The UK's only museum devoted to the needle-making and fishing tackle industries has been threatened with closure in a bid to save money.

Forge Mill Needle Museum in Redditch, Worcestershire, which attracts thousands of visitors each year, may be shut down under cost-cutting plans drawn up by the borough council.

The council needs to save £1.158 million and has proposed a council tax rise of two per cent above inflation, the closure of both Forge Mill and the borough's Countryside Centre, and the cancellation of the annual bonfire display.

The museum displays how needles were made 150 years ago when the town supplied them to the British Empire.

Its collection consists of needle-making machinery and tools, needles, needle packets, sewing accessories, fishing tackle and accessories, and archives.

The site also hosts numerous countryside events, including bow and arrow making and a variety of woodland skills.

Mark Cooper, a museum volunteer, has urged the council to remove the museum from its cost-cutting plans.

He is a member of The Bowmen of England Archers, which holds workshops at the museum.

He said: "Our organisation was astonished to hear of the museum's possible closure.

"It puts on all sorts of educational programmes and has a historical connection with Redditch and the needle industry.

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"Obviously the council is in difficulty in financing these sorts of events and in its infinite wisdom decided to look at closing the museum.

"I have written to the council asking for a reason because this decision will affect a lot of people's jobs. Many people are very worried about this.

"There was a similar sort of threat a couple of years back and it was worrying then but we managed to get a stay of execution."

Redditch dominated the needle-making industry because it had a vital link to water power for pointing and polishing, which other areas could not match.

In the beginning, most of the work was done in the workers' own homes but, as the population grew, factories sprang up to carry out the work of cutting and pointing the wire, although the eyeing and final processes were still operated on a cottage industry basis.

The Forge Mill, on the River Arrow, is one surviving example of the many needle scouring mills set up in the area. Built in 1730, the mill was still in use up to 1958.

The link with needles has established the museum as a leading centre for textile fans.

There are often exhibitions and workshops taken by top textile artists and the Charles Henry Foyle Trust-sponsored national needlework competition attract enthusiasts from all around Britain.

The museum also has a shop which specialises in selling sewing accessories and unusual needles.

Chris Smith, director of Redditch council, said: "Red-ditch Borough Council as part of its 2006-7 budget strategy has to identify areas where savings can be made.

"All options are subject to consultation with council members and council officers.

"The initial consultation period will end on January 30 and options will be discussed at the council meeting on that date." He added: "It is our intention to publish a full list of options as soon as all staff have been briefed about proposals." ..SUPL: