Beaminster Museum

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We are now into our Winter season, and welcome visitors to our usual winter activities alongside completing preparations to open our 2 new rooms in April 2022. 

See the events page for more information on the 2021 Winter season:  AGM and winter talks. Note our current COVID Policy will still apply to Winter Season events.

Annual General Meeting Jan 26th

The Beaminster Museum Trust AGM will be held at the Museum on Wednesday January the 26th at 14:30.

Nominations for the Trustees and Committee are open, and all Friends of the Museum are welcome to attend.

See the events page for more Winter Talks Timetable


Winter Talks:

Our popular winter talks return, all on Tuesdays at 2.30pm.  £3 per person entry.   First come, first served for seating.





1st February        Coker Canvas – a History of Sailcloth by Richard Sims

Richard Sims is an industrial historian interested in  the flax and hemp textile industries  and author of a book on sailcloth. Although  Trafalgar was won with Coker quality sailcloth, the manufacture was really centred on Beaminster and Crewkerne. It is time we took more interest in the sailcloth history of our town.

15th February     Smuggling and the Dorset Connection by Trevor Ware

Trevor Ware has been actively involved in the redevelopment of the LSI and West Bay Discovery Centre in Bridport. He will be talking to us on one his other  interests   – the history of smuggling in the West Country.

Smuggling was widespread along the Dorset Coast in the eighteenth and early 19th Centuries. This talk is  an authoritative review of smuggling,  from its reasons to some of its famous Dorset names such as Rattenbury and Gulliver.

1st March             The Durotrigian to Roman transition in West Dorset by Matthew Kirkman

Matthew Kirkman is the new Chairman of Beaminster Museum Management committee, and his talk will be on current thinking on the Roman transition in West Dorset. Current perceptions of a violent transition with beseiged hillforts are being challenged, based on a more impartial review of the evidence, and modern science not previously available.  Mortimer Wheeler’s view, written in London during the Blitz, and influenced by his experiences at Paschaendale in WW1, heavily influenced the field, until challenged by more recent excavations, starting with the 1995 excavations at Maiden Castle.

COVID Policy from July 24 th 2021

Volunteering

Being entirely volunteer run, we are always interested to chat with prospective volunteers. A wide range of opportunities are available to fit in with your interests and time availability. Our curator would be very happy to have an initial  chat with you about volunteer opportunities.  He can be contacted at info@beaminstermuseum.co.uk     We’d love to hear from you.

Most of our volunteering jobs don’t involve hard labour ! (Maintenance work at the Horn Park Quarry NNR shown.)

Extending Beaminster Museum into the community 

Thanks to a National Lottery grant of £99,000 enabling us to build a two-storey rear extension, we will soon have new, much needed space to welcome visiting groups of all ages, to expand our displays and to be an even better focus of local heritage within our community.

Come and Visit the Museum for Rural West Dorset!

 We are now closed to visitors during the winter season other than for events listed on the Events page.   See you in April 2022 in our expanded premises! Covering Beaminster and the parishes of Broadwindsor, Burstock, Chedington, Corscombe, Halstock, Hooke, Mapperton, Mosterton, Netherbury, Seaborough, South Perrott, Stoke Abbott and Thorncombe.

Beaminster Museum reflects and interprets the rich social history of this rural West Dorset market town and the surrounding villages.

‘Delightful. One of the best small museums I have seen.’

We have been awarded the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service.

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.

Some examples of our displays


Ancient times

Our impressive fossil collection is backed by geological and palaeontological information describing the significance of Horn Park Quarry, which can be visited by prior arrangement through the Museum, or on one of the official Open Days, which should restart in 2022.

Volunteers spring cleaning the Quarry in September 2021.

( Shown on the left is a prepared specimen of Brasilia Gigantea from the Middle Jurassic Aalenian Aa11 Zone at Horn Park Quarry.)

We also have a range of Stone-Age hand axes, including pre-Neanderthal specimens over 250,000 years old which were found locally. There are also displays of local Bronze Age and Iron Age finds, alongside exhibits from a nearby Roman villa in Halstock and Waddon Hill Roman Fort.


Agriculture

Agricultural implements in a barn

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

Flax strands

Our exhibition is the result of a special study, giving a unique insight into the local industry, from the growing of the crop to the weaving of linen  to produce canvas, nets, smocks and sailcloth.




Shop

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.


The building

The museum was formerly a Congregational chapel. Converted in 1990, it demonstrates how a ‘listed’ building can be modified to meet present-day needs. The building is a fine example of a non-conformist chapel which, in its time, played an important role in the town, supported by many individuals involved in manufacture and commerce. It was extended at the rear in 2020. The chapel’s 19th century chamber organ has been fully restored and is still played regularly.


Research

We have an enthusiastic, skilled research team and an extensive local reference section containing files on Beaminster and all our other parishes. Many of your questions might find answers here. We are happy to help out with family history mysteries while adding our own experience and local knowledge to standard resource tools.




Privacy Policy

No personally identifiable information is gathered by this website unless you send us an email direct from the site or comment on a page. For emails,  only the information needed to process the email and forward it to the Museum’s recipient is collected. We never share your details with any third party unless you give us express permission in writing.