STAFF at Cogges Manor Farm Museum will mark the end of a 30-year era at the Witney centre this month.

The Church Lane attraction will close on August 31, but there is hope for a new lease of life when a charitable trust takes over the management, with the aim of reopening in April 2010.

Lorraine Horne, museum marketing and publicity manager, said: “We’re hoping, while it is the end of an era, that it will be a good thing for the site and it certainly is not the end.”

Despite its popularity with families, the Victorian working farm has been running at an annual loss of about £200,000 for the past few seasons.

Last year, Oxfordshire County Council decided it would hand management of the museum to a charitable trust in a bid to revive flagging visitor numbers.

The trust will take over in April next year and will be responsible for managing an annual budget of £160,000 until 2012.

It will also get one-off investment of £250,000 from the county council.

The new team will also be responsible for overseeing the museum’s application for Lottery funding, as it looks for between £1.5m and £2m to help finance various projects.

Mrs Horne, who has worked at the museum for eight years, said an air of uncertainty had always hung over life at the farm.

She added: “The trust is very keen to keep a lot of the really unique bits and preserve its history and that element of the attraction.

“The trustees have been looking at lots of ideas with craftspeople. Cogges has struggled over the past few years. I’ve been here eight years and every year bar one, we weren’t sure if we would open the next season.”

The museum – which attracts between 25,000 to 30,000 visitors, including 500 schoolchildren, every year – features 20 acres of grounds, including a picnic orchard, two paddocks, cottage gardens, a riverside walk and a museum in the former granny annex.

Tim Partridge became the first male manor house demonstrator three years ago, and shows visitors old crafts and skills, including Victorian cookery.

He said: “I enjoy working here immensely. I love being here.”

However, all 30 members of staff are set to lose their jobs.

The majority are seasonal staff, but the redundancies include five permanent workers, who will be redeployed within the county council.

Cogges as we know it will draw to a close on Bank Holiday Monday, August 31.

On Saturday, August 29, former BBC Really Wild Show presenter Howie Watkins will hold animal handling sessions and on Sunday, August 30, the all-male cast of Shakespeare on the Lawn will perform The Merchant of Venice.

On Monday, August 31, an event will be held to look back at 30 years of Cogges, which will include a photography exhibition.

Mrs Horne said: “The idea is that it is a celebration and that this is a new era.

“The new trust will be on hand over the Bank Holiday weekend to give visitors its vision.

“Cogges will continue and it will hopefully be bigger and better as I think the trust will be less restricted.

“As part of the county council, we have a very strict remit of being Victorian.”

Most of the farm’s animals have been loaned from Foxbury Farm, in Carterton, and will be returned there, when Cogges closes, but the few chickens and rabbits left have all found new homes.

For more information about Cogges Manor Farm and Museum, visit