Sutton Windmill and Broads Museum collection to be auctioned off

Exhibits from a once-popular Norfolk museum of social life are to be split up and sold at auction.

Auctioneers TW Gaze have been instructed to sell the Broads Museum collection, which is housed in Sutton Mill, near Stalham.

The museum, which once attracted more than 20,000 visitors annually, was closed in 2008 by current owners Yesterday's World. The East Sussex-based company, which runs historical attractions including one in Great Yarmouth, said at the time it was not economically viable.

The two-day sale will take place at the mill on September 11 and 12, with viewings on September 10. It will include more than 1,000 lots encompassing appliances, gadgets and goods for the home, tools, clothes, trade tricycles and carts, shop packaging and advertising wares.

An 1880's pharmacy shop and its contents, a tobacco wholesaler's shop and a vast collection of smoking and tobacco related paraphernalia will also be sold to the highest bidder.

Bygones specialist and sale-organisers Carl Willows and Robert Kinsella said bidders were already lining up for the collection.

'We have a large and loyal customer base of keen buyers and many will be travelling to Norfolk specially for this unique occasion - some have already booked their accommodation,' said Mr Willows. 'But I also believe that the event will generate a great deal of interest locally for those who know or have heard of the museum.

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'Certainly opportunities to source rare and unusual artefacts in such a unique environment are few and far between.'

It is believed the items will be of interest to other bygone museums, private collectors and enthusiasts, dealers, film and television companies and to architectural salvage specialists, particularly for Victorian shop interiors.

The museum was founded by Chris Nunn, who took over the mill in 1976 when he and his late wife moved back to his native Norfolk. It housed his collection of bygones, which began in 1959 when the former atomic research engineer rescued an old washing dolly being used by a neighbour to flatten a cinder path. In 2006, Mr Nunn, then 68, was forced to close the museum because of age and ill health.

Neighbour and parish council vice-chairman Linda Matthews said she was sorry to see the collection up for auction. 'This is a sad loss of part of Norfolk's local and social history,' she said. 'Many Norfolk school children visited the mill as part of their education in the rural way of life when it was owned by Mr Nunn. It is the tallest mill in England and should be preserved for future generations to visit and learn from.'

Jonathan Neville, of the Friends of Norfolk Mills, added: 'It is a fabulous collection and a great shame to sell it off.'

The Grade II listed, nine-storey windmill was built more than 200 years ago and is Britain's tallest surviving example. Concerns over the deteriorating state of the building were raised last year, when Yesterday's World revealed it would cost more than �500,000 to repair.

Yesterday's World did not want to comment.