Work on course for new museum

The Tree, Crawley, in Victorian times SUS-150712-121834001
The Tree, Crawley, in Victorian times SUS-150712-121834001

Inspiration from the past will be a central feature of the new Crawley Museum which is currently under construction.

It is thought that the name of Crawley is derived from the name Crows’ Wood and graphic designer Sammy Lee is using this as an illustrative ‘bird’ theme at the new museum now being built at The Tree in Crawley town centre.

Sammy, who was involved in design at the Amex Stadium in Brighton, has produced some ‘brilliant work’ for the new museum, according to curator Helen Poole.

The current museum in Goffs Park House is ‘absolutely bursting at the seams,’ said Helen who is looking forward to the new museum being opened in November next year. “We desperately need somewhere bigger and better.”

The site of the new museum at The Tree - a listed building at the junction of the High Street and The Boulevard - dates back to 1280 and contains much medieval timber.

The building was home for generations to a family of doctors called Smith and in 1833 it also became home to a medical student called John Leech who illustrated Charles Dickens’ Christmas stories.

John Leech is believed to have been encouraged to draw by Mark Lemon, first editor of Punch magazine, who also lived in Crawley at the time.

A blue plaque in John Leech’s honour is currently on display at The Tree and will be retained at the new museum.

In recent years, The Tree has been used by a number of community organisations. but was in the ownership of the Montefiore family - owners of the Worth Park estate - in the late 19th and early 20th century.

It is thought that Sir Francis Montefiore sold the building in 1915 during tribulations of the First World War.

Plans for the new museum itself have been on-going for a number of years and finally became a reality after Crawley Museum Society and Crawley Borough Council received a Heritage Lottery Fund award of £1.15 million.

The new two-storey museum will have a ground floor of mostly glass which will include a reception area and shop, with exhibition galleries, meeting rooms and offices above.

Stoneham Construction Ltd, Crawley-based RDjW Architects and historic buildings consultants Oxley Conservation have begun to refurbish and convert the listed building into the new museum.

The total cost of the project is £1.95m. Crawley Borough Council had already agreed to spend £763,000 to refurbish The Tree and bring it up to standard.

Curator Helen Poole added: “We are very excited to be making progress towards opening the new museum in its splendid new home. Meanwhile we continue at our present home at Goffs Park House, but are busily planning for the future.”