Museum sees rise in visitors due to review

LOOKING UP: Mark Bills outside Gainsborough's House museum in Sudbury.
LOOKING UP: Mark Bills outside Gainsborough's House museum in Sudbury.
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BBC newscaster Fiona Bruce has helped to boost visitor numbers and “desperately-needed” funds at Sudbury’s Gainsborough’s House.

The museum featured in a Daily Telegraph article written by the presenter and travel writer in which she spoke of forlorn empty shops, an overabundance of charity shops and described St Peter’s as a relic. It provoked criticism from residents who thought she had been misinformed about the town.

But she reserved special praise for Gainsborough’s birthplace museum, saying it had an astonishing collection, and museum director Mark Bills said the praise had worked wonders and had brought in more people to the attraction.

He said August had seen double the amount of visitors compared to July.

“It certainly has had a very positive effect and we are very happy that more people are coming to see Gainsborough’s work and learn about his life,” he said. “August is, of course, a holiday month but we had double the amount of people visiting from the previous month.”

Mr Bills said the museum was in the process of applying for a £60,000 Lottery grant to help develop the attraction.

But he is also looking to the future, with ambitious plans to get permission to extend the museum as part of a multi-million pound project. It will also start to open on a Sunday from next year.

“We desperately need more space and we definitely need more money,” he said. “We have just doubled the amount of work on display, and this is going to be launched on September 14.

“These are exciting times – we would love to be able to make the museum bigger, and improve the shop and cafe so we can become more sustainable in the future.

“Lots of people are supporting us saying this is a good thing for Sudbury.”