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Bexhill's Lost World at AGM

A £3m venture designed to enable residents, newcomers moving to the town’s northern expansion scheme and visitors to visualise Bexhill’s past from the age of the dinosaurs onwards has been outlined to museum members.

Taking a lead from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous book, the museum expansion project has been entitled Bexhill’s Lost World.

Home must be found for artefacts of international significance recovered by archaeologists before work started on the Bexhill-Hastings Link Road – now Combe Valley Way.

They include Saxon and Roman pottery and a staggering half-million flints worked by the town’s earliest inhabitants in the New Stone Age.

These will complement fossils recovered from the sea shore and from strata exposed on cliffs and the Turkey Road clay quarries.

In an illustrated presentation after the independent, voluntarily-run museum’s annual meeting at St Augustine’s Church Hall on Wednesday, October 5th, district curator Julian Porter showed an artist’s impression detailing features which include a 100-seater lecture auditorium capable of accommodating three school groups simultaneously.

Other planned features include:

*Solar energy panels

*A roof-top environmental science area with inter-active meteorological station

*An exhibition gallery meeting national standards and able to accommodate significant loaned material

*New office and storage space

*A work area for volunteers and an entrance from Egerton Park

A project steering group has obtained a quantity surveyor’s estimate of the cost of the scheme. It must obtain in-principle agreement from Rother District Council, which owns both the building and Egerton Park, before submitting a bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund. The fund met a substantial part of the cost of the construction of the Costume and Social History and Motor Heritage galleries which were opened in 2009.

An appeal fund seeking the support of the community and of local businesses would be needed to match-fund any HLF help.

A packed hall heard the curator explain how existing artefacts including the remains of such giants of local pre-history as the Woolly Mammoth, Iguanodont and the bus-sized spiked plant-eater Polacanthus could be better exhibited in Bexhill’s Lost World, illustrating how Britain was once joined to mainland Europe.

The time-line would include the later arrival of the first human hunter-gatherers, the impact on the environment as the first farmers felled the forests and began settlements and the Norman Invasion when village Bexhill was burned to the ground.

The museum is consulting with the public to test interest in the project.

Opening the meeting, chairman John Betts had outlined a year which saw the £15,000 Arts Council-fund Exploring Stuff project, the opening of the Izzard family rail layout and the recent Costume and Textiles Extravaganza.

The chairman paid tribute to the curator and to the museum’s administrator, Don Phillips, and his fellow directors. The host of volunteers who keep the museum running include reception staff, gallery custodians, local studies and oral history workers, the education and costume gallery teams and the maintenance team.

Both the chairman and retiring director Chris O’Grady stressed the constant need for new volunteers. Maureen Newport appealed for a volunteer to preview the museum’s lecture series.
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