Museum Snapshots

Bournemouth Transport Museum

Yellow bus from Bournemouth Transport Museum
Leyland bus from Bournemouth Transport Museum marked as a Mobile Museum. Photo by Michael Wadman at Netley rally, 1988.

The Bournemouth Transport Museum was a collection of public transport vehicles on display to the public each summer, probably from the late 1970s. It was later known as the Bournemouth Heritage Collection. Some of the vehicles were returned to commercial service in the early 1990s. The collection changed hands and locations a number of times and was eventually sold at auction in 2011. The bus pictured above now appears to be in the West of England Transport Collection, along with many other Bournemouth vehicles. Interestingly it is labelled as a mobile museum, although we don’t know if it contained any exhibits. As always, if you can offer any information about this, please get in touch.

Image via Michael Wadman on Flickr, where you can also read a short but detailed history of the collection.

Museum Snapshots

Big Four Railway Museum

Post mark for the Big Four Railway museum

Some museums are well documented, while others can be rather elusive. A case in point is the Big Four Railway Museum in Bournemouth, about which we know very little. According to one source it housed a collection of railway locomotive name plates belonging to the enthusiast Frank Burridge and was open in the 1980s. As this postmark suggests, it may also have hosted temporary exhibitions.

Burridge wrote a book about locomotive name plates. As the book’s cover indicates, the Big Four were the four main railway companies in the United Kingdom between 1923 and 1947: Great Western Railway, London, Midland and Scottish Railway, London and North Eastern Railway, and Southern Railway.

A postcard apparently showing the museum’s interior is reproduced below.

Interior of the big four museum with name plates

Images via ebay and Alwyn Ladell on Flickr.


Museum Snapshots

Buxton Transport Museum

Buxton Transport Museum - outside view

The Buxton Transport Museum was relatively short-lived, open for only three years. It was established in 1980 by Peter Clark, a vintage car enthusiast. The site is now occupied by Buxton Mineral Water company.

Buxton Transport Museum - badge

Images and information via Badge Collectors Circle and Derbyshire Through Time by Margaret Buxton on Google Books.

Museum Snapshots

The Douglas Museum

Sign for The Douglas Museum - The House of Wonders
Sign for The Douglas Museum installed at Castleton Visitor Centre, 2017

The Douglas Museum was the brainchild of Randolph Osborne Douglas, who created it in his home in Castleton, Derbyshire with his wife Hetty. Douglas was a silversmith, locksmith, and amateur escapologist with the stage name of The Great Randini, inspired by his childhood hero Houdini. His collection included miniature houses, locks, models of the world’s largest diamonds, a variety of Houdini ephemera, and many other curios.

Douglas opened his museum in 1926. After he died in 1956, Hetty continued to run the museum until her death in 1978. The collection was transferred to Buxton Museum and parts of it are now on show in the small museum at Castleton Visitor Centre.

Douglas Museum showcase at Castleton Visitor Centre, 2017.
Douglas Museum showcase at Castleton Visitor Centre, 2017.

Images by Mark Liebenrood.

Museum Snapshots

Edinburgh Wax Museum

Edinburgh Wax Museum opened in 1976 and was soon attracting more than 230,000 visitors a year. Displays included Scottish historical figures, fictional characters, and, as you might expect, a chamber of horrors.  The museum was curated by Charles Cameron, a professional magician, who also performed as Count Dracula in night-time shows in the Castle Dracula Theatre on the top floor.

Ticket for Castle Dracula's Gothic House of Terror

Despite its popularity the owners decided to sell the premises for office development and the museum closed in 1989, joining the ranks of lost wax museums. The premises were up for sale again in 2008, but it seems nothing came of plans to reopen the museum.

Images via Flickr.


