Yes, I am writing a destination review for Warrington. Seriously. More specifically one very special part of Warrington…our museum. I intend to convince to you by the end of this article that the next destination for your weekend away should be here. Whether you are from the North and are nearby, from the South and therefore a bit of a journey, or even if you are from abroad. We should be on your list of places to see.
The museum and library were originally opened together in 1848. Their current location, now a Grade II listed building in the cultural quarter (yes, we have culture), was built from 1855-1857, officially becoming their home in 1858. In 1877 the art galleries were added. It has the distinction of being one of the oldest municipal museums in the UK. In the past few years the museum has been lovingly and painstakingly renovated, restored, and redone – essentially making it a museum of a museum.
The exterior of Warrington Museum, built between 1855-57.
Nevermind its contents – the building, designed by a neoclassical architect John Dobson, will nestle itself into the very core of your being. Upon entering the first gallery, it will whisper into your ear, “This is what a museum looks like… all other museums are imposters.” This will be repeated ever so quietly upon every gallery you enter, reinforcing what you always have always known, but had never dared voice aloud, that there was a heyday of museums… and it is over. Only clinging to existence in our memories. Sadly, this may be true. But I am here to tell you, not in Warrington. Here, in our museum, the heyday lives on.
So, What About The Collection?
But a building does not a museum make, so what of the collection? The collection. Ohhh… the collection! Founded with the objects of the Warrington Natural History Society, it has grown steadily now housing over 200, 000 items – some so unique they are only found here. That’s right. Only in Warrington.
Inside the Museum of Warrington
Objects covering the art, life, and culture of peoples from far beyond our doors: a sarcophagus, netsuke, mermaids, and more, all in a room whose arrangement is largely untouched since its inception in 1936 (except, because it is a museum of a museum, it has lights that allow you to read the updated object labels). Objects that transport you back into prehistory and then slowly bring you forward in time via Roman roads, into a Medieval town, and on into the industrial revolution. Objects from the natural world with entire galleries devoted to each them: perfect plants, beautiful birds, fantastic fish, and magnificent minerals and fossils. Soon, an entire gallery will be built devoted to cabinets filled with curiosities. A place dedicated to the weird, the wonderful, and the Warrington.
If this is not enough, snuggled in alongside the galleries is the home of an incredible collection of fine art, built upon the shoulders of those who attended the Warrington School of Art – housed within the very building from 1857 to 1884 – one of the finest in the country. Not content to stop there, oh no, there are exhibition spaces dedicated to contemporary and urban art, which feature pieces by artists whose works will one day grace museum and art gallery collections in their own right (if they do not already).
Something For Everyone.
There truly is something for everyone at the Warrington Museum and Art Gallery. It has become a place a refuge for me, regularly reminding me of richness of the history in my adopted hometown. I could not believe my cynical eyes, my ecstatic history-hungry brain, my pure dumb-luck upon entering the museum for the first time when I moved here. I could not understand why I had never heard of this museum, this treasure, in this unexpected of places, Warrington. And neither will you, when you see it for yourself.
Have you visited the cultural centre of Warrington? Let us know your experiences in the comments box below!