Slow Cotswolds

  • It's International Museum Day - and here's the Cotswolds' finest

    In honour of International Museum Day, celebrating the importance of museums that enrich our lives, I thought I'd share some of my favourite museums in the Cotswolds. For the area is rich in museums, many of them small and run by a dedicated band of volunteers but all providing valuable insight into the area.

    Several of the museums are free to visit, or simply request a small donation in appreciation. I think you'll appreciate those I've included below. And the selection here, doesn't even begin to cover the many historic houses and properties in the Cotswolds that also have fine collections to view, or indeed the notable museums of gateway towns, Stratford-upon-Avon, Oxford and Bath.

    So, here's my pick of magnificent Cotswold museums (listed, roughly, from north to south in location):

    Court Barn Museum, Chipping Campden: celebrating a hundred years of the Arts and Crafts Movement in and around the town, which became (it still is) an important part of modern day creativity. The craftsman C.R. Ashbee is well represented.

    Gordon Russell Design Museum, Broadway: offering a glimpse into the world of Arts and Crafts furniture designer Sir Gordon Russell, one time head of the Design Council.

    Broadway Museum & Art Gallery, Broadway: if you're in Broadway to visit the museum above, you might as well visit two. With links to the formidable Ashmolean Museum, the Broadway Museum & Art Gallery offers displays of period furniture, ceramics and paintings, including works by Gainsborough and Reynolds.

    Chipping Norton Museum, Chipping Norton: come here to discover the roots of baseball and a history of this charming Cotswold town, including its connections to the Bay City Rollers, Status Quo and Duran Duran.

    The Wilson: Cheltenham Museum & Art Gallery, Cheltenham: I mentioned this fabulous museum in my last blog post. For that, I spoke of the permanent exhibition about polar explorer Edward Wilson. But the museum also holds an internationally recognised collection of furniture and artwork relating to the Arts and Crafts Movement. It's a vast collection and the information provided helps visitors to the Cotswolds understand the various connections between the area and the Movement.

    Cotswold Motor Museum, Bourton-on-the-Water: visit here for an interesting collection of historic cars (more than 40 on display), motorcycles and motoring memorabilia together with a historic collection of toys. This is a great place for lovers of nostalgia.

    Cogges Manor Farm Museum, Witney: there's plenty to do outdoors as well as indoors at this historical farm, with many daily activities in the beautiful gardens and grounds. A perfect museum for summer and a popular one with children.

    Corinium Museum, Cirencester: one of the larger museums in the Cotswolds and noted for its fabulous collection of Roman artifacts, including some spectacular Romano-British mosaics - some of the finest you'll see in the world.

    Churchill & Sarsden Heritage Centre, Churchill: this tiny museum has one of the most scenic settings of any museum in the Cotswolds, situated in the Evenlode Valley overlooking the 'lost' village of Churchill. The exhibits focus around the villages' famous sons including William Smith, the Father of English Geology and creator of the first geological map of England, Scotland and Wales.

    Oxfordshire Museum, Woodstock: a small museum with a gargantuan part to play in the history of the county. There's masses of fascinating social history here. Did you know that Woodstock was the place to purchase a pair of leather gloves in the 18th and 19th centuries? All thanks to neighbouring Blenheim Palace.

    Museum in the Park, Stroud: one of my 'favourite favourites'! Free to enter, you'll discover the history of textiles and its importance to the Cotswolds and particularly the Stroud Valleys. There's also a corner on Cotswold writer Laurie Lee, plus a magnificent, recently restored, flower garden (see my earlier blog post on the opening of this garden). The museum itself is set in a picturesque parkland setting.

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