Bath Fashion Museum set to reopen in centre of city

An exhibit in the Bath Fashion Museum at the Assembly Rooms
-Credit: (Image: Bath Chronicle)

Bath’s Fashion Museum is set to reopen in autumn 2030 as architects have been appointed to turn Bath’s old post office into its new home.

The iconic institution has been homeless since the National Trust took back its former premises at the Assembly Rooms in 2022. But 1.3m people still saw objects from the collection on loan last year.

Now the Fashion Museum is set to reopen at a new location in the city centre. Architects 6a have been handed the job of turning the Grade II listed old post office on the corner of New Bond Street into a “state-of-the-art 21st-century cultural institution.”

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Construction is expected to start in 2027, with the museum expected to open its doors in the autumn of 2030 — eight years after it closed at its former home of the Assembly Rooms. As well as museum galleries to display the iconic Fashion Museum collection, the museum will include new learning spaces for workshops, lectures, and school visits, a cafe and shop, and venues for hire.

Cllr Paul Roper, Bath and North East Somerset Council ’s cabinet member for economic and cultural sustainable development, said: “The creation of our new Fashion Museum is of national and international significance. This is reflected in the outstanding architectural practices who tendered for this project.

“This is going to be a new, world class institution in a UNESCO World Heritage City and there is huge excitement that, at long last, we will be able to display our unique and outstanding fashion collection in a location and setting that it fully deserves.”

The new location will have double the floorspace that the museum had at the Assembly Rooms. Mr Roper added: “The new museum is a key part of our plan to develop a creative centre in central Bath and provide a further boost to the visitor economy. As an anchor element of the Milsom Quarter Masterplan, the museum will enhance footfall and dwell time in the area and increase the desirability of the city centre. Engaging 6a is a significant next step in realising the Fashion Museum and I look forward to seeing 6a’s vision.”

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The award-winning architecture firm specialises in “sensitively transforming” historic spaces and previous projects include gallery spaces at the Tate Liverpool and the South London Gallery. Tom Emerson, co-founder of 6a, said: “We are delighted to be selected to design the Fashion Museum Bath. Fashion, re-use, museums, and galleries have been central to our practice, and we look forward to bringing these threads together in this ambitious project.

“The Fashion Museum’s collection, just like the architecture of Bath, is an incredible source of inspiration and we are excited to work with the museum team to bring it to the broadest of audiences.”

The original Fashion Museum collection was gifted to the city by Doris Langley Moore in 1959, although it has since been added to. There are now over 100,000 objects in the Fashion Museum collection, ranging from the 1600s up to modern day.

The old post office, where Bath and North East Somerset Council plans to move the Fashion Museum -Credit:Bath and North East Somerset Council
The old post office, where Bath and North East Somerset Council plans to move the Fashion Museum -Credit:Bath and North East Somerset Council

The Fashion Museum had to leave its former home of 60 years at the Assembly Rooms in October 2022 after the National Trust, which owns the historic building, exercised a break clause in its lease with Bath and North East Somerset Council. The council warned at the time that it could be five to eight years before the Fashion Museum could reopen in a new location, depending on funding.

A bid to secure funding for the new home at the old post office through the Levelling Up Fund failed in 2023. The government considered the council’s plans “relatively strong” and in keeping with the aims of levelling up, but it was turned down as there was not enough data behind some parts of the plan.

While homeless, the collection is being stored at glove makers Dents in Warminster, as they have the appropriate facilities to store the fragile clothes. In 2023, a freedom of information request from then Conservative council election candidate Emilio Pimentel-Reid revealed this was costing the council £150,000 a year.

Council leader Kevin Guy said at the time: “It’s essential that the temporary storage is conservation grade and has high levels of security. I don’t think any sensible person would want to skimp on these standards or put the collection at risk.”