From the Berwick Advertiser website. This is quite a negative decision, and as someone who works regular office hours, this effectively prevents me from visiting this museum. I would hope that this decision is given a rethink.
Published on Thursday 31 March 2011 12:06
by Adam Drummond
Berwick barracks will be closed to visitors at weekends over the summer after English Heritage changed its opening hours.
English Heritage have told the Advertiser that closing at weekends is in response to poor weekend visitor numbers and because the KOSB Regimental Museum and Berwick Museum cannot afford to open on Saturdays and Sundays.
Last year the barracks, which houses the two other museums, which are run separately, was open five days a week, closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, except for bank holiday Mondays.
However, English Heritage, owners of the barracks, have decided to close the visitor attraction at weekends from April 1 until the end of September.
A spokesperson told the Advertiser: “We’ve decided to open Monday to Friday this summer after we looked at visitor patterns from last year.
“We found that a handful of visitors were coming to the barracks on weekends compared to several dozen on weekdays.”
She added: “We took the decision with our site partners, the King’s Own Scottish Borderers Regimental Museum and the Berwick Museum who can not afford to open at the weekends any more due to cuts.
“We are confident that opening on Mondays and Tuesdays will see an increase in visitors as four years a go we opened the barracks seven days a week in the summer, and we saw a steady flow of visitors on those days.”
The spokesperson added that the site was only able to open five days a week and that the opening hours would be reviewed at the end of the summer. Anne Moore, curator of Berwick Museum has denied that cuts have been behind the weekend closure.
She said: “We will be open five days a week, the same as last year, just different days. It has nothing to do with budget cuts.
“The decision was made just to see if we could get better visitor numbers. The decision was led by English Heritage.”
She added that because turnaround day at local holiday parks was Saturday, people seemed to settle in over the weekend before visiting attractions during the week, resulting in lower visitor numbers at weekend, but she admitted that the weekend closure would hit day-trippers.
“It concerns me that we will not be open on Sundays, as that is a day when people get out and about for the day,” she said.
No-one from the KOSB Museum was available for comment.
The move to close the barracks at weekends, and therefore also effectively force the museum to close, has been criticised by chairman of the Friends of Berwick and District Museum and Archives, Brian Chappell.
He said: “It is a shame as weekends are when a lot of visitors are in Berwick looking to do things. It is disappointing, and a slightly difficult policy to understand.”
He added: “Closing at weekends is a very poor step to be taken.”
Mr Chappell also said the fact that the museum was housed within English Heritage’s barracks caused a number of problems, including visitors being unaware that it was free to visit, once they had paid the English Heritage entrance fee to the barracks.
He added: “It would be wonderful if we could get the museum out from under the restrictions it’s got at the moment.”
English Heritage provided the Advertiser with a breakdown of the visitor figures for 2010, which showed that while less people visited the attraction at the weekend than on Wednesdays and Thursdays, both Saturday and Sunday figures were higher than Friday visitor numbers.
The past five years have seen a decline in the total number of visitors at the barracks, dropping from over 15,500 in 2006 to less than 10,000 last year.
The change in the barracks’ opening times will leave it as the only English Heritage property in the north east to be closed at weekends this summer.
Jude Leitch, tourism development manager at Northumberland Tourism, said: “We see the co-ordination of the barracks with the regimental museum and borough archives as a positive move which we’ve been told will reduce confusion for visitors.
“Whilst it’s always a pity when visitors are unable to visit an attraction, we also realise the difficult situation that English Heritage find themselves in given the significant reduction in visitor numbers they have experienced.
“Although we’re not helped by the recent cuts in tourism funding, Northumberland Tourism will be working very hard, along with partners such as English Heritage to try to encourage more people to visit Northumberland and to experience what Berwick has to offer.
“Hopefully, if we’re successful in this aim, attractions like the barracks will be able to reconsider their opening hours in the future.”