Museums in Dorset




23-27 High Street, Wimborne, Dorset

This is an award-winning museum set in an Elizabethan town house, which tells the story of life in East Dorset. Visitors can explore period rooms, including a Georgian parlour, 17th century hall and Victorian kitchen, as well as a beautiful secret garden. It is open from April to October and a small admission fee applies.

Lime Tree House, The Plocks, Blandford Forum, Dorset

This museum houses over 250 years of costumes in a beautiful Georgian building with a tea room and shop. Closed from mid-December to mid-February. Admission charges apply but children under 7 can enter for free.

The Square, Swanage, Dorset

Open daily from Easter until October

Discover the story of Swanage from dinosaurs and the Jurassic coastline to the seaside resort and World War II. You can see period shop displays including Burt’s Stores and Lloyds Dispensing Chemists, re-live the local stone trade and experience World War II ARP Headquarters. The museum is open daily from Easter until October and admission is free.

Blandford Camp, Blandford, Dorset

An interactive museum of communications, science and technology. Displays include ENIGMA, elite special forces, motorcycle collection, and animals at war to name but a few. Open mid-February until the end of October. Moderate admission charges apply.

langton

St George's Close, Langton Matravers, Swanage, Dorset

Enjoy the heritage of Purbeck stone with an audio-visual introduction, displays of fossils, geology, worked stone, tools, photographs and a reconstruction of a section of quarry mine and its capstan. It is open on Monday to Saturday from April until September. A small admission charge applies to adults but children under 10 can enter for free.

Bere's Yard, Blandford Forum, Dorset

Find out the history of Blandford Forum from the Stone Age to the present day, including memorabilia from the two World Wars and recreations of bygone life in Blandford. The museum also has a Victorian children’s playroom with a doll’s house and toys. Open April to September with a small admission charge for adults but children can enter for free.

Poole, Dorset

Poole Museum has just undergone a major redevelopment thanks to a generous grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The front of the building has been transformed by a new glass and steel structure designed by award-winning architects Horden Cherry Lee, and the light-filled glass atrium creates a stunning new entrance with a viewing terrace on the third floor to provide visitors with an orientation point and views across Poole and the harbour. The museum tells the story of two thousand years of Poole’s history and the new displays enable greater access to the collections and feature objects seen for the first time, including the iron-age log boat.

East Cliff, Bournemouth, Dorset

In 1901, Merton gave his wife Annie a dream home on a cliff-top overlooking the sea. It was an extraordinary, extravagant birthday present – lavish, splendid and with a touch fantasy.

They filled this exotic seaside villa with beautiful objects from their travels across the world and lined the walls with a remarkable collection of British art creating a unique atmosphere in a most dramatic seafront setting. A home, an art gallery and a museum. Then, they sealed it in time and gave it to the future. The house – beside the sea on Bournemouth’s East Cliff – celebrated the couple’s passion for art and travel, world cultures and natural history.

The main hall is hung floor-to-ceiling with the famous paintings of their day – a remarkable collection of high Victorian and Pre-Raphaelite art, including many works by women artists. Rooms and collections are inspired by their travels – to Japan, Russia, Australia and New Zealand – and by their love of the theatre and the decorative arts. The decor is sumptuous; rich colours, stained glass, luxurious wallpaper, painted ceilings, frescoes and patterned floor tiles. The views are stunning and the cliff-top garden is serene. Four galleries, added in the early 20th century, are used for exhibitions and events and a modern wing showcases the world-renowned Japanese collection.

Merton’s extravagant gift is now one of Bournemouth’s most intriguing visitor attractions. There is also an on-site café and shop.

Open Tuesday – Sunday 10am – 5pm. Find out more at russellcotes.com.

Quay Road, Christchurch, Dorset

The museum contains a variety of objects with local and social historical interest, period costumes, and displays on geology, natural history and archaeology. There is a formal garden with culinary and medicinal herbs and a secluded informal garden with old fashioned roses and uncommon trees and shrubs. The museum is open from Tuesday to Saturday and Sunday afternoons, as well as the spring and summer Bank Holidays. There is no admission charge.

lightbulb

The Old Power Station, Bargates, Christchurch, Dorset

This museum is set in an Edwardian power station and contains unique displays of electrical items ranging from a Bournemouth tram car to boot warmers. Open from Monday to Thursday from April to the end of September plus Fridays during school holidays. Admission charges apply.

