Catalyst Science Discovery Centre and Museum in Widnes is housed in what was once part of Gossages Soap Works and a new room has been named to recognise this.
Established in 1855 on Spike Island, Gossages was, at one stage, the largest soap company in the UK, if not the world and the museum was honoured to welcome back Peter Gossage along with family members, friends and colleagues to officially open The Gossage Room, in what was the admin building of Gossages from 1908 until 1933.
This new heritage room, refurbished during the pandemic with funding from the Gossage family, now proudly displays the portraits of William Gossage, the founder of the soap works and his son, Frederick Herbert Gossage, artefacts and photographs relating to the soap industry and a huge, wall filling bookcase containing much of the Catalyst library archive.
Also in attendance was the Leader of Halton Borough Council, Councillor Mike Wharton and The Mayor of Halton, Councillor Christopher Rowe, wearing the very same chain of office that the first Mayor of Widnes, Frederick Herbert Gossage wore in 1892!
Opening the room, Peter Gossage, said: “Although the Gossage Family are no longer local to the area, we are proud to retain a great connection to Widnes through the work of Catalyst Science Discovery Centre and Museum and we are delighted to be able to support the activities of the centre to inspire and educate young people and to help preserve the archive for future generations.”
During his welcome address, Martin Pearson, CEO of Catalyst gave an overview of the extensive work that has been undertaken at Catalyst in the closure period during the pandemic.
“We were delighted to be able to host the Gossage extended family at our opening and show off our new Heritage Room along with the new interactive gallery refurbished during the last year,” he said. “It is lovely to be able to link our local industrial and community past and showcase the people that put Widnes on the map as a worldwide exporter. Linking this to modern day challenges that we have all been through and the important part soap played in keeping us all safe before a vaccine was developed.”
Dr Diana Leitch, The Mayor of Halton Cllr Christopher Rowe, Martin Pearson Catalyst CEO and Cllr Mike Wharton, Leader of Halton Borough Council.
Cllr Mike Wharton and the Mayor Cllr Christopher Rowe with a portrait of Frederick Herbert Gossage, first Mayor of Widnes in 1892.