Protesters brought inflatable crocodiles, posters and leaflets with their mascot and one even wore a crocodile onesie, in a last gasp attempt to save Apsley House from the jaws of closure as Swindon’s museum and art gallery.

Swindon Borough Council’s cabinet has already voted to approve closing Apsley House in Bath Road for good, moving the artworks and museum artefacts out and selling off the building. 

But supporters of keeping it open were able to speak to the full council meeting after submitting a petition of more than 5,000 signatures.

Chairman of the friends of the museum and gallery Linda Kasmaty addressed the meeting. 

She said: “The petition you have received today is a reflection of the strong feelings aroused by this council’s proposal to sell Apsley House and consign the town’s museum and art collections to limbo for the next ten years, or however long it takes to build the new Art Pavilion as part of Swindon’s grand vision of a new cultural quarter.

“Why sell Apsley House before a suitable replacement has been built?

Ms Kasmaty added: “Swindon needs a museum and art gallery - it does have one, let’s open it. It’s a scandal that a town with 250,000 population contemplates closing its museum and art gallery for an indefinite period.

“It is really important for Swindon  that we have a working museum and art gallery between now and when the cultural quarter is built. We need to wake up and not sleep walk our way into being entirely off the cultural map of the UK.”

Earlier another supporter Sandy Best had spoken sporting her crocodile onesie.

She said: “The people of Swindon need the museum and gallery open. The council has not prioritised  the mental health of the people of Swindon. When will you address our needs?”

Council leader David Renard said the moving of the collection to the Civic offices in Euclid Street would make it more accessible. He said: “The collection has 20,000 exhibits, with 824 on display. I want a better route to exhibit it.”

Coun Renard said the cabinet decision was needed to allow a proper study of how to put on exhibitions at the Civic Offices - but said he would listen to other suggestions - including a possible approach from South Swindon Parish Council to take on Apsley House.