Mersea Museum Heritage Resource Centre

Mersea Island Museum - planned Heritage Resource Centre

In June 2010 Mersea Museum opened its new Resource Centre. It is an 80 square metre extension to the side of the existing Museum to enable it to provide local historical archives and storage. This includes photographs, maps, genealogical data for local family researchers, original documents and books (including the John Leather Memorial Collection), digital images - and databases to support all of this.
The building also provides a venue for learning and presentations to small audiences, including schools, when the main museum is holding its Summer Exhibition or is closed during the winter months.

Work on the building started in January 2010, a few days late because of some challenging weather. It was finished in May and we were then able to build the 2010 Summer Exhibition, equip the Resource Centre, stock the shop, and get the Museum open quietly on 12 June 2010. The number of visitors soon built up and we had an official opening by Andrew Phillips with many guests on 24th July 2010.

Since the Museum opened in 2010, there have been a number of events where the Resource Centre with its large table with plenty of seating has shown itself to be really good.

  • Open mornings for groups of local residents
  • Visiting schools now have a more comfortable area to work on their projects.
  • Visiting groups such as U3A, Mothers Union, Colchester Archaeology find it a good place to rendezvous, relax and have a talk.
  • Short exhibitions such as Mersea Island Photographic Society, Model Boats, Methodist Church, maps and charts, stamps, recent finds on the island. They have been in addition to the Museum's normal summer exhibition or during the winter 'closed' season.
  • Local organisations hire the room for their regular monthly meetings.

It is really nice to have the extra space - somewhere that visitors can sit and browse or just gossip about Mersea, people they knew, life the way it was. The online facilities are popular, particularly the large collection of images we have available. The shop benefits from the extra space and the whole area has a vibrant atmosphere.

The funding of the Resource Centre went well, thanks to the generosity of many people. We had a significant local legacy that was roughly matched by the grant we were awarded from the Heritage Lottery Fund. See more details of this award in the HLF Press Release. There remained roughly one third of the cost, that came from the Hervey Benham Charitable Trust, Cory Environmental, Essex Heritage Trust and the Strood Charity. There were also several private donations and the buy-a-brick scheme played its part - as well as giving us an interesting feature in the new entrance porch.

A pictorial trip through the building...

January 2010 - building started
The icy blast at the beginning of the month slowed things down, but the builders have been active since, and the base is in place.

Mersea Island Museum - building the new Resource Centre

6th February 2010
The weather is being kinder in the balmy south east and the walls are rising.

Mersea Island Museum - building the new Resource Centre

26th February 2010 ARK Construction

10th April 2010
The Committee inspecting progress

22nd April 2010
Refurbishing the main hall - new insulation, light tubes and lighting.

Refurbishing the main hall - new insulation, light tubes and lighting

14th May 2010
Almost finished - and the plan is to open for the season on 12th June 2010.

2nd June 2010
Builders are finished...

Mersea Island Museum. David with screwdriver and Mary with notebook

4th June 2010

Mersea Museum - getting organised - Joanne and Vicky The professional watches - Ron, Mary and Pat Contemplating the completed building - David and Andrew

12th June 2010 We are open !

Mersea Island Museum - building finished and Museum about to open Mersea Island Museum - north wall of Resource Centre in the evening sun Mersea Island Museum - inside the new porch

24th July 2010 Official Opening by Andrew Phillips

Andrew Phillips about to cut the ribbon and open the new Resource Centre The crowd can't wait to get in

The opening ceremony for the Resource Centre was performed by well-known Colchester author and historian Andrew Phillips. He registered his delight at the extensive facilities of the new resource centre and praised the enthusiasm of the volunteers who had made the event such a success. "This is a great triumph for Mersea", he said, adding that it was a community which "punches above its weight".

Some 300 people came through the doors over the weekend, when the museum was free to everyone for both days. As there had been a Saturday lunch and a Sunday morning coffee-and-cake party for invited guests, afternoon visitors were offered the rare luxury of food to accompany their visit. Many expressed their thanks with a donation.
[From The Courier, 13 Aug 2010]

The Resource Centre in use:

Meet and Greet - visitors from London Visitors from Mid-Essex WSS Mersea Island Photographic Society Show August 2010

Mersea Island Museum - Heritage Lottery Fund

November 3rd 2009


The Heritage Lottery Fund has awarded a grant of 45,000 towards the building of a Heritage Resource Centre at Mersea Island Museum to provide a venue for heritage-learning and presentations as well as a repository and storage space for important local archives.

The Heritage Resource Centre will provide an area for learning and enable children to do creative work during school visits or as individual visitors, as well as providing the Museum with room to store its archive material in the proper conditions and to display its digitized images on computer screens. The Centre will be available to the community to hire as a smaller meeting area with a digital projection system.

The Museum will be creating a new Maritime display, in the old shop area of the main Museum Hall, which will show the design, build and sail making aspects of boats, together with a history of the local oystering and fishing industry.

Also the Museum will create a user-friendly computer interface to its index records for 7000 references relating to Mersea and its environs and of approximately 12,000 images, 158 hours of audio tape and 17 hours of video. The Museum will continue to digitize local records of organization, businesses, Parish minutes and anything that requires to be archived as a permanent record at the Museum. A programme to record reminiscences of the older generation as well as memories of Mersea Island and its industries will be continued.

David Cooper President of the Museum said "We are delighted that the Heritage Lottery Fund has enabled us to fulfill our long planned extension. This will allow us to continue and extend our work of preserving Mersea's memories and records, as well as providing access for people to these records. It will also give us room to organize our archive material and store it properly."

Explaining the importance of the award Robyn Llewellyn, Head of Region for Heritage Lottery Fund East of England said "Our local heritage is so important, from archives of days gone by to the stories we pass down from older generations - this project will help to capture all of this and give visitors to the museum and residents of Mersea even more opportunity to learn about and celebrate their heritage.

"2009 is the 15th anniversary of Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), our funding has enabled communities to learn about, celebrate and look after our diverse heritage. From museums large and small, to historic buildings and countryside; or recording and sharing customs, traditions and history, HLF grants open our nation's heritage for everyone to enjoy. Since 1994 we have spent over 280 million in the East of England across more than 2,800 projects. For more information about HLF, see"

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