Fairground museum plan near Grantham
Mick White wants to return to his roots and set up a fairground museum, but has come up against several major hurdles.
After a life of running his own haulage business, Mick, 58, is keen to fulfil a lifelong ambition of running a museum. Mick’s ancestral heritage is in the fairground and showman trade, which dates back centuries, until a family tragedy struck in 1931.
Then, his Aunty Emily White, ‘the 21-year-old daughter of a South Witham showman’, the Grantham Journal reported at the time, was accidentally killed after a bullet penetrated her stomach as she passed a feast gun over to her father, Mick’s grandfather.
The young woman died some hours later and days afterwards, a jury recorded a verdict of “accidental death”, with her father promising never to use the shooting gallery again.
Whilst other family members remained in the fairground trade, Mick’s family left the industry, with Mick starting the haulage business, which specialises in moving expensive machinery.
However, his bonds to fairgrounds remains strong. He started a small collection of fairground memorabilia some 25 years ago.
He and wife Michelle have lived at Stoke Tunnel Lodge just outside Bassingthorpe since 1998, where he based his business.
In 2007, Mick gained planning permission for a large storage building. However, a contract fell through and the building remained empty for some years until he began filling it with his collection of fairground memorabilia, which over the years has multiplied.
Today, the building contains historic steam engines, fairground rides such as a 1911 carousel and various lorries some 50 to 60-years-old, plus hundreds of other artefacts.
Mick told the Journal: “My ambition is to open it twice a year. Then, I’m going to invite schools, show them the traditions and heritage of the fairgrounds. The money side of things doesn’t bother me. It’s because I love doing it.”
However, the large storage shed alone costs hundreds of pounds a week in business rates. Mick continued: “It’s classed as a business. We got hammered for commercial rates. We pay business rates on the rest of the property. I wouldn’t mind paying them on this building if we were getting money out of this, but I am not.”
An appeal is underway and the couple have recently submitted a retrospective planning application to turn the commercial storage building into a museum. They stress it has never been used for business purposes.
They have also applied to the Charities Commission to create a charity, which will run the museum, be gifted the artefacts and perpetual use of the building.
Support has been sought from South Kesteven District Council and InvestSK, with some visiting councillors and officials reportedly giving their backing.
Mick says the rates demand is so great that if told he has to keep paying, the building would have to come down and the collection be split up.
“Without the shed, it will have to go. There’s a lot of people who are interested and are putting our case together. The amount of people who have said ‘you can’t afford to pay these rates.’”
He is keen to stress the problem is not with the district council, which simply collects the business rates for central government, with Whitehall determining how business rates are applied.
Mick said: “To be treated like this on my private collection, I don’t think it’s right.”