace in Abergwili is of huge historical and architectural importance and contains unique collections of art and antiquities from Carmarthenshire’s rich past.
Essential repairs are being carried out to the roof and chimneys, as well as the stonework and dormer windows, to make the museum watertight. Restoration works are also being carried out to the main entrance porch and to improve access.
It coincides with the £2.34 million Tywi Gateway Project to restore and transform the Bishop’s Park and former palace outbuildings to create a café and learning space. The park’s historic paths, walls and plantings will be re-instated and repaired, and new access to the walled garden and Great Meadow will be created. The project has received £1.27 million from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.
It marks the beginning of an exciting restoration journey for the museum, with ambitious plans to improve the shop/reception area and restore the Bishop’s dining room gallery, subject to successful grant funding.
The museum galleries will be closed to the public for up to 12 months whilst the works take place, however the park will remain open throughout. Planned events will also be held including ‘behind the scenes’ access to the Bishop’s Library every second and fourth Wednesday of the month, with talks and highlights from the special book collection. Researchers are also welcome to submit requests to see items from museum collections during the closure.
Scaffolding will go up and the collections will be relocated to a safe place during the restoration works.
There are bats living in the roof of the museum and as a protected species some of the works will be carried out under a special licence from Natural Resources Wales.
Executive Board Member for Culture, Sport and Tourism Cllr Peter Hughes Griffiths said:
“This is the first major step in a long-term plan to care for these historic buildings and park. It is unfortunate that we will have to close the museum to the public whilst the repair works take place, but these are essential works that must be carried out to protect both the museum building itself and the unique collections within.
“We are improving conditions in the museum, and we need to make changes to the way the service is delivered so that the collections are better managed and are more accessible.
“The new visitor centre and park restoration will reveal hidden histories and open up new places to enjoy and explore. It is an exciting time for the museum and long-term it will undoubtedly improve the visitor experience for both residents and visitors.”
Whilst Carmarthenshire Museum is closed, activities will be held at other locations, mainly Parc Howard, including the launch of a new community curated Llanelly Pottery Gallery, the opening of a Gallery of Childhood with interactive Victorian inventions and amusements, and a touring exhibition and engagement programme celebrating women’s sporting heritage in Carmarthenshire. Learning programmes are also being developed in partnership with Oriel Myrddin and the Tywi Gateway Trust.