Museum Snapshots

The Spalding Bird Museum

The Spalding Bird Museum was owned by the Spalding Gentlemen’s Society and run by Ashley K. Maples and taxidermist Ben Waltham. It contained 840 specimens of British birds and many other specimens, in 160 display cases. Maples died in 1950 and a lack of funds forced the Society to sell the premises in 1953, when a small part of the collection was moved to Ayscoughee Hall and much of it loaned to Leicester Museum. The Hall closed for refurbishment in 2003, when the whole bird collection was transferred to Leicester Museums Service.

Images via South Holland Life (PDF)

Ben Waltham, taxidermist, with an Osprey in the Bird Museum’s workshop, 1949
Museum Snapshots

Guernsey Tomato Museum

Little is known about the Tomato Museum, which is said to have closed in 1989. Hudson and Nicholls’ Directory, an invaluable resource for museum researchers, describes it in 1985:

History of tomato-growing on the island, in [a] group of glasshouses built at various dates between the 1890s and 1970s. Crops illustrating the history of the glasshouse industry in Guernsey. Tomato-growing equipment, including an early soil-steamer.

Guernsey tomatoes were an important part of the island’s economy, and in 2003 the Guernsey Museum staged an exhibition about the industry, which might give us a flavour of what the now-lost tomato museum was like.

Image via The Dabbler.

Museum Snapshots

Dinting Railway Centre

The Dinting Railway Centre was open between 1968 and 1990. The brick engine shed was built between 1888 and 1898 for the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway. The centre was run by the Bahamas Locomotive Society, who are based at  Ingrow on the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway. An old badge marks the connection between Dinting and the Society.

bahamas locomotive society dinting badge featuring scots guardsman locomotive

The photo above of the locomotive Scots Guardsman, taken by Hugh Llewelyn, is dated April 1980, and another photo shows a different locomotive, the LNER 60532 Blue Peter, at Dinting in 1983.

lner 532 blue peter at dinting in 1983

Photos by Hugh Llewelyn and via Badge Collectors Circle and rmweb.

Update: this post was updated in April 2022 with a new image at the top and some small changes to the text.

Museum Snapshots

Cheltenham College Museum

Cheltenham College’s museum was created in 1870, and its emphasis on Natural History can be seen in this photo. The public were admitted on one afternoon a week. In 1923 the museum was moved into a larger and more modern building, but was packed away during the Second World War. The museum closed in 1976, when the collection was sold to Liverpool’s World Museum and what is now Portsmouth University.

Read more about the College’s history.

Museum Snapshots

National Butterfly Museum

This postcard dates from 1981. St. Mary’s is a late 15th-century house with extensive gardens, which has been owned by various notable people including the Hon. Algernon Bourke, one-time owner of White’s gentleman’s club in St. James’s, London. Bourke and his wife are said to be the inspiration for characters in Oscar Wilde’s play, The Importance of Being Earnest. A more recent owner was Paul Smart, a lepidopterist with a large collection of butterflies.

Smart founded The Saruman Museum in 1970 in private premises in Tunbridge Wells in Kent. The museum moved from there to Beckley near Rye, Sussex, in 1975, and was established at St. Mary’s in March 1980 as the National Butterfly Museum. Smart was an international expert on butterflies, and published an encyclopedia which contained over two thousand species. The ‘National’ in the museum’s title was never an official designation and caused some disquiet amongst Smart’s colleagues. It has been suggested that although the museum was open to the public and had educational displays, it was primarily a butterfly trading agency.

Whether truly a museum or not, it seems not to have been a financial success. Between forty and fifty thousand specimens from the collection were offered for auction at Christie’s in July 1982, with only two lots sold to Glasgow Museums (PDF). The house and contents including the rest of the collections were successfully auctioned at Sotheby’s in October 1983.

saruman museum paul smart

Advertisement for The Saruman Museum from The Entomologist’s Record and Journal of Variation, vol. 89, 1977.

For more on the history and contents of the two museums, see: Tennent, W. J., 2005. The ‘National Butterfly Museum’ (Bramber, West Sussex) and dispersal of butterfly ‘type’ material following a Sotheby’s sale in 1983., Entomologist’s Gazette, 56 (1): 13-24.