Museum idea ‘on fire’

Fire & Police Museun,West Bar,Sheffield...Beck Dempsey.
Fire & Police Museun,West Bar,Sheffield...Beck Dempsey.
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HELLO, hello, hello, what’s all this then?

Only some flaming good news for Sheffield’s Fire and Police Museum.

The West Bar venue has smashed its own visitor records after opening during the week for the first time in its history over the last two months.

And that means it has completed step one of a five year, £13.5 million plan to transform and expand itself into the UK’s National Emergency Services Museum.

The centre – home to 30,000 exhibits from around the world – will use the figures to prove to the Heritage Lottery Fund that, with the right investment, there is scope to create a truly unique and popular museum.

It will hold a meeting with the funding group on January 15 about a future grant to finance the transformation.

Not a bad cop for a place which is run almost exclusively by volunteers, which has opened only one Sunday a month for much of its 28 year history, and which was previously described on this very page as like Steptoe’s Yard – if Steptoe was obsessed with the emergency services.

Actually, visitor boost or not, that last one remains true.

For crammed into the 29 used rooms of this Grade II* listed former fire and police base, there is everything from an East German Trabant Polizei Car to an 18th century South Yorkshire horse drawn pump, from uniforms worn by New York City firefighters on September 11 2001 to the criminal records of Victorian villain Charlie Peace.

As the 1920s desk sergeant guarding the door might tell you if he wasn’t made from papier mache, it’s a mixed old bag.

“What we’ve done since October is proven there is a viable future for this museum as a full-time operation,” says director Matthew Wakefield, the only full time member of staff.

“We’ve had school trips, corporate events and, during the holidays, more families than we ever expected.

“We were sure people would come if it was opened up more and advertised and that’s been shown to be absolutely right.”

Now the museum will re-group, opening just Sundays over Christmas before re-opening Wednesday to Sundays, excluding Saturdays, in the new year.

“We are ambitious because we believe what we have here is exciting for children, families and adults alike,” says Matthew, who previously worked at Magna, Rotherham.

“People only ever come here and say what a great day out they’ve had. This was the first small step on the road. Now we want to move forward again.”