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Wednesday, 17 September 2014

A Museum for Milford?

Keith Metcalf has floated the idea of creating a Milford on Sea Museum. 

Keith is retiring as Parish Clerk in October, and in addition to his sterling work for Milford Conservation Volunteers (MCV) he is also willing to coordinate the setting up of a group to found a Milford on Sea Museum.

Below is a report from Keith, it is pretty lengthy, but interesting, and worth reading to understand the whole picture. Keith's report not only details the current position with the library, but also raises a proposal for a Milford on Sea Museum to run alongside the library.

We are interested in your view as to whether a Museum would be of benefit to the village.

Please complete our Milford on Sea Museum Survey: click here


Milford Library Report and a Milford on Sea Museum?

There was an excellent turnout of about 80 residents who crammed into the Village Hall to listen to Hampshire County Council’s explanation as to why the Library is likely to close in 2015 and possibly be replaced with a Volunteer Library or a one-day a week Mobile service.

Chairman of the Milford Village Association Mrs Gloria Grantham-Hill said that she was delighted to see such a good response from potential volunteers and welcomed and introduced Executive Leader of the County Council – Cllr Roy Perry (to our knowledge, the first Leader of HCC ever to have attended a meeting in Milford-on-Sea). Cllr Perry was joined by a number of Senior Officers, including Nicola Horsey - Assistant Director of Libraries and Information; Alec Kennedy – Head of Library Operations and Jane Selby – Group Manager of Libraries.

County Cllr Alan Rice was in attendance and had personally invited the Leader of the County Council to attend what was likely to be a ‘tricky’ meeting. Mrs Grantham-Hill gave a brief summary of the history of the Village Hall and invited Mr Kennedy to explain why there was a need to change things from the way they were. Following some light-hearted heckling of Mr Kennedy from a member of the audience; Mr Kennedy explained that he had been asked to report on the two options for Milford residents to consider. This immediately raised resident hackles and an accusation that the County had already discounted a third option, which would be to leave things exactly as they are.

Cllr Perry stepped in to explain the background to why it was necessary to make some very difficult decisions and in particular why it was necessary to cut library services. He said that Government had reduced the HCC funding grant by £100,000,000 and that to be able to continue to support old and young people’s services, cuts had to be found from somewhere. In earlier reports published on the web, Cllr Perry had said that; ‘In a bid to save 12% of budget, senior management jobs would be reduced and community safety officers known as ACSOs would be taken off the streets’. Cllr Perry said that he was committed to avoiding the soft option, which would have been to put up council tax, which had been held for a fifth consecutive year.

Residents pressed to be given accurate figures as to what savings would actually be made by removing the two part-time library assistants. Mr Kennedy said that the savings would amount to somewhere between £8,000 and £10,000 pa, including £2,000 rent to the MVA. 

Residents appeared astounded by such a low potential saving and suggested that cuts should be made elsewhere for such a paltry amount. Cllr Perry said that in order to maintain essential services like those being protected for old and young people, it was right that small cuts should come from across all services and provisions. Cllr Perry added that there are over 300 villages across Hampshire and that the vast majority of them do not have a County run library service like we do in Milford-on-Sea. 

Mr Kennedy said that here was an opportunity to retain a library service in Milford-on-Sea and that the County would continue to supply replacement books, provide training for volunteers, provide weekly support from trained professional library staff and that the County Council insurance scheme would indemnify volunteers against accidental misuse or damage of their expensive self-service IT equipment. 

Further statistics for Milford Library were provided: 
  • Opening hours per week = 10 
  • Book issues in 2012/13 = 12,484 (This is one of the four lowest in Hampshire) 
  • Active borrowers 2012/13 = 571 (These are the lowest in Hampshire) 
  • Average number of customers borrowing items at least once a month = 197 (This is one of the four lowest in Hampshire) 
  • % of people living in the parish using the library = 12% (These are amongst the lowest in Hampshire) 
  • On average only 18 people visit the library per opening hour 
  • On average only 25 items are issued per opening hour 
  • Issues of books and other items decreased by 5% between 2011/12 and 2012/13 
  • A three-month survey had been undertaken by handing survey forms to users visiting the library over a three month period from 2nd February 2014 
  • Since February there had been a further decline in user numbers 
  • There had been 107 responses to the survey 
(There are approximately 4,800 residents who live in the Parish of Milford-on-Sea)

Councillor Kennedy said that the recommendation going forward from the Culture and Communities Select Committee to the Executive Member for Culture, Recreation and Countryside on the 2nd September 2014 is that:

‘Discussions will continue with the Trustees of the Village Hall at Milford-on-Sea until the end of October, with a further report to the Executive Member, Culture, Recreation and Countryside at his Decision Day on 4th December 2014’

Residents asked whether it would be possible to retain the excellent services of Jocelyn and Chris (the two p/t library assistants) if local funding/sponsorship could be secured. It was also suggested that the Parish Council could commit to providing financial support by increasing the annual precept. Cllr Perry said that, that would be a matter for the Parish Council to decide, but was unable to say whether such an arrangement could be made between a third party and HCC library staff.

County Cllr Alan Rice said that as County Councillor for the Milford Ward, he might be able to provide some financial support towards staffing costs, but said that he also has to consider providing funds to other parts of his ward such in New Milton.

