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1898 - Passmore Edwards Museum - Romford Road, Stratford, London, UK
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member Master Mariner
N 51° 32.591 E 000° 00.620
31U E 292696 N 5714468
Quick Description: The building was constructed as the Passmore Edwards Museum in 1898. It is now used bt the Student Union of the University of East London.
Location: London, United Kingdom
Date Posted: 1/25/2013 11:47:22 AM
Waymark Code: WMG7MY
Published By: Groundspeak Regular Member Team Sieni
Views: 0

Long Description:

The inscription on the corner of the building reads:

This stone was laid by
J. Passmore Edwards Esq
6 October 1898
Alderman William Grey JP
Alderman William Crow JP
Chairman of Committee

The names of the Town Clerk, Builder and Architects are shown along the bottom edge of the stone.

The Essex Field Club website [visit link] tells us:

"In Romford Road, Stratford, is a magnificent Grade 2 listed building that, for 94 years housed the fine natural history collections of the Essex Field Club. In the 1990s, this collection amounted to some 20,000 specimens including a unique collection of Essex rocks and fossils.

The Essex Museum of Natural History, or the Passmore Edwards Museum as it was known in later years, was one of the finest provincial museums in the country and fulfilled one of the primary objectives that the Field Club had set itself at its Foundation Meeting on 10th January 1880 which was “to establish a museum to illustrate the fauna, flora, geology, and natural productions of the county”. Opened in 1900 by the Countess of Warwick, the museum was the result of a successful collaboration between the Essex Field Club and West Ham Corporation (later to become the London Borough of Newham). It was constructed at the same time, and by the same architect, as the adjoining Municipal Technical Institute of West Ham. The building itself, and its original fittings, was largely funded by John Passmore Edwards M.P. of Salisbury, newspaper publisher and philanthropist. The museum was staffed by volunteers from its beginning but the lack of a full time curator led to its closure for some years after the Second World War. The museum reopened to the public in 1953 and in 1956 a new agreement with the Corporation - then called West Ham Borough – resolved the situation and thereafter the Borough administered the museum and provided paid staff including, for many years, a full-time geology curator. Fortunately the geology curator was in post during the years when the M11 and M25 motorways were constructed in Essex and this led to the remarkable geological sections along the routes of the motorways being adequately recorded and great numbers of fossils collected which would otherwise have been lost to science.

In the local government reorganisation of the 1960s, West Ham Borough became the London Borough of Newham who continued to run the Museum successfully for the next few decades. However, in the 1990s, the Borough imposed sweeping changes to Newham’s museum service which forced the permanent closure of the Passmore Edwards Museum as an economy measure. The museum finally closed its doors to the public in 1994 after nearly a century of service to the East London boroughs and Essex as a whole. The loss of the valuable educational role that the museum provided in the field of natural history is particularly to be regretted considering that in a densely populated area like Newham there are far fewer opportunities to access the countryside and learn about the natural world than in other parts of Essex that still retain active museums.

Following closure of the Museum the Essex Field Club’s vast collection of natural history specimens and its library was put into storage by the Council. Any collection of historic objects, particularly natural history and geological specimens, requires regular curation and care to prevent chemical and biological attack and this was clearly not possible after the museum’s closure. Therefore, in 2000, after lengthy negotiations, the Club finally had its collection and library transferred to more secure storage in central Essex. Curation and ready access for most of the collection was still impossible, however, and the collection is still at risk, but, at the time of writing (2007), there is hope that a permanent home will soon be found.

The fine Passmore Edwards Museum building in Romford Road still exists, the attractive red brick and limestone architecture with its domed roof, still providing character to the street scene. The building is now used by the adjacent former Technical Institute (now the University of East London). Above the entrance doors can be seen a bronze relief with the words ‘Passmore Edwards Museum’ and an image of the benefactor. The impressive carved foundation stone, laid in 1898, is clearly visible from the pavement, set into the brickwork on the left hand corner of the building."

Year of construction: 1898

Full inscription:
This stone was laid by J. Passmore Edwards Esq 6 October 1898 Alderman William Grey JP Mayor Alderman William Crow JP Chairman of Committee

Cross-listed waymark: Not listed

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