history museums in Cumbria
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Cumbria & The Lake District Museums & Galleries

including civic and independent art galleries and museums in Cumbria & The Lake District...

Museums long ago ceased to be stuffy rooms full of glass cases containing bits of old pottery and fossilised bones. Today even most conventional museums include changing displays but over recent years there has been a growth in industrial and "living" museums. Here you can learn about local heritage, get a feel for how people lived and worked, the hardships they endured...

Galleries listed include not just civic galleries displaying publicly owned artworks, but also privately owned galleries with items for sale.

Cumbria & The Lake District Museums and Galleries

blank tabTHE DOCK MUSEUMMuseums & Galleries
North Road, Barrow-In-Furness, Cumbria, LA14 2PW
Establishment Photo
The Dock Museum is a unique building in a stunning coastal setting built within a Victorian dry dock. Incorporating 3 floors, the original Victorian Graving Dock provides an impressive backdrop to the galleries.

The Museum tells the story of Barrow through displays, ship models, graphics, film show and interactive computers. Our exhibition gallery provides a vibrant exhibition programmed throughout the year and our events are scheduled to offer a lively and varied programmed to suit all ages.

The landscaped waterfront site has an adventure playground, public works of art and walkways linked to the Cumbria Coastal Way. There is a coffee shop and a souvenir shop, and ample free car parking. Admission is free.
Tel: 01229 876400
E-mail: dockmuseum@barrowbc.gov.uk
See our website

blank tabLAUREL & HARDY MUSEUMMuseums & Galleries
on stage at The Roxy, Brogden Street, Ulverston. LA12 7AH
Establishment Photo
This famous museum is devoted to Laurel and Hardy.

Everything you want to know about the comedy duo can be found at the museum, the amazing collection of memorabilia includes letters, photographs, personal items and furniture, and is believed to be the largest in the world.

A small cinema shows films and documentaries throughout the day.

The museum is open 7 days a week.

Closed Christmas Day.
Tel: 01229 582292    Fax: 01229 582292
E-mail: info@laurel-and-hardy.co.uk
See our website

blank tabSENHOUSE ROMAN MUSEUMMuseums & Galleries
The Battery, Sea Brows, Maryport, Cumbria, CA15 6JD

This museum contains the largest grouping of Roman military altar stones and inscriptions from any site in Britain and unique examples of Celtic religious sculpture. The collection, which was begun by the Senhouse family in the 1570s, is the oldest in the country, and is of international importance. The display illustrates religious practice in Roman Britain and, in particular: The worship of Jupiter, 'best and greatest' of the gods. The range of classical gods known and worshipped at Maryport. Evidence for the religious traditions of the native peoples. The universal human concern for the spirits of the dead. Most of the objects in the Museum derive from the fort at Maryport and the Roman civil settlement attached to it.
Tel: 01900 816168
E-mail: senhousemuseum@aol.com
See our website

blank tabCUMBERLAND PENCIL MUSEUMMuseums & Galleries
Southey Works, Main Street, Keswick, Cumbria, CA12 5NG

Home to the worlds longest coloured pencil! Enter the museum through a replica of the Seathwaite mine where graphite was first discovered 250 years ago. Through words, pictures and carefully restored machinery you can trace the history of pencil making and see how we make Derwent Fine Art pencils today. A quiz for children makes the whole visit an adventure in discovery. The video theatre shows two presentations - one is the history of pencil making in Keswick including our current production techniques and the other is an extract from Raymond Briggs' animated cartoon 'The Snowman' which was drawn using Cumberland pencils. Other displays demonstrate the different uses of pencils and there is a techniques video to view full of helpful hints and tips for the budding pencil artist. There is a children's area where they can 'have a go' with different pencils and crayons and a shop sells the full range of Derwent and Lakeland pencils.
Tel: 017687 73626
E-mail: museum@acco-uk.co.uk
See our website

Hill Top

Near Sawrey, Ambleside, LA22 0LF
Tel: 015394 36269    Fax: 015394 36811
E-mail: cartpriorygatehouse@nationaltrust.org.uk

Hill Top Farm Photo  Marion Dutcher
Hill Top Farm -
Marion Dutcher CCL

Delightful small 17th-century house where Beatrix Potter wrote many of her famous childrens stories. Many of the enchanting illustrations for Beatrix Potters little tales were inspired by Hill Top.

