The Cowle Trust
The Cowle Trust’s roots lie in the 1897 Will of William Cowle of Stroud, a businessman and philanthropist. In his 1897 will he made provision for a museum or scientific institute to be set up in his name following his death:
“And the Testator gave to his Trustees the sum of Four Thousand pounds free of duty to be applied by them in erecting and endowing or otherwise establishing and facilitating the establishment of a Museum for the public use of the Town of Stroud in such a manner in all respect as his Trustees should in their absolute discretion think fit”
Following Cowle’s death in 1899 his executors, or Trustees, set about investing some of his legacy in the recently built School of Science and Art on Lansdown in Stroud. Through this investment, two rooms in the building were set aside for the purpose of a museum. The Cowle Trust opened their museum in 1901 - in the early days most collections were donated by the Trustees themselves or purchased by them according to their individual interests. The earliest collections included Natural History, Geology and Numismatica.
The Cowle Trustees were solely responsible for the running of the museum until 1929 when they appointed the first professional curator to guide them on what to collect and how to maintain the museum and collections for future public benefit. Together with a series of curators, the Cowle Trust operated an independent charitable museum at the School of Science and Art until 1983 when a partnership was founded with Stroud District Council to share the work of providing a museum for the people of Stroud.
Today the public face of the Museum is in Stratford Park, however the Stroud District (Cowle) Museum Service is still provided through a partnership between Stroud District Council and The Cowle Trust - a registered charity. The Council provides the funding and management for the service whilst the Trust remain the legal guardians of the museum collections.
Further details of the Trust can be found on the Charity Commission website.