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Evolution of a Museum
At the end of the First World War soldiers and their families donated hundreds of precious items to the Regiment. These objects, together with the collections created by Chapman and Ferrar, formed the beginnings of a regimental museum, which was housed in a barrack block from 1922. In March of that year, The Green Howard’s Gazette reported, ‘The Regimental Museum at the Depot has been commenced. There should not be any great expense after obtaining a few glass cases for letters and medals’.
A museum for the regiment
In 1922 there was no permanent home for the collection so it was moved from room to room in the barracks. Some rooms were centrally heated, others damp and dark.
During the Second World War, the museum had several homes, including a hut in Richmond’s Gallowgate Camp – a windswept site on the old racecourse. After the war, the nomadic existence continued around the Regimental Depot, where Green Howard recruits had been trained since 1877.
In October 1955, the Green Howards Gazette announced the next move of the Museum. ‘Owing to the acute accommodation problem which arose at the end of November 1954, it was necessary to remove the Regimental Museum from the barrack room in Howard Block to the buildings in the south-west corner of the barracks which had previously been the home of the local company of the 4th Battalion (TA)’.
Open to the public
By October 1955 the Museum was open to the public. There is no record of the numbers of visitors who climbed Gallowgate Hill, entered a working barracks, and walked past the parade square beneath the gaze of bristling drill sergeants, to turn the key in the door of the wooden hut and view the relics of war.
The medal collection had been increased dramatically in the years of the Depression. Families had sold medals when times were tough, and Major Ferrar had made purchases whenever he could. Brigadier Tommy Collins did the same for regimental uniforms in the years after World War II.
The museum remained in the wooden hut until the Depot closed down in 1961 and infantry regiments were given regimental headquarters, and encouraged to establish museums. That year, the old stone gym at the barracks was converted into the Regimental Headquarters and Museum.
Colonel Jonathan Forbes, the Regimental Secretary and Curator, Brigadier Tommy Collins, the prime mover of the new Museum, and John Goat, the first Museum Attendant, rolled up their sleeves and began to convert this barn-like building, flooded by natural light, into a fine small regimental museum. The major problem was that the Home Office was turning the rest of the barracks into an Approved School, so the museum was now removed from its soldiers, as well as being located away from the town centre.
In 1970, Colonel Forbes was dining in the King’s Head Hotel with Major Peter Kirby.
Kirby, formerly an officer in 4th Bn The Green Howards during the Second World War, and at the time Curator of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers Museum, pointed through the window of the hotel to the redundant Holy Trinity Church, now up for sale in the market place, and said, ‘That’s the place for your museum. It’s in an ideal location.’
The Ripon Diocese agreed to let the church for a peppercorn rent, and fund raising committees were formed to secure the £90,000 needed to convert the building. The main body of the church was adapted, leaving an east chapel where 24 people could worship.
In July 1973, the new Green Howards Museum was officially opened by the Colonel-in-Chief of The Green Howards, King Olav V of Norway.
- 1975 – ‘Museum of the Year’ runner up.
- 1995 – displays updated and refurbished to include archive film, improved interpretation and new displays about women, and the regiment’s local links.
- 1998 – Yorkshire Tourist Board’s ‘White Rose Award 1998′ for attractions with less than 50,000 visitors per year.
- 2006 – Ground floor updated thanks to HLF funding of £130,000
- 2013 – Heritage Lottery Funding of £974,600 awarded as part of a £1.7million project to completely redevelop.
- 2014 – The museum reopens at 10am on Sunday 9 November