About Gillingham Museum -
The Gillingham Local History Society was founded under the umbrella of the Gillingham (Dorset) Parish Council, in 1953, to find a home for the Freame family collection of local historical documents and artifacts. These had been given to the town by the Mr Sidney Carter, who was the benefactor of the items from the will of the last surviving Freame.
At first the collection was housed at Gillingham Modern School and could only be viewed by special arrangement. In 1958 the Local History Society was fortunate in being made a gift of a pair of small cottages in Church Walk by Mr Ernest Samways, a local chemist.
The cottages served very well until the 1980's when it was realised that more modern premises were needed to support the growing town, and to provide the contents with better controlled conditions.
After much discussion it was decided to build an extension to the new library which would meet the access and conservation criteria required to meet the 21st century. After much fund raising and a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund in their very first round of awards, the Museum was finally officially opened in October 1996.
The Exhibition - by way of a tour
Upon entering the museum you will first encounter the Geological section,
this shows the creatures that lived around here when the area was under the sea with examples of sea monster, crocodile and other fossils from prehistoric times.
Also within this section there is an explanation about the brick making industry which exploited the local clay deposits, and this industry was active for over 150 years within Gillingham and the surrounding area. In addition, there is a large format view of the High Street from the 1890s, together with tha same view today which shows how the town has retained much of its original charm.
Working around the Museum, set out in chronological order, we are pleased to show a series of illustrated panels commissioned from Joan Haig. We start with an Iron age settlement as it may have been in the Commonmead Lane area.
This is adjacent to a Roman skeleton from Todber and a panel here illustrates the dig undertaken by a Gillingham group in 1967. Another panel depicts life on a Roman farm of a period relating to a site in Gillingham. These panels are accompanied by cases displaying finds associated with the sites and periods.
We move on to the Saxon and Norman era. During this period Gillingham Forest was established and the Kings of the time - particularly King John and King Henry III - built King's Court Palace, an extensive hunting lodge.
The illustration of King's Court Palace is by no means fantasy, and the existence of each major building shown is backed by documentary evidence. The nearby 1624 Forest map was copied from the original deposited at the County Archives by Count Guy de Pelet. There are information points for those with time to read more of the background on this subject.
The coming of the Railway is next and includes the original ceremonial wheelbarrow and silver spade used by Miss
Seymour to turn the first turf in 1856. Gillingham industry, most of which followed in the wake of the railway, is covered alongside.
One of the very rare Lion stationary engines manufactured by Charlie Maloney in Station Road in the 1920s is on show. Oake Woods bacon factory and Eden Shute's butter and cheese factory are also featured in this area.
The enclosed room features a World War 1 display.
In the passage is the 1790 fire engine with a display case and an information point alongside full of other fire brigade memories. Other subjects covered in this area are the town and silk mills; law and order and an 1880 map of Gillingham.
One of our most popular exhibits is the display of John Constable's Gillingham paintings and sketches. We have a colour copy of each which are reproduced as near to actual size as possible. There is much information on his friendship with the Rev John Fisher and his family, together with the reasons for his visiting Gillingham.
We are mounting continuous photographic exhibitions and now have a computerised display which we are continuously developing to show as many of our stock of well over 2,000 archive photographic images.
This is a brief introduction to a number of our displays and exhibits, and is not intended to be exhaustive.
We hope that you will shortly be able to visit us in person.