The Cottage Museum, Lancaster
The Cottage Museum, Lancaster

Opposite historic Lancaster Castle at 15 Castle Hill stands the Cottage Museum, an early 18th-century house that has been preserved to show what life was like for an ordinary artisan 200 years ago.


The house was built in 1739 as part of a larger dwelling. This date is carved into a lintel over the doorway along with the initials RT and AT for the owners Richard and Alice Thompson. The cottage served as both a shop and a dwelling, with a door for each purpose.

Around 1825 the interior was divided in two with a passage down the centre giving access to both properties and to the rear of the cottage. At that time a new front door was inserted for the righthand property at number 17.

The ground-floor parlour
The ground-floor parlour

In the late 19th century a washhouse was built onto the back of number 15. But time was not friendly to the cottage and by 1961 it was in such a poor state that it was declared unfit for habitation.

It stood derelict for several years until the Lancaster City Council stepped in to restore the cottage and the neighbouring property. The Council preserved number 15 as a museum, showing what life was like for its inhabitants in the year 1825.

What to See

Though it has a small frontage onto Castle Hill, the cottage is built on five levels. On the ground floor are a parlour and scullery, while steep stairs lead up to two bedrooms and an attic used for servants; sleeping quarters. From the parlour, steps lead down to a half-cellar and the lean-to wash-house.

The wash-house lean-to
The wash-house lean-to

The parlour also served as a kitchen, with food cooked over a log fire in the hearth. This room was also used for spinning and sewing. Near the fire hangs a salt box. Salt was a valuable commodity and keeping it close to the fire helped prevent it from getting damp. Near the salt box is a cutlery box where knives were kept in sand to prevent them rusting. Close by is a candle box, kept shut so that rodents wouldn't eat the candles.

The wash house boasts a built-in boiler for heating water, and you will also find a mangle for squeezing water from the wet clothes and irons for pressing them when dry.

The bedrooms are plain, without wallpaper or other decoration. The cot in the child's bedroom was handed down from a prosperous nursery. The main bedroom is sparsely furnished, with a bed frame with cords for supporting a straw mattress.

Under the bed is a chamber pot and by the window is a wash-stand, used to take a daily rinse. A small area of the ceiling has been left unfinished so you can see the reed and plaster construction.

The narrow attic stairs
The narrow attic stairs

The attic chamber has a small exhibition on the history of the cottage.

As you explore the cottage you quickly realise that it lacks some features that we would consider essential today. For a start, there is no running water. Water had to be brought from a communal well behind the cottage. Also behind the cottage was a communal privy in a common yard, shared with several nearby houses.

The Cottage Museum is an eye-opening museum that gives a glimpse of what life was like for a typical family here in the early Victorian period.

Getting There

The Cottage Museum is directly opposite Lancaster Castle on Castle Hill and just up the hill from the Judge's Lodging.

More Photos

About Cottage Museum, Lancaster
Address: 15 Castle Hill, Lancaster, Lancashire, England, LA1 1BU
Attraction Type: Museum
Location: On Castle Hill, opposite Lancaster Castle. M6 Motorway, Junction 34. Follow signs for the city centre. No dedicated parking.
Website: Cottage Museum, Lancaster
Location map
OS: SD474618
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express


Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low to exceptional) on historic interest

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