Clarke Hall to close for good

11th January 2012.  Profile on Wakefield..... Clarke Hall Educational Museum, Aberford Road, Wakefield.
11th January 2012. Profile on Wakefield..... Clarke Hall Educational Museum, Aberford Road, Wakefield.

CLARKE Hall, the city’s living museum, has been closed.

Owners Wakefield Council yesterday confirmed the 17th century, grade-II listed museum would be put up for sale.

And despite the council offering a three-year £390,000 subsidy, and negotiations with both the National Trust and English Heritage, no-one came forward to take over the running of the hall and save it from closure.

Since March last year the future of the Aberford Road museum has been under threat after its main source of funding was axed by the Wakefield Schools Forum.

Coun David Dagger, cabinet member for culture, said: “It is with very great regret and disappointment that we have to close Clarke Hall with immediate 
effect.

“We have done all we could to attract another operator and our efforts failed and we really have no alternative now.

“We do not have the money to run Clarke Hall as a council facility and we have not been able to find a relevant organisation to run it, even though we were willing to provide a substantial subsidy.”

Clarke Hall has welcomed thousands of school children since it opened as a living museum in 1975.

Coun Dagger said: “We recognise the hall is much loved by generations of schoolchildren across West Yorkshire but in recent years school visits have dwindled, along with the funding they generated .

“We appreciate all the work done by the Friends of Clarke Hall and their campaign to save the hall from closure and we can fully understand their disappointment at this decision. But at the end of the day we simply cannot afford to keep it open and no-one has come forward with a viable proposal to keep it open.”

The Friends group said the city had lost a “unique asset” which attracted visitors from all over the country.

Their campaign to save the hall and keep the museum alive was backed by thousands of supporters including Chocolat author Joanne Harris.

A spokeswoman for the Friends of Clarke Hall said: “We are devastated at the sad news of the final closure of Clarke Hall. “We want to thank everyone who has supported our events, and particularly our campaign during the past 18 months to continue the educational work at the hall.

“We are proud to have supported the internationally recognised work that has gone on at the hall over the last 30 years.”

Clarke Hall was described by the Friends group as the jewel in the city’s historic crown.

It’s history dates back to the 13th century when a modest house was built on the site by the Stanley family.

It was sold to the Bradford family who owned it for almost 200 years.

In 1671 it was sold by the then owner John Wingfield to his brother-in-law Benjamin Clarke, of Hansdworth who completely rebuilt the property into the mansion it is today.

Clarke Hall and 50,000 acres of land were sold in 1788 for £3,200 when it became a gentleman farmer’s house.

It was then bought by the West Riding Council in 1975 and opened as a living museum.

There will be two final chances to visit the hall next month.

The Friends will hold their last ever open day on Saturday, September 8.

And there will be a historic food day on Saturday, September 15.