Rayleigh Town Museum (c) Terryjoyce
Rayleigh Town Museum (c) Terryjoyce

In the centre of the High Street Conservation Area in Rayleigh stands the oldest building in the town, a 14th-century hall house with later 16th and 17th-century additions. The upper floor of the attractive, timber-framed building is home to the Rayleigh Town Museum, three rooms tracing the history of Rayleigh from the Roman period to the present day.

The exhibits are regularly rotated throughout the year. Themed exhibits focus on Rayleigh Castle, the only castle in Essex to be mentioned in the Domesday Book. Other highlights include the history of windmills in the town from 1300, including the present Tower Windmill which is open to the public.

Many of the historic items have been donated by the local history group, 'Rayleigh Through the Looking Glass', who have donated hundreds of items connected to the town, including maps, books, drawings, and postcards.

The Regal Room
The Regal Room

Learn about popular entertainment including the local Speedway and the town cinemas, and see a collection of over 500 old postcards, photos, a magic lantern show, and maps of Essex and Rayleigh dating to the 17th century.

Museum collections look at the Rayleigh Martyrs, burned at the stake in 1555, and the story of Holy Trinity Church, begun in Saxon times and featuring a Norman chancel and Tudor brickwork porch. There is also a colourful baker's cart once used by JG Cottis & Son to deliver baked goods and confectionery.

See a scale model of the Rayleigh Windmill with working sails, and the original 1937 projector of Rayleigh Cinema. Other highlights include an 18th-century bow window from a High Street shop and memorabilia related to speedway and greyhound racing.

The historic building is not just the museum venue, it is part of the exhibition itself. You can still see the exposed, age-darkened timbers that help create such a wonderful historic atmosphere. The building has a rich history; in just the last century alone it has served as a bank, a milliner's shop, and a men's outfitters.

The museum holds regular lectures and slide shows, encouraging visitors to explore Rayleigh and its many historic highlights. The museum is open throughout the year and entrance is free. The museum also acts as a local Tourist Information Point, and can offer local walks leaflets as well as information about what to see and do in Rayleigh and the surrounding area. The museum volunteers can arrange heritage walks and visits to other heritage sites around the town. Entrance is a via an accessible lift to the first floor.

Image of the Regal Room is by kind permission of the Rayleigh Town Museum

About Rayleigh Town Museum
Address: 1st Floor, 91 High Street, Rayleigh, Essex, England, SS6 7EJ
Attraction Type: Museum
Location: In the heart of the High Street conservation area. There are several paid parking areas within a short walking distance. The closest is Websters Way Car Park.
Website: Rayleigh Town Museum
Email: info@rayleightownmuseum.co.uk
Location map
OS: TQ806906
Photo Credit: Terryjoyce, licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Licence


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