By the later 1970s, Richard Garrett Engineering Works decided to close the Town Works altogether and sought permission to develop the 7-acre site for housing.
John Popham was Director of the Suffolk Preservation Society. He appreciated that the Long Shop, Richard Garrett lll's original portable steam engine assembly line, still stood largely hidden, disused and derelict, among later industrial buildings. Popham realised that the Long Shop was threatened with demolition by this planning application. Interest in the historical importance of the older buildings of the Works in Main Street was also growing - in particular, in the Works House where the early Garretts had lived. An application to demolish the Works House had already been refused in 1973.
A new working party to save the buildings
Recognising the importance of the site, the County Archivist, W R Serjeant called a meeting on 1 July1976 to discuss these older Works buildings; formal 'listing' was awarded to the Long Shop (Grade ll*) and, in 1977, the local planning authorities set up a Working Party to decide an appropriate future for the buildings.
The Working Party decided that a museum was the best option, and this decision was accepted by the resident Managing Director of RGEW, Michael Hilton. It was agreed that a charitable trust would be formed, to which RGEW would donate the Long Shop and associated structures. The Manpower Services Commission financed the Project Officer who began collecting artefacts for the museum.
Saving the Garrett Archives
Meanwhile, in 1976, W R Serjeant, County Archivist of Suffolk, had secured permission to remove the Garrett archives to the safety of the Suffolk Record Office in Ipswich. Some, including the all-important parts drawings, had suffered damage from damp while stored during the War at Flore Manor in Northamptonshire, but their major importance to the technical and institutional history of the site was recognised. The removal was accomplished in stages. Two large open flat-bed lorries were used to transport the plans and drawings to Ipswich. In 1982, with the aid of a grant from the Fund for the Preservation of Technological and Research Material, the archives were finally bought by the Suffolk Record Office.
The Long Shop Project Trust
The Trust was set up to deal with the property transfer from Garretts to itself as an independent body. Unfortunately, in 1980, the parent company of RGEW collapsed – before the arrangement to donate the site was complete.
Lord Cranbrook and Michael Hilton together became founder trustees of the Long Shop Project Trust (1981), and the Trust succeeded in its first challenge: to raise funds to buy the site, valued by the Receiver at £25,000. With the government’s Manpower Services Commission grant, LSPT was then able to give employment to 28 men in two teams: engineers and construction workers.
Lord Cranbrook was the first Chair of the Long Shop Museum
A J (Tony) Errington
The Long Shop before restoration
The Long Shop restored
A new museum for Leiston
Exhibits were collected from near and far. The 1917 threshing machine was obtained from a local farmer, the 1923 steam roller was found in dilapidated condition in Ibiza.
Tony Errington was Manager of the Manpower Services Commission team for the Long Shop Project Trust (LSPT) in the years before the Museum opened.
Tony was later appointed the Museum's first Manager and was very influential in the original design and layout of exhibits.
The Long Shop Museum was formally opened to the public in 1984.
Gallery of key restoration projects
Trolley bus chassis
The latest project - restoring the firm's 1930s Buick.