Malton Museum will close within the next year unless substantial funding can be found, it has emerged.

Bids to secure grants to support a move from the museum’s current home in the centre of Malton have fallen through and with the lease coming to an end next April, trustees are working on the basis that it will be forced to close and thousands of historic and unique artefacts put into storage.

David Lloyd-Williams, chairman of the museum trust, said that unless “a miracle happens” the museum will be closing.

He said: “Unless someone in the community wins the lottery and gives us some money we will not be continuing as a museum.

“We don’t have a home to go to and with the lease on the building coming to an end, the Fitzwilliam Estate wants to charge a commercial rent which is a lot more than is currently paid.”

Malton Museum moved to the former town council buildings in the Market Place which are leased by Ryedale District Council about 30 years ago.

With the lease due to run out in 2012, the museum trustees had hoped to move to a new site at Orchard Fields, the site where the town originally began.

However, a £100,000 bid for Heritage Lottery funding for the £1 million venture, with the Fitzwilliam Estate office becoming a possible home for further collections, was turned down.

Mr Lloyd-Williams said: “We are now left with the option of not having a home to go to and we now need to look at somewhere to store the extensive collection, although some will go back to their owners.

“It is such a shame because over the last four or five years we have worked to improve the educational aspect of the museum in line with the school curriculum.

“As chairman of the museum trust I don’t want to be responsible for closing the museum and putting part of Malton’s history in a storage garage. But unless someone comes forward with a considerable amount of money we are looking at moving out after Christmas.”

Members of Norton Town Council who were told the news at the annual town meeting on Monday said it was “extremely sad”.

Coun Hugh Spencer, former head of history at Malton School, added that it was an “impending tragedy”.

He said: “Some of the artefacts are of national importance and a lot of other museums would give their right arm to get their hands on them. To see them dispersed is a tragedy.”

Norton mayor Coun Paul Farndale added: “On behalf of the council I would like to say that if the museum has to close it will not be a good day for the area at all – it is very sad.”

Julian Rudd, Ryedale District Council’s head of economy and housing, said the council funded each of the three accredited Ryedale museums – Malton, Beck Isle and Ryedale Folk Museum – by more than £6,000 a year.

He said: “Malton Museum is the only Ryedale Museum where the council has also funded the building and accommodation costs.

“The council has also used tourism information staff to provide front of house services for the volunteers who manage the museum and this has allowed longer opening hours.”

Mr Rudd said the museum confirmed to the council in 2008 that it required a maximum of three more years at the town hall.

He said: “A short-term lease was then agreed with the Estate which ends in April 2012. Plans to relocate the tourist information centre in Malton are being progressed.

“The council has been working with the museum on its plans to relocate, which have sadly not progressed as planned.

“The council will continue to work closely with the museum and offer practical support to ensure that the public can continue to enjoy the museum’s fascinating collection.”

No one from the Fitzwilliam Estate was available to comment.