The Assembly Rooms has never been owned by the local authority. The council has been a tenant of the building since 1937 when the National Trust awarded a 75-year lease. A new lease was awarded in 2012 for another 15 years.
The Fashion Museum has been housed in the Assembly Rooms since 1963 and has developed substantially to become one of the top 10 fashion museums in the world. Its collection of more than 100,000 items is Designated under the Government’s Designation Scheme which identifies collections of national / international pre-eminence held in non-national museums. This makes it a truly world-class museum. Because the National Trust has invoked the break clause in the lease at the Assembly Rooms, the council must now find a new home for the Fashion Museum.
The council is disappointed that the National Trust has deferred making its decision to invoke the break clause until so far into the term of the lease. It leaves barely four years in which to find a new home for the museum and its world-class collection. The council is also concerned at the effect that losing access to the Assembly Rooms will have on many community and cultural groups that have used it as a venue for many years.
When will this happen?
The Fashion Museum will not close immediately and the rooms are still available to hire. Dates have not been set yet. We will keep visitors, staff and the groups who use the Assembly Rooms updated.
What is going to happen to the Fashion Museum?
Despite this set-back, the council sees it as an opportunity to find a more suitable home for the Fashion Museum in the city of Bath. It is an opportunity to build on the museum’s excellent partnerships with other museums, the fashion industry and schools, colleges and universities, including the current partnership with Bath Spa University, and enable even closer co-operative working between the museum and the university’s fashion and textiles course.
What will happen if you can’t find a new location?
If the council cannot find a suitable new home for the Fashion Museum, the collection will be put into temporary but appropriate storage. However the council will do all it can to continue to provide access to this world-class collection of historical dress, maintain the museum’s profile and continue its engagement with a wide range of audiences.
How will this impact on the Council’s finances?
The council has to prioritise its resources towards core services, which means protecting and caring for the most vulnerable in society. However it also takes its role as a custodian of important heritage assets very seriously. The council is looking into options to achieve a sustainable future, both financially and environmentally, for the Fashion Museum.
How else are the Assembly Rooms currently used?
The Assembly Rooms are accessible to the public free of charge during daytime opening times, when the spaces are not hired out. The traditional use of the building for public assembly takes the form of a wide range of activities including dance classes, festivals, concerts, conferences, university graduations, dinners, parties and weddings. The council is aware of the disruption that will be caused to organisations that currently use the Assembly Rooms and will work with them to suggest alternative locations.