Castle Combe’s cherished museum, known as the smallest in Britain, has closed its doors after almost 30 years of serving the village.

Trustees say they had been given to understand by the Bybrook Trust, owners of the building, that the museum could continue its occupation on an annual licence following the expiry of the lease.

However, in November 2011, notice was given to vacate the building by January 1, 2012, and as yet it has proved impossible to find an alternative building which is suitable and affordable.

Adrian Bishop, who has been with the museum since it started life as a historical society, said: “We had a bit of a nasty shock.

“We had been assured that although we would not get another long lease, we should be able to continue on an annual basis. But the rug was pulled from under our feet, and we were told we had to move out by January 1.”

With just a month to pack the exhibits, some of which date back to the Neolithic and Roman eras, the Wiltshire Museums Service came to the aid of the Castle Combe institution, and the artefacts were placed in temporary storage.

Mr Bishop said: “Unfort-unately, it seems unlikely that we’re going to be able to open again any time soon.

“Until a new premises can be found for a museum, it is hoped that we will be able to mount limited displays of the collection in St Andrew’s Church in the village.

“But we have brain-stormed for hours about where we might be able to go next and have had no luck.

“It was a very big shock and it seems like a real shame, to say the least. The museum is a depository for village history. It has everything from flints used in the Neolithic period right up to modern-day materials, so it is a huge loss.”

Despite the rush to clear the premises, they currently stand empty.

“We are usually open from Easter until October, and people come to the village just to go to the museum,” said Mr Bishop.

“I wanted people to know it won’t be there any more.”

Paul Lysley of the Bybrook Trust said the property is soon to reopen as an information office for the registered charity.

“The museum staff were offered another building, but made the decision to turn it down,” he said.

“I don’t quite know yet when the information office will open, but it should be soon.”