Britain boast of the largest museums in the world, places like the Science Museum, Natural History Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum, attracting visitors from different parts of the world.
It is also home to a lot of small museums, places that don’t get recognition and are overlooked by most visitors. The museums are dedicated to different facts of British culture from how people lived to things that changed Britain’s destiny.
Here is our list of the best small museums in Britain
The Geffrye, also known as the Museum of the Home, is dedicated to preserving entire rooms from middle-class British houses. Their 11 permanent rooms give a sense of typical British life in the 20th century, while the rotating exhibits focus on other elements of domestic life. The museum’s spacious grounds in East London also lend themselves nicely to picnics in summer months.
William Morris Museum
William Morris was a 19th-century textile designer and one of the major leaders of the Arts & Crafts Movement, which helped popularize decorative arts. His family’s home in the Walthamstow area of London has been converted into a museum paying homage to his work, such as floral wallpapers, woodblock prints, and tiles, as well as that of his friends and collaborators. After a renovation and relaunch in 2012, the museum won Britain’s prestigious Museum of the Year Award.
Combining art with humour, The Cartoon Museum is a museum-cum-gallery with a refreshingly vibrant personality. There’s a major emphasis on British cartoonists, most notably William Hogarth, whose satirical drawings of Georgian-era London made him a pioneer of the genre. The Cartoon Museum shows a selection of original cartoon and comic art, mostly by British artists, from the 1750s to the present day.
John Keats Museum
This is the house where Jon Keats lived for several years and wrote some of his most famous poems, including “Ode to a Nightingale.” The house has many objects that belonged to Keats, including letters and photos, as well as his death mask, which was brought back from Italy after he passed away there. Fans of the Jane Campion film Bright Star should take note, as this is the house where Keats and Fanny Brawne met, fell in love, and became engaged. Brawne’s engagement ring is also on display.
West Bay Discovery Centre
West Bay Discovery Centre is run by volunteers and provides a fascinating insight into West Bay’s past, from its shipbuilding heyday, through its reinvention as a Victorian resort, to recent fame as the location for the TV series Broadchurch. It’s strong on natural history too, with interactive exhibits about the geology and wildlife of the Jurassic Coast, its storms and shipwrecks.
Originally established in 1739 as a hospital which looked after abandoned children, the museum now tells their story. Using oral testimony, original artefacts and photographs, their history is explored and compared to the lives of contemporary children. In addition, the museum displays works by the many artists who became governors of the hospital, including William Hogarth and Handel.
Sigmund Freud Museum
In 1938 the Austrian pioneer of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud fled his Nazi-occupied homeland and settled in the London suburb of Hampstead. For the rest of his life, he lived at a modest house at 20 Maresfield Gardens, where he set up his practice and wrote the book Moses and Monotheism. His daughter Anna Freud lived on at Maresfield Gardens until her death in 1982, and according to her wishes, the house was turned into a museum after her death.
The house holds Freud’s collections of antiquities from different cultures, and personal items related to his psychoanalysis work. The museum is less about his work and more about Freud and the life he shared here with his family.
Sherlock Holmes Museum
More dedicated to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s creation than the writer himself, the museum is located at the fictional consulting detective’s famous address of 221B Baker Street. Inside, the museum is made to look like Holmes’ and Watson’s rooms from the stories, littered with objects and artefacts of their many adventures.
Pollock Toy Museum
Named after Benjamin Pollock, a famous manufacturer of toy theatres, whose shop stood in Covent Garden, the Pollocks Toy Museum is a nostalgic trip into the world of 19th-century toy theatres, one of the most popular children’s pasties during the Victorian period.
Before the days of television and the cinema, children used these model theatres to put on stage shows, complete with scenery backdrops, props and figures of actors. The Toy Museum boasts an extraordinary collection of toy theatres, puppets, and stages occupying a pair of historic townhouses, one dating to the 18th century.
The museum houses the world’s finest collection of fans including exquisite examples from the 18th and 19th centuries. The Fan Museum is housed in a beautifully restored 1721 building which provides a superb and elegant setting for the exhibits. Visitors can also explore the landscaped Japanese-style garden, a spectacular orangery with much-admired mural, and fascinating gift shop. In addition to the permanent collection, temporary exhibitions are arranged approximately every four months.