Bailiffgate Museum, Alnwick
Bailiffgate Museum, Alnwick
Bailiffgate is a fascinating museum of local history covering the historic town of Alnwick and the surrounding area, with exhibits tracing the heritage of the Alnwick area, including hands-on activities for younger visitors and audio-visual displays.

Children can dress up in Victorian costumes and experience what it was like in a 19th-century schoolroom. One of the most popular exhibits looks at the life of a local entrepreneur named William Davison, a printer, newspaper publisher, and apothecary.

The most important work produced by Davison's publishing company was the unusual 'Davison Bible'. Rather than print the entire Bible, Davison, a devout Christian, decided on a different approach; he published it in 100 parts, each priced at a shilling. By so doing he hoped to encourage more people to buy and read the Scripture.

One highlight is a scale model of Whittingham rail station, and there are exhibits on coal mining, the railway, farming, and printing, as well as a large collection of bound editions of the Northumberland Gazette. One unusual exhibit is a rare 18th-century town fire pump. The fire pump was purchased b the Freemen of Alnwick in 1797 for £28.

Tableau of William Davison's printing works
Tableau of William Davison's
printing works

Another item that caught my eye was the livery worn by the Alnwick Wait. The 'wait' was an odd combination of watchman and town musician. The office was wait was founded in 1612 with the task of keeping watch, warding against invasion, and keeping the peace. They were later charged with playing music for official functions, guild meetings, feast days, and weddings. The wait accompanied the 'caller', who walked the streets in the dead of winter, calling out the time and the weather.

Anyone with an interest in sports will want to see the Rothbury Football, made of leather and stuffed with hay. The football was used in traditional village matches between Rothbury and Thropton. The 'goals' were the porch of the parish church of Rothbury and the bridge at Thropton.

Bailiffgate is housed in the former St Mary's church, which was built in 1836 and is located in the Castle Quarter of Alnwick, very close to Alnwick Castle. The museum's architectural heritage as a church is evident as you progress through the collections, and it even retains the original 19th-century organ.

Bailiffgate Museum holds an ongoing series of workshops, special events, and exhibitions throughout the year. There is a separate gallery which hosts regular exhibitions by local artists.