The National Brewery Centre – still fondly remembered as the Bass Museum – has just celebrated its 40th anniversary. To mark the occasion, Mail Remembers takes a trip back to June 1983 when Brian Curzon started his new job of curator at the museum.
In an interview with the Burton Mail in 1983, Mr Curzon said the role combined his two greatest passions – museums and beer.
He said: “My previous dealings with beer have mostly been on the consumer side, but to be serious, I regard this as the most challenging post. The Bass Museum has the potential to become one of the top industrial museums in the country.
“One distinct advantage is that the financial position is less stringent than in a local Government museum. That will help me to expand the museum and increase its appeal. That said, it’s a great responsibility to be the guardian of Britain’s beer-drinking heritage.”
Mr Curzon said he would be making changes at the museum but would consider all the possibilities first.
He said: “It’s no good moving things and then finding they don’t fit in the new place.”
One of Mr Curzon’s main priorities as he settled into his new position at the Bass Museum was to negotiate a deal with East Staffordshire District Council to have some of the contents of the closed Burton Town Museum.
He said: “There’s some really interesting Anglo Saxon stuff in there which would improve the Bass Museum. I’m hoping to put some of the Anglo Saxon pottery in showcases in the museum library and to have a display of pub games, old and new.
“Too many people think of this as a beer museum but it’s more than that. It’s a museum of the industrial revolution in the Midlands and I’m hoping I can persuade more people to visit it on that basis.
“We’re going to try and make more advances to Midlands schools and try to persuade them to bring their children on trips.
“If teachers think it’s a museum of beer, it’s not surprising they don’t organise trips for their young pupils to come here.
“I’m also going to try and attract more local history societies rather than the semi-interested groups who come on brewery trips at the same time. Many of them come only for the beer and some of the effect of the museum is lost.
“Of course, we still want the brewery trippers to visit the museum but I think local history groups may have been under-catered for.”
Mr Curzon’s previous job was as an industrial archaeology assistant at Towneley Hall, near Burnley, in Lancashire. His museum career took off after graduating from Manchester University with a degree in archaeology.
He first went into teaching at Cheshire College in Northwich, his hometown, before teaching in adult education and writing a visitors’ guide to Cheshire.
In 1977 he moved to Manchester to supervise excavations of a Roman settlement and lived close to the set of Coronation Street. As a result, he would drink regularly with the actress who played Elsie Tanner.
After working at a textile museum at Quarry Mill near Manchester, he moved to Burnley Museum while studying part-time to become an Associate of the Museum Association – a qualification sought after by museum curators.
In June 1983, Mr Curzon arrived at the Bass Museum and to cater for his new position, he moved into a temporary flat in Shobnall Close.
Mr Curzon said he was looking forward to meeting Burton people. He said: “I enjoy the social side of the job. Too many curators hide away and become as fossilised as the exhibits but that’s not my style.”