The historic Air and Space Hall at Manchester’s Science and Industry Museum is set to close.
The popular museum has used the Lower Campfield Market Hall building to house its collection of planes, cars and bikes since 1985.
But the repairs and conservation work needed on the Grade II-listed building are now ‘extensive and intensive’ and the decision has been made to pass the building back to Manchester City Council.
The vehicles and machines on display, which have delighted families for generations, will be sent to new homes across the UK.
Significantly, the RAF Museum’s Avro Shackleton plane will return to its ‘spiritual home’ at the Avro Heritage Museum in Woodford, Stockport, the same site where it was originally made by Manchester-born Alliot Verdon Roe.
Other objects – including the 1905 Rolls-Royce motor car used by Henry Royce himself – will be placed elsewhere in the museum.
The museum’s director has said that the decision to vacate the building has ‘not been easy’ but that it is ‘the responsible thing to do’ to protect both the building and the historic objects that have lived within it for decades.
The Air and Space Hall has remained closed since lockdown due to the extent of the repairs needed.
In 2019, photographs emerged of it ‘ leaking like a sieve ‘ with buckets place around the gallery space.
The council will now work with Allied London to refurbish both the Upper and Lower Campfield Market Halls.
The Science and Industry Museum has ploughed tens of millions of pounds into some of its other buildings, including the recently-opened £5m Special Exhibitions Gallery which has already welcomed some 20,000 visitors.
An £11.3m investment into the Power Hall is due to complete in 2023.
The building and its objects originally formed the council’s Air and Space Museum in 1983, which was taken on by the North Western Museum of Science and Industry in 1985, before transferring to the Science Museum Group in 2012.
The museum’s director Sally Macdonald said: “As a charity we have invested significant resource to maintain and repair the Air and Space Hall since we have taken on its stewardship, however historic buildings do have a complexity of issues that date back many decades.
“The repair and investment work required to bring this beautiful building back to life is substantial, the space presents real challenges in the sustainable display of historic objects and ultimately, it is the responsible thing to now pass the building back to Manchester City Council, ready for its next chapter.
“We take seriously our responsibility to look after our globally significant buildings, which include the world’s oldest surviving passenger station and railway warehouse and we have to prioritise these buildings that we own.
“I would like to thank all of the visitors, volunteers and partners that have helped to make the Air and Space Hall such a special place for many.
“We will continue to tell stories and display iconic objects demonstrating the region’s transport innovation in our galleries, in our new talks and learning programmes and online.”
Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council, added: “The Council welcomes the significant investments which are being made to improve the Science and Industry Museum across the heritage buildings that the museum owns.
“We recognise that to thrive and continually attract visitors museums need to evolve over time. As such, we support the planned changes.
“This creates an opportunity to introduce new activities into the Lower Campfield Market building to help support Manchester’s economic recovery from the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Working with Allied London, we are developing proposals to refurbish both Upper and Lower Campfield Markets to create and support jobs. These will be brought forward in due course.”
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