The English ceremonial county of Somerset contains a wide range of museums, defined here as institutions (including nonprofit organisations, government entities, and private businesses) that collect and care for objects of cultural, artistic, scientific, or historical interest and make their collections or related exhibits available for public viewing. Non-profit art galleries and university art galleries are also included, but museums that exist only in cyberspace (i.e., virtual museums) are not.
Many of the museums are in listed buildings. In the United Kingdom, this signifies a building which has been placed on the Statutory List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest. In England and Wales, the authority for listing is granted by the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990, and is presently administered by English Heritage. Listed buildings in danger of decay are included on English Heritage's Buildings at Risk Register. There are three types of listed status: Grade I, for buildings "of exceptional interest, sometimes considered to be internationally important"; Grade II*, for "particularly important buildings of more than special interest"; and Grade II, for buildings that are "nationally important and of special interest".
Many of the museums have been accredited by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council, which sets national standards for museums in the UK. Several are art galleries providing space for the exhibition of art, or are philatelic, regimental, science, aviation, transport, railway, toy, religious or sports museums, but the majority are local museums. There are also several historic house museums owned or managed by the National Trust or English Heritage.
|Ashton Windmill||Chapel Allerton
||Sedgemoor||Mill||A tower mill dating from the 18th century, it was modernised in 1900 with machinery brought from the demolished Moorlinch mill, and iron hoops were added around the building. It was restored in 1967. The mill has been designated by English Heritage as a Grade II* listed building. Now preserved, it was given to Bristol City Museum in 1966. It is currently owned by Sedgemoor District Council, and maintained by volunteers. In 2010, Sedgemoor Council decided it could no longer afford to maintain the windmill, and appealed for an independent group of trustees to take on responsibility for the building.|
|Bishops Lydeard Mill and Rural Life Museum||Bishops Lydeard
||Taunton Deane||Mill||The building dates from the 18th century. It has an overshot waterwheel and has been designated as a Grade II listed building. Since 2000, the building has been renovated. It was opened by the town Mayor in 2003. The water wheel weighs over two tonnes and is driven by water from Back Stream, which originates in the Brendon Hills. The museum focuses on traditional trades and crafts, including a wheelwright's shop, cooper's shop, saddler's shop, blacksmith's shop and a Victorian kitchen.|
|Blagdon Lake Pumping Station and Visitor Centre||Blagdon
||North Somerset||Technology||The museum includes science and environment exhibits and hands-on displays as well as a room dedicated to the charity WaterAid. One of the two steam-driven beam engines is still working occasionally. Outside, there is a nature trail and space for picnics. In 1984, it was decided to preserve the two remaining engines and incorporate them as the central feature in the visitor centre, including a museum in the old boiler house, which opened in 1988 and attracts over 30,000 visitors a year. The pumping station is now a Grade II listed building.|
|Blue Anchor Railway Museum||Blue Anchor
||West Somerset||Railway||The station buildings have been restored and the waiting room on the westbound platform was converted to a railway museum in 1985. It opened in 1986 under the auspices of the West Somerset Railway Steam Trust. Staffing is provided by the Friends of Blue Anchor Railway Museum, who also undertake fundraising activities. The museum now contains around 550 items, mainly related to the Great Western Railway or other West Country lines.|
|Castle Cary and District Museum||Castle Cary
||South Somerset||Local||The museum is housed in the Market House, a Grade II* listed building. There is a varied collection of exhibits; the earliest are local fossils including ammonites, with a display about the discovery of an ichthyosaurus at Alford. Local industry and agriculture are represented by displays on the production of rope and hemp. There are also examples of agricultural implements, tools and relics, with an explanation of the local geology. Information is also provided about Cary Castle, and a room is dedicated to the life and work of Parson James Woodforde.|
||South Somerset||Local||Housed in a 16th century thatched building. Exhibits tell the story of the town and the local area including the geology, the fire of 1577, the Monmouth Rebellion, and the local lace mills. Outside there is a blacksmith's forge and display of farm machinery. There are also displays on notable people with connections to the town: John Stringfellow and William Samuel Henson, who achieved the first powered flight, James Gillingham, who pioneered the development of articulated artificial limbs, Corporal Samuel Vickery who was awarded the Victoria Cross in 1897 during the Tirah Campaign, and Margaret Bondfield, the UK's first woman cabinet minister.|
