History of the Museum and its Collection
Daventry Museum’s collection has been amalgamated from the collections of the Charter Trustees (1972 – 2003), the District Council Museum (1987-2004) both housed at the Moot Hall, and the Town Council Museum which opened in 2006 at Bishop Crewe House.
Charter Trustees & Civic Regalia
The Charter Trustees were formed following the 1972 Local Government Act which led to the merger of the Daventry Borough Council, the Daventry Rural District Council and Brixworth Rural District Council. These councils were absorbed into the Daventry District Council in 1974.
The new District Council did not want its Chairman to be called the Mayor of Daventry however, the position and title could not just disappear since it had been created by the Royal Charter issued by Queen Elizabeth in 1576.
The District Councillors representing wards in the former Borough were to therefore form a committee known as the Charter Trustees, whose duties were to select a mayor and to display to the townspeople the history relating to the former Borough, which included Daventry’s charters and civic regalia.
From 1977 Geoff Moore, secretary to the Charter Trustees, displayed the civic regalia informally, using available space in the Moot Hall which groups and individuals could visit by arrangement.
Daventry District Council Museum
In 1985 the Daventry District Council (DDC) created a Museum Management Subcommittee to establish a museum in Daventry in co-operation with the Charter Trustees.
Daventry District Museum opened to the public in the Moot Hall, in January 1987 under the curatorship of Bob Clark. Bob is pictured with their first acquisition, a BBC transmitter valve from the Borough Hill site, still in the museum collection today.
In 1989 an agreement was made between DDC and the Charter Trustees, who were to take over the second floor; one room for display of Charter Trustees’ property, one room for Mayor’s Parlour, Charter Trustee meetings and further displays with a Secretary’s Office attached. The Charter Trustee displays were to be seen as part of the District Museum. DDC used the rest of the building for a District Museum, Tourist Information Centre and Concert Room which was available to the Charter Trustees for receptions on the ground floor.
In 1990 the Museum re-opened with Victoria Gabbitas as curator.
In 2004/5 the District Council closed the Moot Hall Museum due to budget restraints and the collection was put into storage.
Daventry Town Council Museum
Following a town referendum, in March 2003, the Daventry Town Council was formed to replace the Charter Trustees. The Chairman of the Town Council would take the title Mayor of Daventry, continuing the line from 1576.
The Town Council was housed in Bishop Crewe House and it opened an Archival Room in December 2004. This mainly consisted of the Charter Trustees items plus other collected objects and photos. Co-opted councillor Roy Sharp was instrumental in setting this up and was later to become Volunteer Curator of the town museum.
From June 2005 the archival room was opened to the public on a regular basis on the first Saturday of the month. After two successful exhibitions, Unlocking Treasure and Snapping up Old Photos, in February 2006 the Archival Room was renamed the “Daventry Town Council Museum”.
The Town Council then obtained a Lottery Grant to purchase a computer and scanning equipment for digitally storing the Museum Photographic Library and by December 2006 volunteers were scanning and recording photos into the digital storage system.
The museum’s collection continued to grow over the next few years, and artefacts were donated including a large pike caught in Daventry Reservoir in 1896 and the Prior of Daventry Seal and Saxon strap end.
In April 2010 the museum and Town Council moved from Bishop Crewe House into the current building at 3 New Street. Artefacts that had been in storage since the Moot Hall closed were then transferred to the Town Council Museum.
The museum received full Accreditation status in September 2010 by the Arts Council England. The Accreditation Scheme sets nationally agreed standards for UK museums. To qualify, museums must meet standards on how they are managed, for the services they offer and on how they care for collections.
Luisa Pereira (now Lanham) took over as Volunteer Curator from Roy Sharp in February 2011. Rod Viveash, who worked at the BBC Station on Borough Hill, became a volunteer at this time to catalogue the BBC items in the collection. He then became Volunteer Curator in January 2013.
In 2013 the museum underwent a major refurbishment with new cabinets, lighting and decor thanks to the help of Heritage Lottery Fund and SITA Trust grants. The redevelopment enabled the unification of the two main functions of the building, for Town Council meetings and office functions, and a public museum service.
The Daventry Wall of Faces display was part of this redevelopment, and was a snapshot of modern life in Daventry, inspired by the many historical portraits in the museum’s collection. This community project was later highly commended at the Northamptonshire Heritage Forum (NHF) Awards 2014.
From September 2013 the Daventry Town Council Museum was re branded ‘Daventry Museum’ (though is still operated by Daventry Town Council), and opened to the public 4 days a week and the first Saturday of the month with the support of an invaluable team of volunteers.
In December 2015 the museum retained its Accreditation status after submitting an Accreditation return, whereby museums are obliged to demonstrate that they continue to meet with the set of nationally agreed museum standards.
The inaugural British Science Week event held in March 2015 was awarded ‘Best Event’ at the NHF Awards 2016.
At the NHF Awards 2017 the museum was awarded ‘Best Event’ for its Centenary Commemoration of the Battle of the Somme, as well as being awarded a highly commended in the ‘Best exhibition’ category for its Law and Order exhibition.
Daventry Museum was crowned Heritage Organisation of the Year at the NHF Awards 2019. The Community Award also went to Daventry Museum for its Empty Chair Project, a centenary commemoration which brought the community together to commemorate Daventry’s 114 lost soldiers of World War One. To top off the exciting evening the museum received a highly commended award in the ‘Best Exhibition’ category for the Victorian Daventry exhibition.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020, the museum had to close in the March, then reopened for a short period in the September when government allowed, then closed again in November 2020, until finally reopening in May 2021.
During the national lockdown, the museum produced its first virtual tour of the Battle of Naseby exhibition and developed its online resources to keep visitors and volunteers engaged.
At the 2021 NHF Awards the museum won ‘Best Response to the Covid Pandemic’ category and were commended for the resilience demonstrated and the work to keep parents and children engaged through home schooling. The museum was also recognised as runner-up in the ‘Heritage Organisation of the Year’ award category.