It remains as she left it and in each room can be found something that appears in one of her books. The cottage garden contains the same pleasing mix of flowers, herbs, fruit and vegetables as grown by Beatrix.

A selection of the original illustrations is displayed at the Beatrix Potter Gallery nearby. Hill Top is a small house and a timed entry system is operated to avoid overcrowding and to protect the fragile interior. This is a popular property, and visitors sometimes have to wait to enter.

We regret that occasionally some visitors may not gain entry at all. School holidays are particularly busy so, if at all possible, come at the beginning or end of the season and enjoy a slightly quieter visit.

Discount National Trust Membership

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Beatrix Potter Gallery

Main St, Hawkshead, Ambleside, Cumbria, LA22 0NS
Tel: 01539 436355    Fax: 01539 436187
E-mail: beatrixpottergallery@nationaltrust.org.uk

Hawkshead Photo  John Charlton
Hawkshead -
 Photo: John Charlton CCL


Gallery showing original book illustrations by Beatrix Potter.

The exhibition of original sketches and watercolours painted by Beatrix Potter for her childrens stories changes annually.

The 17th-century building, the model for Tabitha Twitchits shop, was once the office of Beatrix's husband, William Heelis.

The interior remains substantially unaltered since his day, giving an interesting insight into an Edwardian law office.

Discount National Trust Membership
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Wordsworth House

Main Street, Cockermouth, CA13 9RX
Tel: 01900 824805 (House)    01900 825649 (Office)    01900 820880 (Shop)
E-mail: wordsworthhouse@nationaltrust.org.uk

Wordsworth House Cumbria
Wordsworth House -  
Photo: Dave B CCL


Fine Georgian town house, the birthplace and childhood home of William Wordsworth.

The house offers a lively and participative visit with hands-on activities and costumed living history.

Rooms on display include a working 18th-century kitchen, the childrens bedroom, Mr John Wordsworths offices and other family rooms.

The garden, with terraced walk overlooking the River Derwent, has been attractively restored to its 18th-century appearance as the favourite playground of the young Wordsworths.

Discount National Trust Membership

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Cartmel Gatehouse

The Square, Grange-Over-Sands, Cumbria, LA11 6QB
Tel: 01539 536874     E-mail: cartpriorygatehouse@nationaltrust.org.uk

Cartmel Gatehouse Photo  John Barry
Cartmel Gatehouse -
Photo: John Barry CCL


14th-century gatehouse of medieval priory.

Apart from the church, the gatehouse is all that is left of a 12th-century Augustinian priory, which was later strengthened following devastating raids by Robert the Bruce.

The Dissolution of the Monasteries put an end to the priory in the mid-16th century.

The gatehouse later served as a grammar school from 1624 to 1790.

 It is managed by the Cartmel Village Society as a village heritage centre, with an exhibition catering for all ages, depicting the history of the building, Cartmel village and the Cartmel peninsula.

Discount National Trust Membership

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Kendal Museum of Natural History & Archaeology

Station Rd, Kendal, Cumbria, LA9 6BT
Tel: 01539 721374    Fax: 01539 737976
E-mail: enquiries@kendalmuseum.org.uk

Kendal Museum is one of the oldest museums in the country. It houses outstanding displays of archaeology and natural history, both local and global. With many examples of Lakeland Flora and Fauna, the Museum charts developments from prehistoric times to the present.

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Solway Aviation Museum

Carlisle Airport, Carlisle, Cumbria, CA6 4NW
Tel: 01228 573823      E-mail: info@solway-aviation-museum.org.uk

Open: Sat/Sun only and Bank Holidays, early April to late October. The Solway Aviation Museum is run by volunteers from the Solway Aviation Society. The society owns nine aircraft - the most prominent of which is an Avro Vulcan bomber. This was the standby aircraft during the Falklands War, and visitors may climb up into the cockpit - a remarkable experience. There is a new indoor exhibition, with a small display on the history of Carlisle airport, and all the local RAF Airfields, during the war years. On display in the museum are various aero engines from early piston engines through to the Rolls Royce Merlin (as used in the Spitfire). There are more modern jet turbine engines including an early Frank Whittle design, as fitted to early jet aircraft such as the Meteor. Various aircraft fittings and equipment including ejector seats and instruments can be seen, along with various RAF uniforms, radio and radar equipment.

