From little acorns grow…

Pauline Simper (right) donated tea service

Pauline Simper (right) donated tea service - Credit: Archant

It’s not often that a redecorating project turns in to something much bigger, but that’s what seems to have happened at Portishead Town Council (PTC) over the past several months.

The Resident talked to town councillor Janet Davey about the creation of a heritage centre at Portishead’s Folk Hall.

Cllr Davey said: “This all started on March 1st, when volunteers got together to paint the glass cabinet at the back of the Folk Hall’s main hall. We had emptied it on the previous Friday, and on March 1st, seven of us spent much of the day doing the work. My budget of £50 came back with change!

We had allocated money in the PTC budget for renovations, because electrical work was needed, but we had included painting too. I was allowed to choose the colours and Martin, the town clerk, organised the quotes and contractors. We then realised that the coffee bar area would not pass health and safety so we organised work on that too.

We came across lots of old photos, maps and papers while we were clearing the hall for painting and I had always fancied the town having a heritage centre. This seemed like the ideal time to make a start.

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Suddenly people started volunteering to do the things we needed, while others who had heard we were putting together a heritage centre started donating artefacts and items of interest.

I daren’t start naming everyone because there are so many and I don’t want to take the chance of leaving anyone out. Anyway, shelves went up, tiles were fitted, more painting was done. The top of an old table was sanded down and local volunteers came in to polish it with beeswax. Then the Gordano Society paid for a glass top for the table which would protect a display we could put together on the table. The Gordano Society has also loaned us the 10’ x 9’ delivery map, from Carey’s, dated 1884.

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A glass topped cupboard was then made, to house the minutes of council meetings from more than 100 years ago - so we can keep them safe, yet still accessible.

Portishead In Bloom brought along their display to install in one of the glass cabinets and information from the Town Twinning Association followed. A local artist came up with some amazing ideas as to how to make the display cabinet look great. The right hand side of the area is for the history of the town and will include donated artefacts, photos and books along with details of many of them.

Pauline Simper, who many people will know from Simper’s shop in the High Street years ago, then donated a crested tea service, which is now on display on shelves in the coffee bar area; this was given to her by her mother-in-law on the occasion of her marriage to Ben.

We have put town trophies on some of the shelves, all cleaned by volunteers.

As the heritage centre started to take shape I thought about a time-line. I talked to local historian Sandy Tebbutt who has worked so hard putting this together for us - installation is imminent and may even have been completed before this interview is published.

I can’t believe how many people volunteered to help with all the work, from staff and councillors to members of the community and their friends; the same goes for all those who have either given us or loaned us items for the centre. On behalf of myself and the town council, thank you all so very, very much.”

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