The new £2million Long Bridge Wing extension has been officially opened at the Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon.

The North Devon in the 20th Century gallery inside the new Long Bridge Wing extension of the Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon. Picture: Tony GussinThe North Devon in the 20th Century gallery inside the new Long Bridge Wing extension of the Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon. Picture: Tony Gussin

A ribbon cutting was held on Monday, October 21 to coincide with the first day of the October half term.

The opening was carried out by local philanthropist and generous museum supporter Keith Abraham, plus the museum patron the Countess of Arran.

The new extension links to the existing museum building and increases the museum's floor space by 70 per cent, allowing a far wider array of interactive exhibits.

The main gallery downstairs is called North Devon in the 20th Century and features an array of displays including a VW camper van film booth plus Barnstaple's 127-year-old steam fire engine, purchased for the town by Mr Abraham.

Upstairs is another exhibition gallery, a community gallery and learning room as well as office space.

Museum curator Alison Mills said: "We are celebrating the completion of the new wing, but not the end of the project as a whole, as we still have some tidying up to do in the old building before the whole project is complete.

"It was lovely to see how many people turned up for the opening and also how many children - some of the things in the gallery such as the fire engine and the little car should hopefully inspire them.

"A huge thank you to Keith Abraham and everyone who supported our fundraising appeal to ensure this became a reality."

Inside the new Long Bridge Wing at the Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon. Picture: Tony GussinInside the new Long Bridge Wing at the Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon. Picture: Tony Gussin

Mr Abraham said: "It is so exciting to see the new extension completed at last. I have been a supporter of the museum for a long time and I am so glad that I was able to provide some of the funding to help accomplish this ambitious project."

The extension was made possible by more than £860,000 from The National Lottery Heritage Fund and funding from Coastal Communities Fund, South West Museum Development, Arts Council England, North Devon AONB, Devon County Council and North Devon Council.

Funding through the development trust came from Keith Abraham, The Garfield Weston Foundation, Fullabrook CIC and The Foyle Foundation.

North Devon Council's leader, Councillor David Worden, said: "The new extension has specially designed climate controlled rooms, enabling the museum have artefacts on loan for the first time.

The entrance of the new Long Bridge Wing at the Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon. Picture: Tony GussinThe entrance of the new Long Bridge Wing at the Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon. Picture: Tony Gussin

"So I am looking forward to seeing some of the artworks that have been loaned out by other museums for the first exhibition planned for the new gallery.

"The paintings of Frederick Richard Lee, a popular landscape painter during the 19th century and the only member of the Royal Academy from Barnstaple."

A big celebration is planned in early April 2020 to reopen the entire museum towards the end of the project.

The museum is particularly keen to hear from anyone who would like to become a volunteer and be part of its exciting new chapter with the Long Bridge Wing. For more information call 01271 346747.

Inside the new Long Bridge Wing at the Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon, with the gift shop area looking out on to the Square. Picture: Tony GussinInside the new Long Bridge Wing at the Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon, with the gift shop area looking out on to the Square. Picture: Tony Gussin

The first visitors make their way inside the new Long Bridge Wing at the Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon. Picture: Tony GussinThe first visitors make their way inside the new Long Bridge Wing at the Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon. Picture: Tony Gussin