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Lakeland Motor Museum

Holker Hall, Cark In Cartmel, Grange-Over-Sands, Cumbria, LA11 7PL
Tel: 015395 30400     E-mail: info@lakelandmotormuseum.co.uk

Within the grounds of Holker Hall is the Lakeland Motor Museum. There are over 150 cars, motorcycles, tractors, cycles and engines plus rare motoring automobilia. There is the Campbell Legend Bluebird Exhibition featuring the exploits of Sir Malcolm Campbell and his son Donald Campbell who captured 21 world speed records for Great Britain. Highlights include full size replicas of the Bluebird car (above) that broke the world land speed record in 1935, and the famous Bluebird jet Hydroplane in which Donald Campbell was killed on Coniston Water in 1967. The exhibition features video, photographs and scale models of the cars and boats used by the Campbells. The museum is open daily 1st April to 31st October, 10.30 am - 4.45 pm except Saturdays.

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The Helena Thompson Museum

Park End Rd, Workington, Cumbria, CA14 4DE
Tel: 01900 64040 / 01900 606155     E-mail: whghtm@hotmail.co.uk

The museum was bequeathed to the people of Workington by Miss Helena Thompson, a local philanthropist, in 1940. It houses displays of pottery, silver, glass, and furniture dating from Georgian times, as well as the social and industrial history of Workington and the surrounding area. Helena had a special interest in the history of costume and needlework, and collected many examples of women's and children's dresses in the styles fashionable from the late 18th century to the beginning of the 20th century. A selection of these, along with jewellery and accessories are displayed. There is a Georgian room, and a Victorian room, displaying decorative art and furniture from these periods. Upstairs in place of the bedrooms, is a large exhibition space housing the local history gallery. There is a display centred round the Curwen family, and showing a model of Workington Hall as it used to be. There are displays relating to the shipbuilding, pottery, brick-making, coal-mining, railway and steel industries.

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Keswick Museum & Art Gallery

Station Rd, Keswick, Cumbria, CA12 4NF
Tel: 01768 773263     E-mail: keswick.museum@allerdale.gov.uk

The local history collection stretches back to Roman times, and includes such items as the famous 500 year old cat, a penny farthing cycle, and a man trap. One of the prime exhibits is a set of musical stones (below), variously termed the stone dulcimer, the rock harmonicon or the geological piano. It has travelled to London where performances were given to Queen Victoria. There is Flintof's relief model of the Lake District, made in 1834 and covering 1200 sq miles at a scale of three inches to the mile, showing fells and valleys, rivers and roads. There is a fine collection of rocks and minerals. The 'Poets Corner' has an impressive collection of original manuscripts and memorabilia from Robert Southey, William Wordsworth and Hugh Walpole. There are examples of items made in 'The School of Industrial Art', set up in the town by Canon Rawnsley and his wife. The lamp fittings in the museum were made there. Monthly exhibitions by local artists are held in the Art Gallery.

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Roman Army Museum

Carvoran House, Greenhead, Brampton, Cumbria, CA8 7JB
Tel: 01697 747485    Fax: 01697 747487

Lying in magnificent countryside next to a sweeping section of Hadrian's Wall, at Walltown Crags, the Roman Army Museum brings Roman frontier history to life in a spacious setting. The Roman soldier, his pay, training, armour, weapons, living quarters and off duty activities are explained in an informative and entertaining way. The Roman past reaches out to you through reconstructions, life sized figures, superb scale models, audio commentaries, films and displays of Roman objects. Can Centurion Petronius persuade you to join the Roman army? Watch the recruiting film, fill in your join up sheet (free for families) and you could become an honorary Roman soldier.

