Preston Park Museum
History, tourist information, and nearby accommodation
HERITAGE HIGHLIGHTS: Housed in a historic Victorian mansion
Preston Park Museum is a fascinating museum set in a 19th-century mansion. Highlights include the popular Victorian Street, a recreation of life on Teesside in 1895.
In 1825 David Fowler built a simple two-storey house in Preston-on-Tees. In 1882 his descendant Marshall Fowler sold the property to a wealthy shipbuilder named Robert Ropner. Ropner extended the earlier house by adding two wings and a large conservatory. Ropner served as the High Sheriff of Durham and was made a baronet in 1904.
The Ropner family remained in Preston Hall until 1937, and a decade later in 1947, the property was purchased by the Stockton-on-Tees District Council. The Council intended to use the estate for new housing, but when that project came to nothing they transformed the former mansion into a museum. It opened in June 1953 as part of the national celebration of Queen Elizabeth II's coronation.
The Council converted the spacious Hall grounds into a popular park full of family attractions including Butterfly World, riverside walks, and an adventure playground.
The museum has four main galleries, focussed on the region's industrial heritage, the story of Preston Hall and the people who have lived here, leisure time in the 19th century, and collections of weapons and military memorabilia.
There is also an exhibition area for the Council's artwork collection. One of the most important pieces of art in the museum is The Dice Players, an oil painting by Georges de la Tour, made around 1650.
The most popular feature at Preston Hall is not the art, however, but a recreation of a Victorian Street that occupies the mansion's service wing and its outbuildings. The Victorian Street depicts life on Teesside in 1895 through recreated shops, local businesses, houses, and street life. the late Victorian period is brought to life by costumed volunteers who invite visitors to explore the Victorian world.
Some of the Victorian Street highlights include the Toy Shop, where children have the chance to play with traditional Victorian toys. The shop also sells traditional wooden toys and tasty treats. And speaking of tasty treats, pop into the Sweet Shop where you can find traditional favourites including pear drops, bonbons, and aniseed balls.
Learn about crime and punishment in Victorian England at the Police station, where you can explore the gaol cells and see old-fashioned law enforcement equipment such as truncheons and handcuffs.
Watch a master blacksmith at work in his forge, and see experienced printers use a working Albion Printing Press made in 1839. Visitors can try their hand at setting their own name in type. And, at the Violin Makers workshop, you can watch a resident craftsman as he uses traditional tools to make and repair violins.
Fresh produce from Preston Hall's restored 19th-century walled garden is available seasonally at the Grocers Shop. See how loose tea was carefully measured in the days before teabags. At the Drapers, you can try on 19th-century clothing including pinafores, hats, bonnets, caps, and waistcoats. Learn about the dangers of wearing corsets and explore the history of fashion.
At J Walker Chemist you can grind and roll your own medicinal tablets and learn about Victorian remedies for common ailments, ad at Charles Twist Photography you can enjoy your own Victorian 'photo shoot'; put on 19th-century clothing and pose for a portrait in front of a traditional painted backdrop. Sessions may have to be pre-booked at busy times.
Preston Park is off the A135 north of Yarm. The official postcode is TS18 3RH, but TS18 3RJ is better for satnavs. There is ample free parking.
About Preston Park Museum
Address: Yarm Road, Eaglescliffe, Stockton-on-Tees, County Durham, England, TS18 3RH
Attraction Type: Museum
Location: Off the A135 (Yarm Road) north of Yarm. Though the official postcode is TS18 3RH, the postcode TS18 3RJ is better for satnavs.
Website: Preston Park Museum
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
NEARBY HISTORIC ATTRACTIONS
Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low to exceptional) on historic interest
Captain Cook Birthplace Museum - 5.4 miles (Museum)
Ormesby Hall - 6.3 miles (Historic Building)
Wynyard Hall Walled Garden - 6.7 miles (Garden)
Haughton-le-Skerne, St Andrew's Church - 7.5 miles (Historic Church)
Great Ayton, All Saints Church - 8.4 miles (Historic Church)
Captain Cook Memorial - 8.5 miles (Historic Building)
Darlington, St Cuthbert's Church - 8.6 miles (Historic Church)
Head of Steam Museum - 8.7 miles (Museum)
Nearest Accommodation to Preston Park Museum: