Tea museum hopes to boost Battle tourism

Donald Riley
Donald Riley

The developer behind the proposed tea museum on Battle High Street hopes the new attraction will be a boost to the town’s tourism.

Donald Riley plans to build the museum next to St Mary’s Church and is waiting for planning permission from Rother District Council – currently being held up by an issue over access.

Mr Riley owned the Bramah Tea and Coffee Museum in London before the collector Edward Bramah died in 2008.

Now he hopes to move the tea collection to Battle and believes there will be a lot of interest from international television crews.

“It had hundreds of visitors a day in London who were tourists, so it should draw lots of visitors down here especially Japanese, Chinese and others who are interested in tea ceremonies over the different periods,” he said.

“Foreign TV companies loved the tea museum. They were in their every other day in London.

“German, American, British. I’m not promising TV crews as frequently as three times a week, but when they come, and they will, the crews will naturally turn to Battle Abbey or something else.”

The New Zealander moved to Battle recently for his children’s education and as a property developer, he did a survey of the town to see where he could lend his restoration hand.

He discovered the 1066 building and turned part of that into a Costa Coffee.

Now he wants to renovate a group of buildings on the High Street to house his collection, including the Bramah Teapot – the world’s largest teapot that weighs about 150lb.

“There is a lot of abandoned or disused property in Battle and having found the space which is ideally situated next to Yesterday’s World, it’s a good opportunity,” he said.

“I’ve got a bit of energy and can put a building together quite quickly because of our experience in London of doing restoration work and the job we did on the 1066 building which everybody seems to approve of.

“So we thought, ‘lets do a tea museum down here’.”

In the meantime before the proper museum opens, Donald wants to whet Battle’s tea appetite with a sample of the collection at the back of the Costa Coffee shop.

Mr Riley hopes to start building in a month or two once planning permission is given, which he is confident of achieving.

He plans to have several different tea-drinking scenarios set out in the museum to give visitors a flavour of how it was drunk during those periods.

“A series of vignettes if you like, little stories, not a boring display of teapots all in a row which was the tendency in the original museum,” he said.

“It will be a Victorian tea setting, an Edwardian, an earlier Queen Anne setting showing people sitting at the furniture of the period, with the paintings of the period with a carpet on the floor from the period and with the china tea service of the period and the history described either musically or voice-over.”

“The other angle on tea is tea and tax evasion. I intend to have a little corner about tea and tax evasion making reference down to Hastings because of the caves and the smuggling that went on.

“There was a lot of smuggling connected with bringing in brandy, tea and silk.

“So any TV crews who came to make something on tea would be 15 minutes from the smuggler’s caves as well so it can benefit not just Battle but also Hastings.”

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