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Dove Cottage & The Wordsworth Museum

Town End, Grasmere, Ambleside, Cumbria, LA22 9SH
Tel: 01539 435544    Fax: 01539 435748
E-mail: enquiries@wordsworth.org.uk

Dove Cottage was William Wordsworth's home from 1799 - 1808. Visitors are offered guided tours of the beautifully preserved cottage. The garden, 'a little nook of mountain-ground', is open when the weather permits. The award-winning Wordsworth Museum displays a unique collection of manuscripts, books and paintings interpreting the life and works of Wordsworth, his family and circle. There are special exhibitions throughout the year and a programme of special events. An excellent shop sells books, gifts and local crafts.

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Threlkeld Quarry & Mining Museum

Threlkeld, Keswick, Cumbria, CA12 4TT
Tel: 01768 779747     E-mail: threlkeldquarrymuseum@btconnect.com

The museum has what is probably the finest collection of small mining and quarrying artefacts in the North. Threlkeld Mining Museum is a museum that offers the chance to see and touch the tools that the miners used many years ago. With a variety of memorabilia including photographs, maps and plans. The museum also contains a mineral collection, and in the Geology Room there is a marvellous table top relief map of the Lake District geology. There is also a pictorial history of Threlkeld and other quarries in the area. There is a shop which stocks the largest selection of mining, geology and mineralogy titles in the north of England. There are also beautiful minerals from around the world, and some much sought after local specimens. Included are healing crystals.

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Armitt Library & Museum Centre

Low Nook, Nook Lane, Ambleside, Cumbria, LA22 9BL
Tel: 01539 431212    Fax: 01539 431313
E-mail: info@armitt.com

The Armitt is a unique place combining Library and Museum, scholarship and fun, art and entertainment. The Armitt encapsulates all that is best about Lakeland and its people and preserves that essence for future generations to enjoy. The Armitt Museum and Library has an astounding collection of Art, Archaeology, Archives, Books, Geology, Photography and Local History as depicted here.

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Cars of the Stars

Standish St, Keswick, Cumbria, CA12 5LS
Tel: 01768 773757    Fax: 01768 772090
E-mail: cotsmm@aol.com

This museum features vehicles from TV and films, including Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, the Batmobile, Back to the Future Delorean, the James Bond collection, Del Boy's Reliant Robin, Knightrider's KITT, Laurel & Hardy's Model T, FAB1, The Dukes of Hazzard, Harry Potter, The A Team, The Flintstones, The Munsters and many other famous vehicles and motorcycles. 'Cars of the Stars' is privileged and proud to own as part of its museum, its extensive 'James Bond Collection' of vehicles. These include several Aston Martins, Lotus Esprits, Dr No's Flame Throwing Dragon, and many other vehicles. There is a shop selling motoring memorabilia and gifts. Postcards of the cars are available, as is a Souvenir Guide with pictures and much information about the exhibits. Open 2004 3rd April-30th November and weekends December.

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Heaton Cooper Studio

Grasmere, Ambleside, Cumbria LA22 9SX
Tel: 015394 35280    Fax: 015394 35797
E-mail: info@heatoncooper.co.uk

The gallery and art shop is a small family business established by artist Alfred Heaton Cooper in 1905.

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A World In Miniature Museum

Houghton Hall Garden Centre, Houghton, Carlisle, Cumbria, CA6 4JB
Tel: 01228 400388     E-mail: info@aworldinminiature.com

This amazing museum contains one of the world's top three collections of miniatures.

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Artists' Open Studio

Glen Cottage, Blencarn, Penrith, Cumbria, CA10 ITX
Tel: 01768 88688   

Artists Alan Stones and Rebecca Payn invite you to visit their studio

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The Bond Museum

Southey Hill Trading Estate, Keswick, Cumbria CA12 5NR
Tel: 017687 75007     E-mail: thebondmuseum@aol.com

Welcome to Keswick's brand new visitor attraction, the James Bond Museum

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Museum of Lakeland Life

Abbot Hall, Kendal, Cumbria, LA9 5AL
Tel: 01539 722464    Fax: 01539 722494
Email: info@lakelandmuseum.org.uk

Telling the story of Cumbria's varied social and industrial past.

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Farfield Mill

Garsdale Road, Sedbergh, Cumbria LA10 5LW
Tel: +44 (0)15396 21958     E-mail: admin@farfieldmill.org

There are four floors of inspiration and entertainment to discover at Farfield Mill

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