Northampton £2m Egyptian statue sale 'expulsion' threat

Statue of Sekhemka The limestone figure stands at 76cm (30in) high

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The sale of an Egyptian statue worth £2m by a Northamptonshire borough could bring expulsion from the "museums community", a local historian claims.

Tory-run Northampton Borough Council is to sell a statue of Sekhemka, an Egyptian official, dating from 2400 BC.

The council's scrutiny committee wanted the public to decide if the sale should go ahead but the proposal was rejected.

Ruth Thomas, an expert on ancient Egypt, said the town could now be discredited by the Museums Association.

'Further consultation'

Mrs Thomas, who formerly worked for Northampton Museum said: "This will result in Northampton's museums being ousted from the community of museums.

"No decision has been taken by the council on how the money will be spent so it could be used for anything.

"A similar thing happened at Bury Museum when they sold a Lowry painting to plug a gap in social services."

Bury Council's accredited museum status was removed by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council in 2006 after it sold Lowry's A Riverbank for £1.25m.

This reduced its funding options and made it ineligible for some grant aid.

The leader of Northampton Borough Council, David Mackintosh said: "The cabinet has agreed to take the decision to sell the statue but we have also agreed to further consultation.

"We are going to talk to the Friends of Northampton Museums to ask their views."

"At the moment we are saying that the money is ring-fenced between Northampton Museum, Abington Park and Delapre Abbey but we want ideas on how the money should be split."

It is thought the 2400 BC statue was acquired by Spencer Compton, the second Marquis of Northampton, during a trip to Egypt in 1850 and presented to the museum by his son 20 years later.

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