The History of Arundel Museum

Arundel Museum Society (AMS) was founded in 1962 by a group of local residents with advice from Sussex historian Roy Armstrong and archaeologist Con Ainsworth. The aim was to rescue and conserve as much as possible of Arundel’s remarkable history. Two years later the first museum was established in the old prison cells in the Undercroft of the Town Hall. One of the first independent local museums in the area, the Museum relied totally on volunteer management and stewards.

The High Street Years

In 1975 Arun District Council offered AMS the opportunity to lease 61 High Street. The new museum opened in 1977 and was established as a Charity. During the 1980’s eight galleries were developed and in 2000, the oral history archive was published as a book entitled ‘Arundel Voices’. A grant was obtained for a new display on the Port of Arundel, and this was accompanied by a Town Trail marked by ceramic plaques made by local potter, Josse Davies. In 2004 along with the establishment of the art gallery, a regular programme of town walks, lectures and short courses also started. In 2005 the Museum was one of the first to receive Accreditation.

An Uncertain Future

Two years later however, the Museum had to leave the High Street and everything had to be boxed up and stored until, in 2008, it moved to a Portakabin, initially parked in the Mill Road car park and later in Crown Yard Mews. Here it also took on the role of the Tourist Information Point for the town.

A Permanent Solution

Meanwhile a permanent solution was being planned. The Angmering Park Estate Trust, Arundel Castle Trustees and the Norfolk Estate provided AMS with a vision for the future by jointly offering the current prime site opposite the Lower Castle Gate entrance. Architect Graham Whitehouse created plans for the building, giving his time for free. Jonathan Potter of Potter Associates worked closely with AMS to use cutting edge design and modern technology to develop an innovative design concept for the internal displays.
The fund-raising drive started with an application to the Heritage Lottery Fund for £1.4 million to build and equip its new permanent home in the heart of Arundel. Planning consent and the first tranche from HLF was obtained at the beginning of 2010 and the balance was received in March 2011. Arun District Council provided a grant of £350,000 and an additional £50,000 was raised locally. Construction commenced in June 2012, and the Museum was officially opened by His Grace the Duke of Norfolk on 24 June 2013.

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