A TELEVISION personality was invited to Furness almost 20 years ago to carry out the official opening for a major museum expansion project.

Loyd Grossman gained fame as the presenter of Masterchef and Through the Keyhole but came to Barrow as chairman for the Campaign for Museums, a commissioner with English Heritage and a government adviser on the Council for Museums, Archives and Libraries.

He was at The Dock, Barrow’s maritime museum, to open a new resource centre and unveil a plaque but his tour of the former Victorian graving dock included a look at the new museum cafe - complete with a stained glass window - and a gallery filled with artwork all having strong Furness links.

The visitor was very impressed with what had been achieved at Barrow and said: “It is an extraordinarily fine museum.”

Mr Grossman said the collection of items on show from the Vickers shipbuilding collection was of major significance and that he was a big fan of the model ships.

He said: “The most impressive thing about The Dock is its commitment to being part of the community, almost the heart of Barrow.

“That is terribly important because nowadays it is no longer the case that everybody gets together in the marketplace on Saturday.

“We have out-of-town shopping centres and people don’t attend community events the way they used to, so in many ways the museum has become the 21st century equivalent of the parish hall.

“You feel it very much in this place. People can gather here and realise what makes their community different from others.”

He hoped that the museum would visitors what it meant to be from Barrow.

He said: “Where you live is very special and I think that is why this museum is doing very well.

“This is why Barrow is a town of much greater than local or even national significance.People were sailing all over the world on ships built here and its influence was absolutely extraordinary."