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Charles Burrell Museum is steaming up for its 30th year and grand reopening this weekend



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The Charles Burrell Museum in Thetford is ready to finally reopen its doors after a 20-month hiatus and go full steam into its 30th year this weekend.

The Minstergate site, which is run by volunteers, is looking forward to its grand reopening event on Sunday and getting a bit of traction back.

Helen Whitton-Rogers, the museum’s manager, said: “It is going to be so special, especially now coming out of Covid, we are just so thankful that we are still here, it could very easily gone the other way.

Helen Whitton-Rogers with some of the museum's volunteers and the Queen Mary. Picture by Mark Westley.
Helen Whitton-Rogers with some of the museum's volunteers and the Queen Mary. Picture by Mark Westley.

“There was a time where there was just two of us going into the museum, me to check the building and the engine officer to check that everything was okay – it will be great to have visitors and all our volunteers back here again.”

Helen took over the manager’s role in July last year and has yet to open to the public, but said during the downtime the site had gone through a lot of changes.

She said: “The uncertainty has been daunting for all of us, but on the positive side, it has enabled us to do a lot of maintenance done such as having our electrics upgraded and revamping our café.

“The sort of things we would never do when we close in the winter as it is too cold to do it.”

One project that was completed and has been three years in the making was putting new ‘tyres’ on the museum’s showman’s road locomotive, Queen Mary.

After fund-raising nearly £6,000, volunteers were able to buy and fit the 24 segments of flattened and pressed forklift tyres on to their star attraction.

With the museum’s prize piece back on track, Helen said the team now planned to raise the profile of the site on social media and its website in this special year and hopefully fix another long-running issue.

She said: “The building is in need of restoration and repair and we have had it put to us that it should be moved up to a Grade II star listed building, which means we are at risk to help with that.

“We have also had talks with Historic England and are hopeful that they will be able to help us too. It was built in approximately 1902 or 1903 so it was never designed to stay up as long as it has,

“But, this is a part of Thetford’s history and if it goes it will be gone forever, so with all of this work and our 30th year we are looking forward instead of in the past, which is quite ironic for a museum.”

Read more: All the latest news from Thetford