Hangar 600, Bournemouth Airport, Christchurch, Dorset

The aviation museum contains a unique collection of ex-military and civilian aircraft, some of which still fly. On display are a Meteor, Hunter, Vampire, Jet Provost, BAC-111, Buccaneer, 1934 Dragon Rapide and the world’s last flying Sea Vixen. Open all year, although times vary.

tank

Bovington, Dorset

Open daily 10am to 5pm except Christmas

The Tank Museum at Bovington brings the story of tanks and tank crews to life, with the world’s best collection of tanks and explosive live action displays. As you explore the museum’s six large halls, you will come face to face with a unique collection of over 200 armoured vehicles. Four powerful exhibitions bring the story of the tank to life. ‘The Tank Story’ tells the story of the tank from its birth in 1915 to the present day. ‘Battlegroup Afghanistan – The Armoured Soldiers’ Story’ puts you in the front line, as combat veterans give on-screen accounts of service alongside the vehicles used on operations today. ‘The Trench Experience’ places you into the shoes of a World War One soldier, from the recruiting office to the front line. In ‘The Discovery Centre’ you will find out how different tanks are used in different ways, find out more about the life of a tank crewman and see inside a ‘cut in half’ tank. There are also explosive Tank Action displays during school holidays, with thundering engines, life-like explosions and expert commentary. You can even experience for yourself the thrill of riding in a tracked vehicle.

Barrack Road, Weymouth, Dorset DT4 8UF

Various, see full listing

The Nothe Fort was built by the Victorians to protect Portland Harbour, and is one of the best preserved forts of its kind. Nothe Fort is located at the entrance to Weymouth Harbour and is a labyrinth of underground passageways and outdoor areas with stunning views of the Jurassic coastline.

The history of the Fort is explained through the many displays, exhibits and audiovisual facilities on the ramparts, gun decks and underground passageways.

You don’t have to be a military enthusiast to enjoy the Nothe Fort. It is a great day out for all the family whatever the weather – but beware, the fort is also haunted!

Facilities

  • Shop
  • Canteen and picnic areas
  • Facilities for those with mobility impediments
  • Dogs welcome
  • Parking (pay and display)

Opening times (2014)

Winter Opening:
Sundays only from 16th February to 30th March
11.00am – 4.30pm

Spring & Summer Opening:
Open daily from 1st April to 30th September
10:30am – 5:30pm

Autumn & Winter Opening:
Sundays only from 5th October – 14th December and Half Term from 25th October to 2nd November
11:00am – 4:30pm

Liberty Road, Portland, Dorset DT5 1AZ

Portland Castle was built by King Henry VIII to defend the anchorage against possible French and Spanish invasion, and the castle’s squat appearance is typical of the artillery forts built in the early 1540s.

Unusually for a fortress of this period, the castle has seen much interior alteration, although the exterior remains largely unchanged. It first witnessed serious fighting during the English Civil War, when it was seized by both Parliamentarians and Royalists. It became a Seaplane Station during World War I, and was at the forefront of the D-Day preparations which helped to end World War II.

The Governor’s Garden, designed by Christopher Bradley-Hole as part of the Contemporary Heritage Garden series, contains an impressive circular amphitheatre made from local Portland stone, with two-level seating for about 200 people. This perfectly sheltered spot is a great place to relax and enjoy the dramatic sea and harbour views.

There are audio tours and a touch tour for the visually impaired. You can even come face to face with Henry VIII in the Great Hall!

Facilities

  • Parking
  • Food and Drink
  • Picnic Area
  • Toilets
  • Gardens
  • Audio Tours
  • Family Friendly
  • Education
  • Foreign Language Audio Tours
  • Venue Hire
  • Commercial Photography and Filming
  • Guide books are available