Royston & District Museum

The museum building was originally built as a school for the Congregational or Nonconformist church. It was built and designed by a Mr T. L. Gimson (a local builder) at a cost of around £900 on land donated by 2 members of the church committee. To help fund the building of the school, a bazaar was held to raise £300. The memorial stone in the front wall of the museum was laid on the 21st of August 1879.

The school was opened on the 26th November 1879 by a Mr R.N. Fenn of Newmarket. A ceremony took place and between 500 - 600 people attended. Prayers were given by Rev. S.E. Dodge and Rev E. Corbold and a hymn was sung which was specially written by the Rev Corbold for the occasion. The school was created for 200 pupils of two age groups - one for the infants separated into 3 classrooms by sliding curtains and another central classroom for the older children.

During World War II, the building was used as a Red Cross Social Club for the Americans servicemen of the 91st Bomb Group (based at Bassingbourn Barracks) who were staying in Royston at the time preparing to go to the war front. At the end of the war, the Americans offered to leave the fully equipped kitchen for the church, but the church refused this offer and it was removed. After the war, the building had several uses, including Sunday School, Dance Studio and examinations hall.

After renovation (including new plumbing, a kitchen, toilet and heating), the building became the Royston and District Museum in April 1984 and contained many items related to Royston’s past. The museum is run by trustees, a full time Curator and a part time Assistant Curator with many volunteers (Friends of Royston & District Museum).

The museum collection was first put together in 1856 and the contents were displayed in one room in the now Town Hall, but in 1901 the museum was closed and many exhibits auctioned. In 1976, the Royston and District Local History Society re-opened the museum in the Town Hall, where it stayed until moving to the present building.

Ground Floor

The first displays are the archaeology sections, including early Stone Age tools and bones from Bison, Mesolithic hand axes and a Tranchet axe and finally Neolithic polished axes, flint arrowheads (leaf arrow heads) also there are some oyster shells and some scrapers from preparing skins.

The next display is the Bronze Age and there are a number of Bronze axes, Urns and beakers. The Iron age follows and there are many different pots to show the influence of the Iron Age in Royston and District.

The Roman display holds many pots, metal tools, mosaic pieces (tesserae) and many other items. The Saxon display is next and it shows weapons and jewellery and many other things in the display. The middle ages are next in line and there is an array of pots, tools, weapons, coins etc, from that period. Next is Post- Medieval which has a few pots and many musket balls and even a sword handle!

Finally is the Modern Era which shows a variety of domestic and agricultural things, such as a large Columbian Printing Press on which the first issue of the Royston Crow newspaper was printed on 1st January 1855. There is also a display about the two World Wars, including many personnel items.

First Floor

On the first floor there is usually an exhibition every few months or so displaying mainly art creations. There is a small office and art store and opposite is a room where the Royston tapestry is kept. This is currently being crafted by local residents and trustees of the museum and is funded by donations. In 1991 the Royston tapestry (below) was started in the same style as the Bayeux Tapestry. It will be a continuous length of linen 110 feet long when completed, showing life in Royston since 64 million years ago, when the area was part of a shallow sea. The Tapestry will eventually be on permanent display in the Museum.

 

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