Mrs Grantham-Hill thanked everyone for attending and the meeting closed.


Cllr Perry and his Library Service team gave assurances that no decision had yet been taken on the closure of Milford-on-Sea Library. They said that they would provide further factual figures, which could help the community and Trustees make some decisions for the future. They said that they would continue discussions with the Hall Trustees. However, the likelihood of them coming back to say that Milford’s Library will be given a second stay of execution is probably unlikely in its present form!

Milford Village Association has provided the venue for the library service since the 1980s. 

Out of the 4,800 residents we have in our parish, it seems that 4,229 do not use the facility. The old saying of ‘Use it or Lose it’ seems to be coming home to roost and the emphasis might now fall on the shoulders of the whole community to make the best of what HCC offer.

So what should we do now? As far as the Library is concerned, we need to wait for answers to the questions raised by residents at the meeting. The next critical event is when HCC reach their verdict on Decision Day on the 4th December 2014.

Whatever happens, we need to find a way of increasing footfall. The current users of the Library are exclusively residents, and we now know just how few of us are actually using the facility.

So why are we not using the Library? We know that books are diminishing because of the growing electronic book reader market, but basically it seems that, most of us are just not visiting our library, probably for a variety of reasons including the fact that half the time we don’t know which days or times it is open! Put simply, books just don’t interest us enough to pull us in for this alone!

Equally, visitors or holidaymakers do not use the Hall. Why? Because there is nothing of interest to attract them either?! 

So the question might be, can we and do we want to address the loss of the facility and make it more interesting for holidaymakers and residents to visit? Personally, I think absolutely YES and I cannot think of anyone who would disagree.

So what else do we know about future potential users? We know that between Shorefield County Park and Carrington Park there is in the region of 3,000 new holidaymakers visiting these sites every week of the summer. Thanks to David Long’s fantastic Milford website, Food Week, the community run Arts & Music Festival and all the other village green events that are held each year, many of these visitors come into the village to eat, drink and to be entertained. We don’t have an arcade (thank goodness) but visitors I am sure enjoy exactly the same things we do as residents. We try our best to retain the Victoriana feel to the village centre, which is very much part of its charm. We get the numbers of visitors here, it is just a case of giving them something else to do once they have fed and watered themselves!


Melleford 1086 + Melneford & Mulneford 1100-1135 + Milneford 1152 + Mylforde 1575 - Milforde 1690-1720s + Milford 1780 + Milford-on-Sea 2014. 

First recorded in the 1086 Domesday Book, Milford has 1,000 years of history. Where can you see this history? Nowhere, unless the Historical Record Society are putting on one of their all too infrequent and delightful exhibitions.

My late wife and I regularly travelled to villages across the country, but primarily down to the west-country. We inevitably found that many had rural museums that we would visit. Most were very small. Many were unmanned and some used voluntary helpers to impart local historic knowledge and information. All the museums had ingenious ways of encouraging visitors to part with a donation of a few pounds to help with the Museum running costs. 

In talking to residents and visitors around the village over the past few months to see whether they would like to see a Milford Museum where interesting documents and artefacts could be permanently displayed, everyone is either being very polite when I ask, or they are genuinely interested in seeing and reading about our history. It’s also a fact that the Historical Record Society has been crying out for many years for somewhere to store and display their historic materials. What better location for them to do this than in the centre of the village in the Village Hall alongside what will almost certainly turn out sometime in 2015 to be a Voluntary Library? Why should the County Council Records Office and Lymington’s St Barbe Museum have all Milford’s historic papers and artefacts tucked away where nobody ever sees them?

Many may argue that our community-owned Trustee-led hall facilities have become too insular. There appears to have been little or no cooperation between what they see as their individual domains which they continue to protect come hell or high water. Trustees across all of our halls and facilities need to be seen by the community to work closer together to provide the very best that Milford-on-Sea can offer to benefit the whole community and the many thousands of holidaymakers that visit each year.

Practicalities: Nobody will underestimate the enormous amount of hard work that we would need to do to be successful. Nothing worth doing ever is!
  • First there would need to be a change in mind-set about working closer together. 
If Trustees are willing to work together for the benefit of the wider community, so much the better. If not, maybe they need to ask themselves the question; ‘Should I be a Trustee’? There will undoubtedly be other willing volunteers prepared to step up to the plate.
  • A parish-wide survey could help us see if a voluntary led Milford Library/Museum idea would be a welcome addition to our village centre facilities?
  • This would of course mean there would be a need to relocate some floor space users of the Village Hall to alternative community facilities, of which there are several other venues. 
Outline Proposal:

If there was ever a time that the community, its community halls and their trustees need to work together, surely now is that time.

Will the community support a combined Village Library and Museum? There is not much doubt that this would be a welcome addition to local facilities; somewhere we could all pop into once in a while, where many of our groups and associations would love the opportunity to put on a display for a month and help guide visitors and tell them a little more about their group, the village and point library readers in the right direction.

Maybe now is the time to make some personal sacrifices and some positive decisions that will benefit our Village for the next generation and beyond.

Keith Metcalf – Milford-on-Sea Resident

Please complete our Milford on Sea Museum Survey: click here

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