Sherborne Museum

Sherborne Museum next to part of the old town wall

The Sherborne Museum is centrally located in Church Lane that runs from the Conduit in the market place to the Abbey. Founded in 1968 by members of Sherborne Historical Society, the Museum occupies what used to be the gatehouse and almonry associated with the former Benedictine monastery. It is now a Grade II listed building. From the outset, it aimed to preserve local heritage for the people of Sherborne and represents the town’s geological, historical, social and industrial development from prehistory to recent times, as well as its natural history. The museum  is fully accredited and entirely run by volunteers.

Sherborne Museum ©Josie Elias

Sherborne Museum
©Josie Elias

Highlights include a unique medieval wall painting discovered in Long Street, fossils from the Inferior Oolite, a touch-screen version of the exquisite Sherborne Missal (one of the finest examples of International High Gothic illuminated manuscripts), tools from forgotten crafts, silk and gloving displays, two hundred watercolours of local flora by the pioneering Edwardian artist Diana Ruth Wilson, a famous dolls’ house and an Oral History booth where you can listen to voices from the past relating  everyday lives. The Museum also displays temporary exhibitions created from extensive reserve collections so there is always something new to see, in addition to well-loved favourites. Local schools are often involved in setting up these displays, such as the Olympic and Jubilee exhibits of 2012.

Parkinsonia ammonite

There is a vast photographic archive which, combined with postcards and an art collection, form one of the largest private collections of images of a small town anywhere in the country. One of the latest projects is to digitalise this collection and make it accessible to the public by means of a touch-screen mounted on a podium; it will be possible to take orders to reproduce any image for a modest fee. Another recent project is the creation of a Sensory Trail, intended to enhance the experience of any visitor. The Museum is grateful for the help received from students of the Gryphon School who helped create handling trays of local geological specimens and who came up with such excellent ideas as the “tactile textile pillow” and the “olfactory cookbook” where you can smell recipes from the Iron Age to the 17th century by means of special sachets of herbs and spices secured to its pages.

For those visitors unable to take the stairs there is a virtual tour of the upstairs galleries on DVD.

Detail from the Seige of Sherborne Castle

School visits are actively encouraged and in October 2012 the Museum was awarded the Learning Outside the Classroom Quality Badge whereby teachers can be guaranteed a safe and enriching educational experience for their pupils, with knowledgeable stewards on hand for guidance if necessary. The Museum has also signed up to the “Kids in Museums” manifesto pledging to create child-friendly exhibits and text and to listen to children’s suggestions about what they would like to see in the Museum. There is a range of handling boxes which can be loaned to schools for up to half a term and work-experience opportunities are available for older students.

Gloving display

Admission is  free. Opening times are from the first Tuesday before Easter to a few days before Christmas Tues-Sat 10.30 – 4.30. During the winter the Museum opens on Tuesday and Thursday mornings from 10.30-12.30.  The museum is also open on every 4th Sunday of the month from 10.30am to 1 pm. It is closed throughout January.


Forthcoming events :

Thursday 12 April 11am – 2pm:  All in a Spin with Kathy Henderson

To accompany our “Text and Textile” exhibition we invited local weaver Kathy Henderson to bring her distaff and spinning wheels to demonstrate, as well as some drop spindles for you to have a go!

Have fun with fibres including sheep’s wool, camel hair, alpaca, silk and flax. Kathy will be revealing all the beautiful natural dyes she creates from plants and trees so the museum will be a rainbow of colour and textures.

Free family event, though donations will be welcome.

Thursday 19 July 10.30am – 1pm: Finds Day with Ciorstaidh Trevarthen

Spend time with our Finds Liaison Officer, Ciorstaidh Trevarthen, and bring any mysterious objects you might have found and want identifying. Ciorstaidh brings with her some fantastic artefacts from prehistoric to post medieval for handling and much more to inspire any budding archaeologist!

Free family event with donations welcomed.

Mondays 6, 13 and 20 August 10.30am – 1pm: Messy Museum Monday

Summer holidays mean art, craft and all things sparkly down at the museum so you’re never stuck for things to do. Paint pictures, sculpt with play-doh, create colourful collages or take part in indoor or outdoor treasure hunts.

Children must be accompanied by an adult although grown-ups can wade through the glue and glitter to look at the exhibitions.

Free family sessions but donations will be welcomed.

Saturday 1 September 11am – 3pm: Sherborne Museum’s Cider Saturday

Did you know that the countryside around Sherborne and the Blackmore Vale was considered to be one of the best cider-producing areas in the UK?

We celebrate autumn and our cider-making heritage by inviting local producers to show off their wares; you’ll be able to ask questions about growing and maintaining orchards and the production of the golden liquid as well as being able to taste samples of appley goodness.

Free but donations will be welcomed.

Sunday 16 September 11am – 3pm: Heritage Open Day – Behind the Scenes at Sherborne Museum

A tantalising glimpse behind the scenes at the museum on a day when it is normally closed – learn about conservation techniques and see some of our rarer documents, textiles and artefacts. An opportunity to have a chat with the curator and some of the researchers, and a day to appreciate our grade II listed building, The Abbey Gatehouse.

Free but donations will be welcomed

Saturday 6 October 11am – 3pm: Suffragist Jam-boree

In honour of the centenary of women being able to vote, we are holding a “jam sale” where home-made jams, chutneys, marmalades and similar delectables will be available for a donation.

In the C19th, women wrote recipe books liberally sprinkled with propaganda for their Cause and raised money for charities through the sale of jams and preserves. While cookery is not usually seen as subversive, women resorted to what they knew in order to raise awareness for Women’s Suffrage and create networking opportunities; it was also intended as a rebuttal to accusations that women who wanted equality in the vote were neglectful of their families.

We are calling on all you jam-makers out there to contribute! Bring your recipes for swapping, too.

Half of all proceeds will be given to The Pink Ribbon Foundation for Breast Cancer Awareness month.

Friday 19 October 7pm, Digby Memorial Hall, Digby Road, Sherborne: Big Fat Museum Quiz

A fun general knowledge quiz with a smattering of questions about the Dorset you know and love!

Tickets will be bookable in advance at £5 per person; teams of up to 8 welcome.

Light refreshments available; bring your own drink and glasses.

A raffle will also be held. Funds in aid of Sherborne Museum

Friday 23 November 7pm, Digby Memorial Hall, Digby Road, Sherborne: Make We Mery As We May with Frances Eustace

Frances is a leading light in the world of early music and dance, playing on authentic instruments and talking about their history.

Kick off the festive season with a magical medieval musical Christmas celebration and a glass of mulled wine and a mince pie.

Admission: £7 (£5 to members)

For further details see the Museum website  or contact the Tourist Information Office.

Sherborne Museum
Church Lane

Telephone: +44 (0)1935 812 252


Sherborne Museum exhibit ©Josie Elias

Sherborne Museum exhibit
©Josie Elias

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