Volunteers have marked the 35th anniversary of the South Ribble Museum and Exhibition Centre at their annual lunch.

More than 100,000 unpaid hours have been covered by the army of 54 volunteers, who have given their time to help keep the exhibition centre running since it opened in 1977. The centre occupies the small building tucked away in the corner of Leyland’s ancient churchyard, in Church Road.

The 16th century building was first home to the Leyland Free Grammar School for around 300 years before closing in 1874 and being acquired by the church for £200.

The building lay intact, but derelict by the early 1970s, after its use for various purposes ended during the 60s.

The idea for an art gallery had been suggested by the council during the 70s and South Ribble Borough Council eventually bought the school from the church, for just £1.

It was fully restored under the Jobs Creation Scheme, at a cost of £14,000.

The museum first opened on 7, December 1977 and has had only two curators in its lifetime.

Mrs May Knowles retired in 1981 and current curator, Dr David Hunt, took over in 1982.

Over the 35 years the equivalent of more than £750,000 in wages has been ‘donated’ to the running of the museum through the volunteers’ unpaid work. Volunteers have ranged in age from 18 years to 104 years old.

Museum curator Dr David Hunt, said: “Public support was, and still is, central to the success of the museum, 35 years since the centre opened. I commend all our volunteers over the years who have been prepared to give their time to the community.”

Volunteers were joined by Councillor Dorothy Gardner, the Mayor of South Ribble, as they enjoyed a thank you lunch at Leyland Golf Club and celebrated the museum’s anniversary.