THE manager of Fordingbridge Museum has stepped down after 22 years of “invaluable work”.

Philippa Duckworth played an important part in the foundation of the present museum when local builder John Shering decided he could no longer house the large collection of artefacts that he had accumulated and decided to offer them to the town.

She said: “I could not bear to think that such an impressive collection of local artefacts might be broken up so I joined the steering committee that was set up to ensure that they were preserved for local generations.”

The museum was set up in 1998 and opened to the public in 2000.

Philippa said: “I had had no experience of museum work and had no idea that it would take over my life for the next 22 years. Having turned 80 recently I think it is time that I take more of a back seat although I will be still be involved as a trustee. I am proud to have overseen such a great team of enthusiastic volunteers who are determined to make certain that this vital local attraction flourishes. They are the salt of the earth and it has been a privilege to work with them and I have enjoyed every moment.”

Chris Ansell, the chairman of the trustees at Fordingbridge Museum said: “I am grateful for the invaluable work that Philippa has done over the past 22 years and am delighted that we have found someone of equal calibre to take over her role. Philippa has done a brilliant job over the years to make the museum the success that it is today and I am confident that Jane will be just what we need to keep the museum thriving.”

Retired occupational therapist Jane Ireland will be taking on the role of museum manager. She said: "Philippa has become synonymous with the museum and she has worked tirelessly to make it the success that it is so she is a hard act to follow.

“There are some exciting developments in the offing which will improve access and outreach activity and I look forward to implementing these and developing John and Richard Shering’s generous legacy to the town. I would encourage anyone who is interested in history or keen to interact with visitors and fellow volunteers to come and help with the work of the museum. In these times of pressure on our high streets it is more important than ever that we have attractions that can draw people into the town. The museum is a vital resource for locals and visitors alike and is something that Fordingbridge should be immensely proud of.”

Fordingbridge Museum is now closed for the winter.