Themed Museums to visit

Written by: Elmtree Press

England became inhabited more than 800,000 years ago, as the discovery of stone tools and footprints in Norfolk has revealed.  Since then the centuries have passed each with further discoveries and artefacts, many of which are painstakingly researched, restored and looked after by our many museums scattered around the country.

Many museums have themes but each one is well worth a visit.  Our heritage is rich and varied and something to be proud of!

Our themed museums usually have members of staff in costume and completely in role, to regale you with tales of past times.  Here are a few of our favourites.


1620’s House and Garden

The house has beautifully restored period rooms, living history interpreters in costume and inspirational workshop spaces. It is set in beautiful 17th century-style gardens with labelled plans & flowers, orchard, herb garden and maze. Be inspired by the landscape, the natural beauty, the history, the architecture, the objects, the stories, the families who owned the house and the links to the Gunpowder Plot. Their workshops and activities are for all ages and levels and have strong curriculum links.

Black Country Living Museum

The Black Country Living Museum is an award-winning corner of the West Midlands and is now one of the finest and largest open-air museums in the United Kingdom. After very humble beginnings, a bright idea and 40 years of inspiration, this is twenty-six acres worth exploring. Amazing as it may seem, they have created a ‘place’ – a real and lively place, where once there was nothing and nobody. With a village and charismatic residents to chat with. Trams to ride. Games to play. Things being made. Stories to hear. People - their triumphs to admire and troubles to be thankful that are not ours. Time to be well spent.

Canterbury Tales

Your adventure begins in London. Here you will meet the first of your costumed guides who’ll prepare you for your pilgrimage to Canterbury. As you leave your guide to walk alongside Chaucer’s pilgrims, you’ll find yourself in the midst of a story-telling contest. Five of Chaucer’s colourful and entertaining tales of love, infidelity, intrigue, courtship and death are brought vividly to life as you make your journey through the recreated medieval scenes and listen to the audio guide. When you reach Canterbury, you will be met by a second costumed guide who will take you to your ultimate destination- the shrine of St Thomas Becket.

Leighton Hall

A wonderful chance to explore what life was life for Victorian Children. The Victorians come to life through role – playing, their funny stories and through antique household items which the children are encouraged to touch and feel.

Shakespeare’s Birthplace Trust

The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust offers high quality, experiential, educational workshops, fully immersing children in practical and creative learning. Their award-winning workshops are hands-on and interactive, adhering to and enhancing the National Curriculum whilst bringing Shakespeare and British history to life. From Key Stage 1 to A Level, they will work with you, inspiring your students, and enriching their experience of William Shakespeare in memorable and rewarding ways.

Thackray Museum

Thackray Medical Museum is building the museum out LEGO!  For a donation of just £1, visitors and supporters can place a brick into the scaled down model of the museum, which when completed, will contain over 150,000 bricks.  Thackray in LEGO Bricks is raising money towards the museum’s £4 million campaign A Healthy Future, which is due for completion in Spring 2020. With new and updated exhibitions, new visitor experiences and vital repairs to the fabric of the Grade II listed building, the redevelopment will see the museum transformed.  The museum has already received support from, amongst others, the Heritage Lottery Fund, Wellcome Trust and the Thackray Medical Research Trust, but it needs help to raise the remaining £300,000. To get involved in the big build, head over to the museum or, if you can’t get down in person, donate online through the website

Ripon Museum

Their three museums located in central Ripon - a Victorian Workhouse, Georgian Prison and Georgian Courthouse - bring Dickensian times to life. The award-winning schools programme, set in these atmospheric buildings, uses role-plays, costumed interpreters and hands-on activities for a fantastic day of active learning from KS1 to GCSE.

Tudor World

Discover the secret life of the Tudors at this atmospheric interactive museum, with recreations of various areas of 16th century life.  You can visit a plague cottage; lie in an Elizabethan bed; or try quill-writing. Set within an historic 16th century building, the museum brings history to life!


JORVIK Viking Centre stands on the site of one of the most famous and astounding discoveries of modern archaeology. Between the years 1976-81 archaeologists from York Archaeological Trust revealed the houses, workshops and backyards of the Viking-Age city of Jorvik as it stood 1,000 years ago. Under your feet you will see the reconstructed excavation exposing timber-framed and wattle houses. You will also see 1,000-year-old timbers and artefacts and find out how these fascinating objects were unearthed, conserved and researched.

Bosworth Battlefield Heritage Centre

Bosworth Battlefield Heritage Centre tells the dramatic story of the Battle of Bosworth on Monday 22nd August 1485, which marked a major turning point in English history. Education sessions are delivered by a skilled team of re-enactors and museum educators. They are aimed at all groups and have strong links across the curriculum. The sessions include role play, real artefacts, object handling, film, dressing up and crafts, and interpret three of the biggest subjects in history - the Wars of the Roses, The Tudors and the Roman Empire.

Oxford Castle and Prison

Oxford Castle & Prison is located on the former site of HMP Oxford but has stood as a Castle for 1000 years. The attraction offers regular 40-minute guided tours which explain the origins of Oxford and the role the Castle played in the city’s rich history. Visitors explore the Saxon stone-built St. George’s Tower, the atmospheric crypt, the preserved Georgian prison wing and the ancient man-made mound offering breath-taking views over Oxford’s dreaming spires.