|Claverton Pumping Station||Claverton
||Bath and North East Somerset||Technology||A water pumping station with waterwheel that pumps water from the River Avon to the Kennet and Avon Canal using power from the flow of the River Avon; it has been designated as a Grade II listed building.|
|Dunster Working Watermill||Dunster
||West Somerset||Mill||This watermill in the grounds of Dunster Castle, built around 1780 and restored to working order in 1979, is on the site of a mill mentioned in the Domesday Book. It has been designated as a Grade II listed building, and is operated by the National Trust.|
|East Somerset Railway||Cranmore
||Mendip||Railway||A heritage railway and museum, located at the old station, it contains a red telephone box that incorporates a stamp machine and post box (one of only 50 made), produced around 1927. Opposite the platform, there is a signal box dating from 1904, which is in the standard Great Western Railway pattern of the period.|
|Fleet Air Arm Museum||RNAS Yeovilton
||South Somerset||Aviation||The museum has an extensive collection of military and civilian aircraft, as well as models of Royal Navy ships, especially aircraft carriers. There are some interactive displays. It is located by RNAS Yeovilton, and the museum has viewing areas where visitors can watch military aircraft (especially helicopters) take off and land. There are 94 aircraft in the museum's collection.|
||Mendip||Local||A collection of local history, this museum has a particularly important collection of artefacts from the bronze foundry of J. W. Singer. A display is devoted to the Butler and Tanner printing works in the town, including an old printing press. Another display exhibits photographs, diagrams, plans and tools from James Fussell's Ironworks of Mells. Other displays show items from Bussman Cooper (later Beswicks), the Marston House Fire Engine, local blacksmithing, a chemist shop from Bath Street and a collection of Victorian and later costumes. The Italianate building was built as a Literary and Scientific Institute in 1865. It is a Grade II listed building.|
||South Somerset||Mill||Much of the current mill was built in 1810 but it includes parts of the 18th-century building and possibly some material from earlier mills. It is a Grade II* listed building. Most of the machinery, including the grindstones, conveyors, sack hoist and grain bins, dates from 1888, and is still used for grinding animal feed and occasionally whole wheat flour. The South Somerset Hydropower Group was begun in 2001 and the first turbine, at Gants Mill, was commissioned in 2003. The water garden includes seasonal displays of iris, roses, delphiniums, day lilies, clematis, and dahlias.|
|Haynes Motor Museum||Sparkford
||South Somerset||Automobile||The museum contains over 400 cars and motorcycles and a collection of other automobilia. The museum, which was established in 1985, is an Educational Charitable Trust chaired by John Haynes OBE, of Haynes Publishing Group, the company which publishes the Haynes Manuals.|
||North Somerset||Aviation||The museum houses a collection of more than 80 helicopters and autogyros from around the world, both civilian and military, particularly from the Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc. Examples include the Kamov Ka-26 Hoodlum and the Mi-24 Hind, as well as more modern machines such as the EH-101.|
|Lambretta Scooter Museum||–||Weston-super-Mare
||North Somerset||Transportation||The museum houses a total of 61 Lambretta models – at least one from each year between October 1947 and May 1971. The private collection ranges from three model "A"s, first produced in 1947, to Lambro three wheelers, Lambretta mopeds, sales leaflets, accessories, posters, magazines, manuals, toys, models, signs, and promotional material. The museum was re-opened on 9 August 2008, after refurbishment of it and its exhibits.|
|Museum of Bath at Work||Bath
||Bath and North East Somerset||Local||This museum was established in 1978 to present the commercial development of Bath over the last 2,000 years. The main exhibit is the reconstruction of an engineering and mineral water manufacturing business set up by Victorian entrepreneur Jonathan Bowler in 1864. The museum's displays, occupying four floors, also cover local history, including industry and trades, and detail the city's development as a retailing and manufacturing centre, and as a tourist and health resort.|
|Museum of South Somerset||Yeovil
||South Somerset||Local||Based in the former coach house to Hendford Manor, the museum contains displays of local history and geology, particularly local industries such as leather and glove-making, flax and hemp production, stone working, engineering and newspaper printing. The displays cover various stages of the history of the area from the prehistory and the Roman period through to the agricultural and industrial revolutions, and include a reconstructed Roman dining room and kitchen with mosaics recreated from excavations of local villas at Westland, Lufton, and Ilchester.|
||Bath and North East Somerset||Multiple||Many of the exhibits relate to the now-disused local Somerset coalfield and geology. Other displays show aspects of local history, including the school and shops, and industries such as agriculture, a forge, and a carpenter's shop. Artefacts and memorabilia of the Somerset Coal Canal, Somerset and Dorset and Great Western Railways are also on display. There is also a Victorian classroom and displays relating to John Wesley and Horatio Nelson Ward. The museum is housed in the restored and converted Victorian Market Hall, a Grade II listed building dating from 1897.|
