History of the Museum

The museum is situated on the ground floor of a flint and brick house originally named 'The Cottage', built around 1867/68 as a private dwelling but which for most of its life doubled as a dentist's surgery. The building and surrounding land were bought by Tandridge District Council in 1975, and for three years the building housed homeless families.

A museum serving East Surrey had for many years been the aspiration of members of the Bourne Society Archaeological Group, the most vociferous of whom was the local historian James Cockburn Batley. In 1978, after considering numerous alternative locations, the present building was chosen - the ground floor being converted for use by the museum, and the upper floor for use as a flat. After considerable discussion of the financial consequences, and the necessary appeasement of opposition from certain members of both the Council and general public, the conversion went ahead under the direction of the architect, Mr L. A. Long. One of the two original entrances was retained for the upstairs flat, while the other, which had been replaced with a window on the southeast-facing corner of the building, was re-opened to provide access to the museum.

The museum was officially opened at 10 am on 10 May 1980 by the chairman of Tandridge District Council, Mr William ('Bill') P. G. Maclachlan, accompanied by a party of invited guests. The doors were opened to the public at 11.30 that morning. Local archaeologist Miss Lesley L. Ketteringham FSA served as the museum's honorary curator, supported by four trustees: James C. Batley; surveyor and naturalist Sir David Humphrey Burnett; Bill Maclachlan of Tandridge DC; and Mrs Kay M. Percy. In the first year Miss Ketteringham organised some forty-five separate displays, attracting over 6000 paying visitors.

The local council still owns and maintains the premises and provides a grant towards the cost of basic utilities. The rest of the funding is raised by the Friends, or through grants, donations and legacies. There are still links with the Bourne Society whose membership will naturally overlap that of the museum Friends, but otherwise the two organisations remain quite distinct. Until 2003 the East Surrey was an all-volunteer museum, when a succesful bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund allowed the appointment of a professional curator and outreach officer. This allowed the museum to build upon its success, and to expand its services and outreach. Sadly, Heritage Lottery funding ceased in 2011, returning the museum to its former all-volunteer status.

In this attractively presented 60-page book, author Ray Howgego traces year by year the evolution of the museum from the Bourne Society pioneers of the 1970s, through the museum's foundation in 1980, almost up to the present day. The author draws on the many thousands of pages of primary documents in the archives of the museum, augmented and enriched with personal reminiscences, to provide an accurate and readable account of the struggle to gain public and official support, the eternal battle for funding, and the extraordinary dedication of curators, volunteers and friends who gave up so much of their time to ensuring the museum's permanence and development. Every exhibition ever mounted by the museum receives a mention, while an opening chapter relates the story of the house and its occupants before the building's conversion. Being centred on the museum and those who created and maintained it, many of whom were prominent in the community and had affiliations elsewhere, the book is an important addition to the literature of East Surrey and is essential reading for museum friends and all who are interested in local history.
This book is now in print and copies are available in the museum at a price of 5 each, all profits going to the museum. If you are unable to call at the museum you may order the book by post by sending us a cheque for 6.50, payable to 'East Surrey Museum', and enclosing your name and address.

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