Beaminster Museum reflects and interprets the rich social history of this rural West Dorset market town and the surrounding villages.
Your steady passage through countless generations of traditional rural craftsmen, agricultural labourers and flax dressers will be rocked by the awful excitement of fires, floods and warfare. You may spot hunters, older even than Neanderthals, who left behind their rough tools, before you finally arrive at the farthest reaches of your imagination in a warm, shallow Jurassic sea, teeming with ammonites.
The town and its surroundings
From the Middle Ages Beaminster has been a market town in an agricultural environment. Sheep farming once predominated, but dairy farming is now more important. A thriving flax industry provided work for all ages in the 18th and 19th centuries. Much of the flax was spun and woven into sailcloth, and this area was the main supplier for the British Navy.
Communication has always been a challenge. The surrounding countryside is hilly, so the canals and railways never came. One remarkable feat of pre-Victorian civil engineering was Horn Hill Tunnel, still busy today. But a combination of transport difficulties, competition from cotton sails and steamships, and a series of agricultural depressions led to a decline in the importance of the local area.
The changes over the last 200 years are clear to see with our rolling slide-show. The industries have changed from sailcloth, through the manufacture of slide rules and Henry vacuum cleaners, to the present Clipper Teas and food additives.
As we are not far from the Jurassic Coast, we have fossils on our doorstep and are proud of our links with Horn Park Quarry. It is the country’s smallest National Nature Reserve, but internationally known for its unique range of ammonites and other marine creatures.
Our impressive fossil collection is backed by geological and palaeontological information describing the significance of Horn Park Quarry.
We also have a range of Stone-Age handaxes, including pre-Neanderthal specimens over 250,000 years old which were found locally.
And there are displays of Bronze and Iron Age finds, alongside exhibits from a nearby Roman villa.
Our Agriculture Corner features a cobwebby, rodent-infested barn with farm implements of bygone days. There are exhibits and artefacts from the worlds of sheep, milk and arable.
Flax and sailcloth
Our exhibition is the result of a special study, giving a unique insight into the industry, from the growing of the crop to the weaving of linen to produce canvas, nets, smocks and sailcloth.
And lots, lots more besides…
Something for all the family
There are Do & Learn activities for children of all ages, from simple I-Spy hunts to hands-on fossils, puzzles, quizzes and dressing up.
Those who wish to take the weight off their feet may sit and browse old photographs or books of local historical interest.
Our shop is full of things associated with our area. It is ideal for finding gifts with a local flavour, including books written by our own volunteers. Many of these items are exclusive to the museum.
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