In March 2020, Wymondham Heritage Museum planned an official opening for the new season and to showcase two newly recreated shops, a grocers from the 30s and a hardware store that had stood on Town Green from the 19th century until 1988. But the country went into lockdown and the event had to be cancelled.
Two years on, the museum made up for lost time by inviting guests to attend the launch of the 2022 season. The highlight was a new exhibition telling the history of the town's Regal Cinema. The display is made possible thanks to a bequest from the late Michael Armstrong who was passionate about the cinema from the age of ten. He had recreated a miniature Regal at his home, furnished with a host of the cinema’s original artefacts, some of which are now on view in the museum’s main gallery.
The museum’s committee chair, Amanda Oelrichs, welcomed guests which included the town mayor, Kevin Hurn together with Michael Armstrong’s brothers William and Charles.
William Armstrong, a former coroner and tribunal judge, praised the museum saying it must be one of the best heritage museums in the area. He spoke of his time as a solicitor when the court was housed in The Bridewell, now the museum’s home.
He paid tribute to his brother saying the Regal exhibition would “give honour and testimonial to a remarkable man who provided so much pleasure to the people of Wymondham and helped keep alive the spirit and memory of the old Regal Cinema.”
A former usherette from the cinema, Jean Clarke, daughter of onetime owner Bert Caley, joined the Armstrong brothers in cutting the ribbon to open the exhibition.
Also in attendance were five former employees of one of the recreated shops, Chas H Standley’s Little Dustpan hardware store, including the museum’s display manager, Sarah Standley, great granddaughter of Charles Standley.
Also new for this year are displays charting the history of the ancient Bridewell. A Policeman’s Lot features the time the building was a police station. In one of the old cells is an exhibition looking at The Bridewell as a prison illustrating the redevelopment of the building in the 18th century when it became a model prison for others in the UK and America. There’s also an insight into what life was like for those incarcerated there.
Wymondham Heritage Museum is open daily 1pm to 4pm. More information at thewhm.org.uk