Looking back at a difficult year at the Palace.
In May 2019, we held the Palace’s grand re-opening following a major restoration. We were bursting with plans to continue building upon the work we had accomplished, working to further extend our outreach with local communities amongst other initiatives. However, 2020 saw some of the most unprecedented challenges the world has known, and we were no exception, coronavirus dealt a severe financial blow to the Trust. The pandemic restricted many of our normal activities with schools and young people, and we had to cancel the majority of our events, weddings and functions. The Trust receives no government funding and is reliant on commercial and visitor income so were left in a precarious financial position.
In spite of all the hardships, the year has also demonstrated what a wonderful community we get to call our own, a community which came together to support the Palace. We’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone who generously donated when coming into the walled garden in the summer. This money helped us to keep the garden open to everyone for free during the summer – over 25,000 visitors enjoyed the site in July and August. This has certainly been a year of reflection on what is important to us all, and we’re so grateful for everyone in the community who has given their time or money to help keep us open – and in return we hope you have been able to enjoy the Palace as a resource for the community.
Our museum has taken a real knock over the last year. What we’d hoped would be a year of bringing more visitors to this new space instead became a year of quiet. The museum finally opened at the end of September with many restrictions in place to keep visitors safe. However, it had to close for the second lockdown, and again for the third, which has meant the museum only welcomed 680 visitors in 2020/21, a 97.5% drop in visitor numbers. Our museum continues to stay closed, in line with government guidance, as does our shop and indoor café. We’ve opened an online shop, and every purchase – whether a birthday card or a silk scarf – does really help us. Our head gardener, Lucy, is also working hard in the garden to bring our popular plant sale back to the online shop in the coming weeks.
2021 marks the 10th anniversary of the forming of the Fulham Palace Trust, and given what a difficult year we have all had, we will be organising a number of fundraising activities to mark the anniversary. It will be great to look back at all that we have achieved in the past 10 years, as well as recognising the considerable efforts of the council and the former museum trust, which laid the firm foundation for the Trust’s success.
Maybe 2020 and the start of 2021 haven’t been what we expected, but we are grateful for what they have uncovered. There will undoubtedly be financial and other challenges ahead, but we know that we can rely on you – our Patrons, Friends, staff, volunteers and our community to support us in whatever way you can. Thank you.