Higgins Art Gallery & Museum
History, tourist information, and nearby accommodation
The Higgins Art Gallery & Museum's mission is to illustrate the geology, archaeology, natural history, and social history of the Bedford area.
One of the premier museums in Bedfordshire, The Higgins, formerly the Bedford Museum, is housed in the former Higgins Castle brewery. After the brewery closed, the buildings saw use as a clothing factory and post office sorting station before being converted to museum use in 1981.
The Bedford Museum began in 1884 when local solicitor Charles Pritchard gave his collection of fossils and minerals to the Bedford Modern School. The School Museum is featured in a display on the first floor including curiosities from around the world donated by school alumni. Perhaps the chief "curiosity" is the skull of Old Billy, a horse which made the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest-lived equine
The museum is now operated by the Bedford Borough Council, which took over from the school in 1959.
Rural Life Gallery
The gallery revolves around several room settings evoking aspects of life in the countryside. Rooms include a labourer's cottage, a dairy, and a farmhouse kitchen.
Adjoining the Rural Life Gallery is a display of medieval floor tiles recovered from Warden Abbey, a Cistercian house near Old Warden.
Geology and Archaeology Gallery
The gallery displays fossils and geological samples native to the Bedford region. There are remains of marine reptiles, plus bones from woolly mamoths that roamed the area some 160 million years ago. A good deal more modern are the bronze Iron Age mirror and bucket handles in the shape of cow's heads, Roman coins and bronze bowls.
Natural History Gallery
A "natural" favourite with children, this gallery displays native birds and wildlife in recreated habitat settings. Interactive quizzes test your knowledge of butterflies and the food web.
Social History Gallery
This gallery recreates the evolving history of Bedford through exhibits tracing the development of the town, particularly in the late Victorian period. Displays include Weights and Measures, Health Care, Law and Order, and Firefighting.
A lacemaking display shows how the tools of lacemaking are used and exhibits traditional East Midland patterns and bobbins. Further exhibits worth noting highlight the Bedford Yeomanry, the straw-plait industry that once thrived in the Bedford area, and Victorian children's toys, dolls, and games.
About Higgins Art Gallery
Address: Castle Lane, Bedford, Bedfordshire, England, MK40 3XD
Attraction Type: Museum
Location: In Bedford's Cultural Quarter, 2 minutes walk from the High Street and the Embankment.
Website: Higgins Art Gallery
OS: TL052 499
Photo Credit: M J Richardson, licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Licence
We've 'tagged' this attraction information to help you find related historic attractions and learn more about major time periods mentioned.
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castle (Architecture) -
NEARBY HISTORIC ATTRACTIONS
Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low to exceptional) on historic interest
Bedford Castle - 0.1 miles (Castle)
Bedford, St Mary's Church - 0.2 miles (Historic Church)
Bedford, St. Paul Church - 0.2 miles (Historic Church)
Bedford, St John the Baptist Church - 0.4 miles (Historic Church)
St. Peter de Merton - 0.5 miles (Historic Church)
Bedford School Chapel - 0.8 miles (Historic Church)
Elstow Moot Hall - 1.5 miles (Museum)
Elstow Abbey - 1.5 miles (Abbey)
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