10 of the best Surrey museums

PUBLISHED: 16:26 03 May 2018 | UPDATED: 16:26 03 May 2018

Sopwith Camel at Brooklands (Photo courtesy of Brooklands)

Sopwith Camel at Brooklands (Photo courtesy of Brooklands)


Duncan Hall highlights some of Surrey’s best museums, all bastions of our county’s history

Brooklands Museum

Brooklands Museum will find out later this month whether its new Aircraft Factory and Flight Shed, which opened in November, has won the Permanent Exhibition category of the Museum + Heritage Awards. It’s an extra attraction at a museum, which already boasts Concorde, eight decades of bicycles, a Formula One simulator and the remains of the banked race track built by landowner Hugh Locke King on his Weybridge estate – a project which exhausted his personal fortune. Open daily, 10am to 5pm, from £13.50/£11.50 concessions/£7 children.

Brooklands Museum Trust, Brooklands Road, Weybridge, KT13 0QN

Haslemere Educational Museum

2018 marks the 130th anniversary of Haslemere’s museum. The museum was founded by Quaker surgeon Sir Jonathan Hutchinson and is centred on his own collection, which he left to the town on his death in 1913. Unlike most museums of the time, festooned with sealed cases and do not touch signs, he encouraged items should be displayed openly. The artefacts cover geology, including ichthyosaur fossils and insects preserved in amber; natural history, featuring the museum’s mascot Arthur the Siberian brown bear; and human history ranging from the Stone Age to Victorian era. Open Tues to Sat 10am to 5pm, admission by donation.

78 High Street, Haslemere, GU27 2LA

Museum of Farnham

Located in a beautiful Georgian town house, with its own walled garden, the Museum of Farnham covers the town’s history from its prehistoric roots to the present day. The museum was founded in 1961 and earned a special commendation at the 1994 European Museum of the Year awards. Find out about the hop-growing boom, the story of political agitator William Cobbett and the inventor of one of the first petrol-driven cars John Henry Knight. Temporary exhibitions in 2018 include a retrospective of the 300 years since Willmer House was built, with a birthday party on Saturday June 9, and an exploration of women’s fashion since 1918. Open Tues to Sat 10am to 5pm, free.

Willmer House, 38 West Street, Farnham, GU9 7DX

Egham Museum

Egham-by-Runnymede Historical Society marked its 50th anniversary last year and the museum it founded marks the same birthday in 2018. Their shared history is being celebrated at the museum in a temporary exhibition. Egham Museum is also opening for the national Museums at Night event – hosting Suffrage-inspired lino printing sessions from 7.30pm to 9.30pm from Thursday May 17 to Saturday May 19 2018. Find out more here. The printing session is part of the Suffrage in Egham project, established to uncover local suffrage stories. An exhibition bringing together stories will open at United Church in Egham from June 11 to 16 before moving to the museum. Open Tues and Thurs 10am to 4.30pm, Sat 10.30am to 12.30pm, free.

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Literary Institute, High Street, Egham, TW20 9EW

Museum of Richmond

Agatha Christie meets Indiana Jones in an archaeological murder mystery being hosted at Richmond Museum as part of the Museums at Night programme on Thursday May 17 2018 from 6pm to 8pm. Visitors will excavate a body and use the objects buried with them to piece together their story, with wine and nibbles as a reward. There will also be a chance to explore the museum’s temporary archaeological exhibition which opens on May 5 2018. The museum marks its 30th anniversary this June with a garden party at Trumpeters House in Old Palace Yard, while an exhibition in October looks back over the last three decades since it was opened by Her Majesty The Queen. Open Tues to Sat 11am to 5pm, free.

Second Floor, Old Town Hall, Whittaker Avenue, Richmond, TW9 1TP

Dorking Museum and Heritage Centre

The former Dorking Foundry was converted into a town museum in 1976. Exhibits include the Ashcombe Collection of locally-sourced fossils and bones of extinct animals, collected photographs and paintings of the town and even a mousetrap collection. Open Thurs to Sat 10am to 4pm, £2/£1 concessions.

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The Old Foundry, 62 West Street, Dorking, RH4 1BS

Kempton Steam Museum and Waterworks Railway

Behind Kempton’s Art Deco façade is the largest working triple-expansion steam engine in the world, which once helped pump 38m gallons of water to North London 12 miles away. The engine house closed in 1980, but was taken over by the Kempton Great Engines Trust 15 years later to bring one of the two triples stored there back to working order. The 1,000-ton engine is fired up during the monthly steaming weekends, which are accompanied by special events including a Stationary Engine display on May 19 to 20 2018. There is also a narrow gauge railway offering rides on a 1903 Andrew Barclay locomotive. Open monthly on Tues, Thurs and at the weekend until November, see website for details, 10.30am to 4pm, £7/£6.

Kempton Park Water Works, Snakey Lane, Hanworth TW13 7ND

The National Archives, Kew

As part of the national Museums at Night programme, Kew’s National Archives will open on Friday May 18 2018 from 6pm to 10pm to tell stories of the battle for women’s suffrage. Law Breakers, Law Makers features an in-conversation event with W1A star Jessica Hynes talking about the creation of her sitcom Up The Women, Naomi Paxton using jiu jitsu to tell the story of women’s voting rights and a preview of the Suffrage 100 exhibition at the Keeper’s Gallery. There will also be live music, curator talks, food and drink, badge-making and a suffrage photo booth. Tickets cost £22 from eventbrite.co.uk. The National Archives hold more than 11 million historical government and public records. Open Tues to Sat, 9am to 5pm, until 7pm Tues and Thurs, free.

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The National Archives, Kew, TW9 4DU

Rural Life Centre, Tilford

Winner of the Queen’s Award for voluntary service in 2015, The Rural Life Centre is set over 10 acres of garden and woodland, incorporating reconstructed rural buildings. In the citation for the award, which is the highest honour a voluntary group can receive, the centre was commended for “working to educate and inform the public about village life circa 1750 to 1970”. As well as the chance to explore a reconstructed chapel, cricket pavilion and school room, the museum boasts a café, picnic area, playground and light railway on Sundays during the summer. Open March to October Wed to Sun and bank holidays 10am to 5pm, winter Sun and Wed only, 11am to 4pm, £10/£9 concessions/£7 children four to 16.

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Reeds Row, Tilford, Farnham, GU10 2DL

Surrey History Centre

Surrey History Centre is the first port of call for anyone wishing to find out more about the county’s archaeology, historic buildings and written heritage. The search room has local studies materials ranging from medieval manuscripts to modern newspapers, as well as the papers of author Lewis Carroll, garden designer Gertrude Jekyll, piano makers John Broadwood and Sons and Dennis Specialist Vehicles. 2018 marks 70 years of the history service and 20 years of the centre itself and there will be a free open day on Saturday, October 20. Other talks and events throughout the year include a free day conference on Surrey, Suffrage and the Arts on Saturday May 19 2018, with lecturer Lucy Ella Rose from the University of Surrey and artist Mary Branson. Open Tues to Fri 9.30am to 5pm, (Weds from 10.15am), Sat 9.30am to 4pm. Closed bank holiday weekends, free.

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Surrey History Centre, 130 Goldsworth Road, Woking, GU21 6ND

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