Marton Museum of Country Bygones owes its existence to the passion and doggedness of just one man, George Tims. George was an inveterate collector of things great and small from a very early age, a habit he acquired from his mother. He grew up in Leamington but always had an interest in rural life, encouraged possibly by the fact that there was a farm in the family. Many items from both his mother’s collection and the family farm found their way eventually into George’s hands. In 1952 George and his wife Aliki settled in Marton at no. 7, The Orchard. His collection was housed in garden sheds at first, later spreading into the spare bedroom and other parts of the house. George was an active member of the Church and when the vicar, the Rev Alfred Gardner, heard about his overflowing collection he offered him the use of two small rooms above the stables behind the (then) vicarage. George used this area for storage and allowed friends and acquaintances to visit his “museum”. George was finally able to create a proper Museum in 1964 when a Mr Russell, who had farmed at Hall Farm in the village prior to the farmhouse having been converted into two dwellings but had retained some brick outbuildings, offered these to George for his collection and to use as a Museum. This gave George sufficient space (for the time being at least) and also enabled him to add some much larger items to the collection such as ploughs, hay rakes, harrows, carts etc. Thus began Marton Museum of Country Bygones.
The official opening was on Easter Monday, 1964; it was open from 10am to 8pm on Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holidays from Easter to the end of October. There was an admission charge of 15p to cover the costs of acquiring new exhibits. George’s philosophy at this time was to collect items from within a 10 mile radius of Marton, trying to find as many old craftsmen’s tools and samples of their work as possible. In the mid 1800s Marton itself had been home to a blacksmith, a wheelwright, a thatcher, a butcher, a pump maker, a saddler, a horse collar maker, a coal haggler, a carpenter (who was also the undertaker), a builder, a baker, and an ale brewer, a miller, a plumber/glazier, a doctor surgeon, a painter/decorator, a shoemaker, a tailor and a bricklayer. In addition there were several farms. George had great admiration for the men who used these tools, simple though many of them were. In time his horizons spread and the concept was widened but this original philosophy remained fundamental to the Museum. Not only did George collect the items, he was also very interested in their history and the stories behind them and he himself proved to be an excellent story teller. Visitors to the Museum learnt a great deal from him about the artefacts and the history of the area in general. He soon became much in demand as a public speaker at local organisations interested in history and the Museum started to become quite well known outside the village.
The Museum remained on the old Hall Farm site until 1980 when the land on which it stood was purchased by developers to build a small housing project (now Louisa Ward Close). One of the conditions of their obtaining planning permission was to create some facilities for the village: a sports field, a sports pavilion and a building for the Museum, all of which would be owned by the Parish Council. The Museum building and half of the car park attached to it were leased to George (and later to the Trust which he subsequently set up). At George’s request the building was an empty shell of brick construction with a cavity wall and contained a small breeze block cubicle inside to act as an office/workshop. Electricity was laid on but there was no water supply. This is how we find the Museum today. George moved in to the new building over a period of months in 1980/81 and the official opening took place on 18 June 1982, officiated by the Mayor and Mayoress of Rugby. The new Museum was open daily between 10am and 8pm from Easter to October, admission now being charged at £1 for adults and 50p for children (but free for Marton residents). The Museum soon became an important part of village life. George received many visits of coach parties and continued to give talks to various organisations. The WI (sadly no longer in existence) often provided teas for the visitors in the village hall. With the extra space available George began to widen his scope. He now collected all sorts of things: begging, borrowing and even buying (usually at auction). As a result there are some very esoteric items in the Museum which just add to its interest and intrigue.
On 1 September 1983 a Trust was established to own and run the Museum. The Trustees were initially all members of George’s close family although later two prominent local residents also became Trustees. George was the Managing Trustee which allowed him to continue running the Museum as before. On 12 December 1983 charitable status was granted to the Museum. The Museum continues to be run on this basis today. Around about 2002 serious illness forced George to close the Museum and he eventually died in January 2005. This left the future of the Museum in some doubt but eventually, following negotiations between the Tims family and Marton Parish Council, it was agreed in 2009 that new Trustees would be appointed from the village and a group of volunteers formed to work together to re-open the Museum. It soon became obvious that the purpose-built Museum was not, in fact, fit for purpose. The lack of heating was creating wide fluctuations in temperature leading to serious condensation problems. Furthermore, a considerable amount of woodworm was discovered in the artefacts as well as damage from rodents. It was evident that the building needed some serious remedial work if the whole collection was not to be lost. It has been a slow process but, with the help of some small grants and encouragement and assistance from Warwickshire Museum Service, professional plans are now being drawn up for building work to be funded (hopefully) by a Heritage Lottery Fund grant. Meanwhile, much work has been carried out in cataloguing the (literally) thousands of items in the Museum. The Museum was proud to open to the public once again for the national Heritage Open Days event in 2011 and this has now become an annual happening. The Museum was open to the public on a regular basis in 2013 on Sunday afternoons from June to September and visits from interested organisations have recommenced. A programme of events to involve the wider community has begun e.g. visits to care homes, activity days for children etc. There is still much work to do, most of it very dependent on funding, but it is wonderful to look back over the last five years and see how much has been achieved. The story continues………
See also a video about the museum and its contents on YouTube