Essex Museums

Nine Essex museums in five towns are taking part in Museum Explorer this summer. Their collections cover the Iron Age to the present day and are housed in a wide variety of buildings including a Norman castle, an Eighteenth Century  manor house and the county’s police headquarters.


Barleylands Farm ParkBarleylands is filled with fun things to see and do. The Discovery Barn offers an informative journey of your food from field to fork. It links the past and present, houses wonderful vintage machinery including a fabulous steam traction engine and fun interactive displays and period clothes in their dressing up area.

There’s also cute and friendly animals in the Farm Park, slightly less fluffy ones in the reptile house, indoor and outdoor adventure play areas to enjoy and a craft village to shop in.


Based in the former Manor Street School, Braintree Museum charts the history of the town from the prehistoric era up to the 21st century, including local archaeology, industry and craftsmanship. There is also a Victorian classroom, where you can experience what schooling was like in the past and the John Ray Gallery celebrating the work the “Father of Natural History”.


Chelmsford MuseumChelmsford Museum and The Essex Regiment Museum sit at the heart of Oaklands Park in Chelmsford. With a variety of events and activities taking place through-out the year, there is something for all the family to enjoy. You can explore the history of Chelmsford from the Ice Age to the present day, watch busy bees inside their hive and see pottery by local artists including Grayson Perry.


Recently re-opened after a major re-display project, Colchester Castle boasts a wide range of interactive exhibits including opportunities to steer a Roman chariot around a race track, building a Norman archway or watching the spectacular ‘sol et lumière’ projection on the east wall. The building itself is a fascinating time-capsule – take a tour down in to the Roman foundations of this Norman castle and discover graffiti from when it was used as a World War 2 air-raid shelter.



Colchester Natural History MuseumThe Natural History Museum is a fascinating chance to get closer to nature and find out about wildlife habitats, biodiversity and climate change.

Did you know that there was an earthquake in Colchester in 1884? Or that mammoths and hippos used to roam this area? Discover more about open salt marshes, beaches and the creatures that lurk beneath your feet. Crawl through the badger sett, stroke the friendly fox and enjoy many hands-on activities.


Telling the story of local policing, from Victorian times to the present day, Essex Police Museum is a great place to visit with your family. You can step inside a Victorian cell, try on real police uniform, take your fingerprints, look through a 1914 charge book and learn about local historic crimes such as the death of Camille Holland, who was murdered for her money in 1898.


Harlow MuseumHarlow Museum tells the story of Harlow from Roman times, through the Middle Ages, the Tudors, Stuarts and Victorians up to the present day. Their new Living History Gallery shows how museums explore and explain history through archaeology, conservation work, displays and exhibitions.

You can explore the museum and the 16th Century walled gardens with a family-friendly trail and they host regular event and activities for children.


Hollytrees MuseumFollow the story around this beautiful Georgian building taking in domestic life and childhood in Colchester over the past 300 years.

Meet many different characters from the past and experience Colchester’s fascinating history. Discover what family life was life for the rich and the poor. Then be transported back to the days before washing machines to try out a dolly peg and dress up as a servant.

Experience the miniature world of the Hollytrees dolls house and find out about the origin of the famous nursery rhyme Twinkle Twinkle Little Star – which was written in Colchester!


Hylands HouseSet in Hylands Park (home of the V Festival), Hylands House is a stunning Grade II* listed property, originally built in the 1730s. Down the centuries, the different owners all left their own mark on the architecture and in 2007, after a long period of neglect, it was opened to the public having been spectacularly restored to its former glory. Situated in 574 acres of historic landscaped parkland, there’s a café, picnic benches, a children’s play area and regular events for families to enjoy.