New Fashion Museum will go ahead, vow council bosses, despite levelling-up fund snub

January 20, 2023

Council chiefs have pledged that Bath’s new Fashion Museum will still go ahead despite the project failing to secure any investment from the government’s ‘levelling-up’ fund.

Bath & North East Somerset Council had bid for £20m – more than half the project’s total budget – through the controversial scheme, which has been widely criticised for the way its £4bn funding is being allocated. 

Council officers are now exploring alternative ways of funding the Re-Fashioning Bath project, which will create a new home for the world-leading museum while triggering a wider regeneration of the city’s Milsom Quarter and attracting high-end retailers and workspaces for creative businesses.

The Fashion Museum, which was housed in the Assembly Rooms for nearly 60 years, closed last October.

Under the council’s plan it will relocated to across the city centre to the Old Post Office, pictured, on the corner of New Bond Street and Northgate Street. 

The £37m museum relocation project will also include a new Fashion Collection Archive in Bath Spa University’s Creative Arts Quarter at Locksbrook.

The council believes the relocated museum, regarded as internationally significant, will be key for the recovery of Bath’s pandemic-hit tourism sector as well as acting as a catalyst for the transformation of the surrounding are area into a new fashion quarter.

Council leader Kevin Guy said the aim was still to open the new museum in 2027/28.  

“Whilst this is disappointing news from the government, the process of working up the levelling up fund bid has demonstrated the benefits of this project to our local economy and to our communities,” he said.

“We are convinced that it will deliver a hugely positive impact on the local visitor economy and increase cultural participation and skills-based opportunities amongst some of our most deprived communities.”

He pointed to the council’s operation of the Roman Baths, which he described as one of the most successful heritage attractions in the world.

“I’m wholly confident that we will be able to use our expertise to deliver the new Fashion Museum, which will be one of the most significant pieces of cultural infrastructure in the country over the next few years.

The relocation of the Fashion Museum to the Old Post Office forms part of the our Milsom Quarter Masterplan, an ambitious 20-year vision to transform this area of Bath into a fashion destination for the South West, attracting creative industries to the area, boosting the visitor economy and providing 180 new homes.”

The Fashion Museum is already partnering with Bath Spa University to create a Fashion Collection Archive in Locksbrook.

This will provide a home for the museum’s extensive collection and will be accessible to the public through special events and study sessions. The intention is for the archive to open in the next three to five years.

Originally called the Museum of Costume, the Fashion Museum opened in the National Trust-owned Assembly Rooms in 1963 after costume designer, collector, writer and scholar Doris Langley Moore OBE donated her private collection to the city.

It includes garments from the 1600s right up to the present day. The collections also include thousands of fashion archive documents, photographs and drawings, including the work of fashion designers, makers and retailers.

The museum also has an international reach. In 2021 more than 603,000 people worldwide saw Fashion Museum objects, thanks to its loans programme.

The government’s levelling-up fund, which aims to spark tranformational change’ in hard-hit communities across the UK, has been roundly criticised by councils and opposition MPs for snubbing many deserving projects while allocating money to affluent areas in the South East



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