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Berkswell museum gets a £15,000 cash injection

The small black-and-white cottage in a Warwickshire village may not look much like a museum.

The small black-and-white cottage in a Warwickshire village may not look much like a museum.

But the homely setting of the community-run museum which houses maps - the oldest one dating to 1841 - as well as photographs and pictures of the local area provides a valuable asset to the community in Berkswell.

Now, courtesy of a £15,000 heritage grant, a new local history archive set in one of four identical Victorian almshouses built around the cottage has been unveiled.

Margaret Argylle, publicity secretary for the museum, said: "The archive contains the sort of things people have had tucked under their beds for decades."

The grant was offered by the local sand and gravel extractor company, Cemex, to restore the archive. Mrs Argylle said: "I think it is the biggest grant they have ever given. We are very, very fortunate to have it."

Founded in 1981, the volunteer-run museum exhibits locally-collected memorabilia, ranging from gas masks to farm implements, and coronation handkerchiefs to household items. The oldest artefact is a Roman brooch.

Mrs Argylle estimated the total number of museum artefacts to be more than 2,500. These are exhibited between four rooms: a kitchen room, a parlour, significant Berkswell people and an agriculturally themed room which also includes war memorabilia including an original ARP uniform.

Among the memorabilia are things formerly belonging to significant community figures of Berkswell, such as the first woman to win Wimbledon, Maud Watson.

The daughter of a local rector, Watson was able to play tennis with young men taught by her father upon entry to Oxford and Cambridge. When Wimbledon's gates opened to women players as well as spectators in 1884, she went with her older sister Lilian and, aged 19, won the singles tournament, a feat she repeated in 1885.

Bob Wyatt, who was England cricket captain from 1934, also has belongings in the museum, as well as actor Jeremy Brett, most famous for his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes on ITV during the 1980s.

* As the museum is voluntarily run by eight members of a committee, the opening hours are restricted to a Sunday afternoon, from 2.30pm-5.30pm from May 1 to the first weekend in September. Anyone wishing to see the archive should ring 01676 532138.

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