Under threat heritage base artefacts may be rehomed


Charlie Croasdale

TREASURES from a heritage centre threatened with closure could get a reprieve after a lifeline was offered.

Bersham Heritage Centre could be closed as part of Wrexham Council’s plans to trim millions from its 2015-16 budgets. The proposal, which council money bosses said will save £58,000, was approved to move on for consultation at a meeting of the executive board on Tuesday and will now go out for consideration in September.

A number of historical items and exhibitions are displayed at the Bersham building, detailing the history of Clywedog Valley and its associated industries such as iron, steel, coal and lead mining.

In pride of place at the centre is a permanent exhibition to John Wilkinson, who ran a business empire of ironworks and collieries centring on Bersham and Brymbo in the 18th century.

There were fears the possible closure of the centre could mean the public were robbed of the historic gems.

But now neighbouring Brymbo Heritage Group, set up to preserve the history of Brymbo and the former steelworks site, could provide a new home for the exhibitions currently housed in Bersham.

Brymbo councillor Paul Rogers said it would be a terrible shame if centuries of Wrexham history were locked away out of sight.

“The rich heritage and history of our area is something that must be preserved,” he said.

“The last thing we want is for all the items of historical importance in Bersham to simply be locked away out of sight of the public.

“The Brymbo Heritage Group is actively looking to set up their own heritage centre in Brymbo and if items could be loaned to us here in Brymbo then they can be preserved and be put on show.

“Securing these items would also enhance the chances of securing a centre in Brymbo and they have said they would be able to accommodate the exhibitions as the centre progresses.

“Preserving Wrexham’s history is the lasting aim. I’d call on Wrexham Council to speak with the heritage group and ensure we have a lasting memory of the region’s history in the area.”

Mr Wilkinson built a business empire centred on his ironworks at Bersham, Bradley in Staffordshire, Willey in Shropshire and later in Brymbo.

His businesses included industries vital to his ironworks, including collieries, ironstone supplies, limestone quarries and lime kilns.

Ironwork production halted at Bersham in 1795, 13 years prior to his death in 1808.

The Bersham centre was given a revamp in June 2013 after receiving a Welsh Government grant, with the installation of new information boards and signs to explain items to visitors.

The open-air gallery, opened in 2013, faces closure, and includes farm machinery made by local manufacturer Powell Brothers and Whittaker, of Wrexham, which had its factory next door to Wrexham General Railway Station.

The collection includes ingenious machines that performed farm tasks more than 100 years ago – mowing hay, lifting potatoes, chaff cutting and root pulping.

A Wrexham Council spokesman said: “We are currently looking at the Reshaping Services savings for 2015/2016 and will be undertaking formal public consultation later this year to gather feedback on them.

“We will welcome any ideas or comments before then that may be explored to help move the Reshaping Services agenda forward.”

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