For a good many years, once a month, the clowns come out to play, but not any more. A church they played in has turned into a school, so the clowns are in a side room.
Fear not, for this is a good thing — probably — for the monthly opening of an archive of clown memorabilia is turning into a permanent museum which may be open rather more often.
The Clowns Archive in Daltson has been dusted off and laid out in a church for a few hours each month for several years, and as is often the case with things that are always there, good intents to visit never materialised until last month.
Entering the church by the welcoming sign that can be found down a side passage.
However, what greeted the visitor was a sign of some dereliction, but the sight of people working away in the far corner drew me along to find out whether the clown gallery still existed.
And yes it does — inside that little room. In fact it has always been there, in storage, and pulled out once a month to go on display. But the reason for the rather makeshift appearance of the church is because a local school is to use it on a temporary basis as a classroom, necessitating the construction of a giant shed inside the church.
For while clowning on can be certain to occur within the shed, the historic clowns cannot be outside it.
They are instead getting the storage room on a more permanent basis, and as I arrived, paint was being applied, signs hung up and much activity taking place to make the museum ready, if not for visitors on the day, then certainly for visitors this week.
It is, or is likely to be, a display largely of memorabilia, with a special focus on Britain’s greatest clown, Joseph Grimaldi. As I arrived, his original clown costume, in protective glass case was being prepared to be hung up on a wall.
Grimaldi is buried nearby in another church yard, but the clown archive has long since decamped to Holy Trinity Church a few streets away, and while is was also the home to the annual clowns service, that is now so big an event that they had to move that to another local church to cope with demand.
In the newish museum itself, the ground floor should now be ready for visitors, but a special treat is being worked on. There is an undercroft, accessed by a fantastically atmospheric spiral stone staircase.
At the moment, it’s storage, and damp storage so not ideal for its current purpose, but the aim is to damp-proof it and extend the museum down here as well. Removing an old oil tank would be nice, if anyone can ever work out how they got it down there in the first place!
They also have a large collection of eggs, for it was tradition that each clown would decorate an egg with their own personal make-up design, so that no other clown could accidentally (or deliberately) copy the same design.
Clowns may look the same, but each one is unique.
Persons suffering from Coulrophobia should avoid the place, but everyone else should visit it, at least once.
Your next chance to visit is this very Friday, the 1st August.
Open to the public on the first Friday of every month from 12 noon – 5pm. The main entrance is/was from Beechwood Road [map link], but they intend to have a dedicated entrance of their own around the back of the church, so try that if the main door is locked.
Entry is free, but donations appreciated.
Do look out for the special stained glass window in a corner in memory of the great clown himself, if the church is open.