Appeals: The Empire and Commonwealth Museum Trust

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The Independent Online
The Gothic facade of the Old Temple Meads Station in Bristol, designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel. The Grade I listed building was the first purpose-built railway station in the world. It is no longer used by British Rail and over the past three years pounds 2.2m has been spent on its restoration by the Empire and Commonwealth Museum Trust. The station will house a museum dedicated to the history of the British Empire from the 16th to the 20th centuries. The final phase of the work, to replace the roof of the former Passenger Shed, is about to begin, and the trust is appealing for pounds 100,000.

Permanent galleries within the museum will be devoted to such themes as exploration and discovery; slavery and working conditions; immigration and emigration; and the development of the Commonwealth. Outside organisations and Commonwealth countries will also be invited to stage individual exhibitions.

The station buildings in Bristol were chosen for the purpose because of their significance in the development of the empire. Brunel saw the railway line from London to Bristol as the first step on the route across the Atlantic. His Passenger Shed was the largest single-span wooden building of the age when the station was opened in 1840 by the Great Western Railway. The second half of the 19th century saw 8.5 million people leave Britain for North America, a large proportion of them via Bristol.

Repairs to the building are expected to be complete by the end of this year, and the first phase of the museum is scheduled to open in winter 1995. For further information, contact: The Empire and Commonwealth Museum Trust, Clock Tower Yard, Temple Meads, Bristol BS1 6QH, telephone 0272 254980.

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