The Warrington Museum is due to reopen on April 23
PEOPLE had an appetite for curiosities long before reality TV and social media.
A crowd of over 2,000 people gathered for the laying of the cornerstone of the Warrington Museum on September 20, 1855.
Today the museum and gallery, which inspired Alice in Wonderland author Lewis Carroll, is open again after the completion of vital work on the Bold Street site.
When it was established it was the first public museum in the North West and the Culture Warrington team are proud to boast around 200,000 artifacts and treasures from all eras today.
Janice Hayes, Honorary Heritage Curator, said: “To have the museum here in Warrington so early shows what a forward-thinking city we were.
“We were founded in 1848, when there was a revolution all over Europe and a very bad economic state.”
The museum has since gained a national reputation after working with Tate Britain and the Natural History Museum.
And its recently opened Cabinet of Curiosities gallery has also recreated the original vision of the museum’s Victorian founders.
Where else in Warrington can you meet a mermaid, hang out with a highwayman, see a specially commissioned work by taxidermist Polly Morgan, or travel through time and around the world?
“Some of our collections are really quite original,” added Janice, who has worked at the museum since 1977.
“Unlike us, museum visitors couldn’t go on the web, so unless they saw the real thing, they didn’t know what it looked like. So there was someone from Warrington from wealthy industrial families and he had his “cabinet of curiosities”.
“He had all these treasures in there and he was showing them.
“We were laughing the other day because one of the original exhibits says ‘a piece of mosaic from Caesar’s palace’.
“Today you would think he had played in Las Vegas, but he was talking about Caesar’s palace in Rome.”
The town’s great and good – including the Warrington Guardian – turned out for the ceremony when William Beamont, Warrington’s first mayor, laid the cornerstone.
The laying of the foundation stone of the Warrington Museum
Janice, a former history teacher, said: “Nowadays we tend to think of social media and PR campaigns, but they were pretty nifty back then.
“I think it shows that the people of Warrington were very much behind this. I’m intrigued by some of the people who were there that day because this photo was taken by Samuel Mather Webster.
“He ran a pharmacy in Bridge Street but he was also an amateur artist. He was involved with the art school at Warrington and one of those present was a young boy called Thomas Birtles who was an apprentice cabinet maker at the time.
“He became Warrington’s main photographer. He photographed the construction of the ship canal, so you’re starting to wonder who else is in that crowd? »
Spaces on the corner of Bold Street and Museum Street have undergone vital repairs as part of a major restoration costing around £360,000.
Maintenance work has focused on repairing the roof of the Grade II listed building, but there will also be new things to look out for, such as an update to collections in the local history gallery, a mural tailor-made in the archives research room and three new exhibitions.
Due to its age, the roof of the 170-year-old building could no longer be repaired and needed a complete overhaul to ensure it was safe for visitors and suitable for protecting museum and gallery collections.
And a celebration and launch event will take place on Saturday, April 23 and will be free between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
It will include family-friendly care of the entire building with trails and scavenger hunts and drop-in activities such as crafts and storytelling as well as workshops and performances.