We are now closed for the winter except for events, such as the winter talks series, details below and on the Events Page.

Opening days and times:

See https://beaminstermuseum.co.uk/visit/ for more details.

Our Museum season ended on Sunday October 29th, after which we will be closed and working on exciting new exhibits for 2024 and our winter talks series, with a paperback book sale in February.

Winter talks

We have a busy schedule of winter talks planned.

Beaminster Museum Winter Talks 2023– 2024

Entry £5 per person on the door, cash or card or Apple Pay etc..

  First come, first seated!

28/11/23Georgia PiggottResearching a novel set in 17th century Dorset (With book signing after)  
12/12/23Nick SerpellThe Victorian celebration of death
9/01/24Pauline ThorneImbeciles and lunatics: Mental health care in 18th and 19th century Dorset  
06/02/24Brian EarlSouth Perrott’s own Forty-Niner: John Larcombe’s Californian adventure  
20/02/24Ciorstaidh Heyward TrevarthenRecent local finds through the Portable Antiquities Scheme

Talk synopses

14th November:  Chris Tripp will be digging into his personal archaeological story. He will share some of the highlights of his thirty-year career exploring the deeper past as a professional archaeologist and helping local communities discover the heritage they share under their feet.

28th November:  Georgia Piggott’s interest in local history led to her debut novel ‘Just Causes’. The talk will focus on the sources she drew on to bring her characters and the setting to life, including historical recipes and plague remedies that proved deadlier than the disease. 

12th December:  For more than 10 years Nick worked as the BBC’s obituary editor, a role which fed his interest in genealogy. In this talk Nick will be exploring the elaborate rituals and etiquette that evolved in the Victorian age to help families deal with grief and the inevitability of death.    

9th January:  The talk presents some case studies of local people and institutions to examine the changing response to mental illness in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. What was seen as the likely cause of insanity and how did they attempt to cure it?

6th February:  Hundreds of thousands of prospectors flocked to California during the Gold Rush. One such hopeful was local man John Larcombe . This talk will reveal what drove him to seek his fortune on the other side of the world and whether he struck it rich.

20th February: Archaeological items found by the public and recorded by the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) scheme have much tell us about Dorset’s past. In this talk Dorset Council’s Finds Liaison Officer Ciorstaidh Heyward Trevarthen shares some fascinating local finds.

We always welcome new volunteers, whatever you feel you can contribute to the Museum, to help with displays, welcome visitors, or join the committee or trustees. Contact us through info@beaminstermuseum.co.uk or come along between 10 and 12 on a Friday morning.

We have revamped a number of our existing exhibits, on local agriculture, refreshed how conflict has shaped our area over the years, evolved our stories on paleontology and early man, and added a section on famous individuals with links to Beaminster.


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 now 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. Thanks to National Lottery players.

Come and Visit the Museum for Rural West Dorset!

Visit us 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.

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.


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.

Agricultural implements in a barn

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.


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 and Family History

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 also happy to help out with family history mysteries while adding our own experience and local knowledge to standard resource tools.

To contact our Research team, see Research

To contact our family history team, E Mail familyhistory@beaminstermuseum.co.uk

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.