|Somerset and Dorset Railway Heritage Centre||Midsomer Norton
||Bath and North East Somerset||Railway||Based at Midsomer Norton railway station, the site includes restored station buildings, a signalbox and a goods shed. The museum is located in an old stable block. It has almost a quarter of a mile of railway and a diesel locomotive.|
|Somerset and Dorset Railway Trust Museum||Washford
||West Somerset||Railway||The museum contains relics of the Somerset and Dorset Joint Railway (S&DJR), including station nameboards, lamps, tools, signalling equipment, tickets, photographs, handbills, rolling stock and steam locomotives. The Trust's Peckett and Sons 0-4-0ST No. 1788 "Kilmersdon" is normally based here. Next to the original stone station building of 1874 is a much smaller wooden building, which was originally the Great Western Railway's signal box. This structure now houses a recreation of the interior of the S&DJR signal-box at Midford. A second signal box is used as part of a signalling display in the yard, and was formerly used on the S&DJR at Burnham-on-Sea.|
|Somerset Brick and Tile Museum||Bridgwater
||Sedgemoor||Industry||The museum is dedicated to the brick and tile industry of Somerset. It incorporates the last surviving "pinnacle kiln" in Bridgwater, which dates from the 19th century, and has been designated as a Scheduled Ancient Monument and Grade II* listed building. The kiln was one of six at the former Barham Brothers' Yard at East Quay. It was last fired in 1965, the year that the works closed. Demonstrated inside are the tools, methods and processes involved in making a variety of bricks, tiles, and terracotta plaques.|
|Somerset Rural Life Museum||Glastonbury
||Mendip||Rural||A museum of the social and agricultural history of Somerset, housed in buildings surrounding a 14th-century barn once belonging to Glastonbury Abbey, and once used as a tithe barn. It has been designated as a Grade I listed building and is a Scheduled Ancient Monument. The barn and courtyard contain displays of farm machinery from the Victorian or early 20th-century period.|
|Stembridge Tower Mill||High Ham
||South Somerset||Mill||Operated by the National Trust, it is the last remaining thatched windmill in England and the last survivor of five windmills that once existed in the area. Constructed in 1822, the mill has been designated as a Grade II* listed building. The mill is owned by the National Trust and underwent a £100,000 restoration by local craftsmen funded by the Grantscape Community Heritage Fund in 2009; it re-opened later that year.|
|West Somerset Rural Life Museum and Victorian School||Allerford
||West Somerset||Rural||The building was constructed in 1821 as the village school and was closed in 1981. It is now rented from the National Trust. In 1983 it was opened as a museum, by a charitable trust, with displays of artefacts from West Somerset including cookery, laundry, tradesmen's tools, and agricultural equipment. One room in the thatched part of the building has been retained as a Victorian classroom, where children can dress in original clothing, sit at original desks and write on slates.|
|West Somerset Railway||Bishops Lydeard
||Taunton Deane||Railway||A heritage railway with exhibits at the Bishops Lydeard railway station. On the original platform the old goods shed has been restored and is used as a visitor centre and museum; its artefacts includes a Great Western Railway sleeping car, and the Taunton Model Railway Club's model railway layout is on display.|
|Westonzoyland Pumping Station Museum||Westonzoyland
||Sedgemoor||Technology||The museum is housed in the first of several similar pumping stations to be built on the Somerset Levels. The main attraction is the 1861 steam engine and pump, the only one still in its original location and in working order. The museum also displays a number of other steam engines and pumps, along with a short length of narrow gauge railway. The pump house has been Grade II* listed and is on the English Heritage Buildings at Risk Register.|
|Yeovil Railway Centre||Yeovil
||South Somerset||Railway||Created in 1993 in response to British Rail's decision to remove the turntable from Yeovil Junction. Approximately a 1⁄4 mile of track along the Clifton Maybank spur is used for demonstration trains. The site contains a Great Western Railway transfer shed built in the 1860s, which was erected to facilitate the transfer of goods from 7 ft 01⁄4 in (2,140 mm) broad gauge to 4 ft 81⁄2 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge freight wagons. This is the last remaining shed of its type and has been converted to a visitor centre. The site also has an S.R. turntable and a 15,000-imperial-gallon (68,000 l; 18,000 US gal) water tower.|
The Peat Moors Centre, Westhay, was dedicated to the archaeology, history and geology of the Somerset Levels. It also included reconstructions of some of the archaeological discoveries, including a number of Iron Age round houses from Glastonbury Lake Village, and the world's oldest engineered highway, the Sweet Track. The museum closed in 2009 and its status remains uncertain.
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