These are dozens of excellent museums across Essex. You’ll find details of their special events and exhibitions in our events listings pages on the menu above. And sign up for our newsletter to make sure you don’t miss anything!
Moulsham Street, Chelmsford, CM2 9AQ
As well as all the old museum favourites, there is a Bright Sparks gallery devoted to Chelmsford’s unique industrial heritage,the Essex Regiment Museum, an Essex Yeomanry display, community life galleries, art displays and a large temporary exhibition space.
Essex Days Out Tips : we visited in February 2011 and were impressed – click here for the article and pictures.
Colchester Castle Museum
Castle Park, Colchester, CO1 1TJ
“A visit to Colchester Castle Museum takes you through 2000 years of some of the most important events in British history. Once capital of Roman Britain, Colchester has experienced devastation by Boudica, invasion by the Normans, and siege during the English Civil War.”
Essex Days Out Tip : The castle re-opened on 2nd May 2014, and is amazing.
Combined Military Services Museum
Station Road, Maldon, CM9 4LQ
“The aim of the Combined Military Services Museum is to display artefacts from Britain’s proud military history, for the education and enjoyment of both present and future generations. The museum is fully air conditioned and the collections are kept in high quality display cases, providing a comfortable experience for visitors and a stable environment for the preservation of the artefacts”
Essex Days Out Tip : we visited in February 2011 and had a great time! Click here for our article and video.
East Anglian Railway Museum
Chappel & Wakes Colne Station, Colchester, CO6 2DS
“The East Anglian Railway Museum is a Working Museum dedicated to preserving the history of railways in the Eastern Counties. Open every day between 10am and 4:30pm (or Dusk if earlier), on certain days special events take place, where you can have unlimited rides on the Museum’s preserved Steam and Diesel Trains, we also hold regular Day Out With Thomas Events, also the popular Chappel Beer and Cider Festivals.”
Essex Days Out Tip : read our article about our visit in February 2015
Lewis Gardens, High Street, Colchester, CO1 1JH
“firstsite is a visual arts organisation based in Colchester, Essex. Our mission is to make contemporary art relevant to everyone.”
Essex Days Out Tip : we went to firstsite to see the National Theatre Live presentation of Gillian Anderson in ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ in 2014, and were blown away by her performance.
High Street, Colchester, CO1 1UG
“Enjoy 300 years of history through hands-on exhibits and displays with fun and humour in mind. Look out for the dolls’ house, it’s a model of Hollytrees House. Discover what family life was like for the rich and the poor people. Hear the stories of those who lived and worked in Hollytrees, a beautiful Georgian town house built in 1718.”
Essex Days Out Tip : next door to Colchester Castle Museum and Park, and over the road from the new firstsite, if you’ve got the stamina, you could spend hours in these three excellent art and museum locations.
Mangapps Railway Museum
Southminster Road, Burnham on Crouch, CM0 8QG
Phone: 01621 784898
“Mangapps Railway Museum is a privately owned working railway and museum established on a farm at Burnham on Crouch, Essex. It features a ¾ mile standard gauge passenger carrying line, with restored stations, signal boxes and ancillary equipment removed from various sites throughout East Anglia and beyond. To operate the line the Railway has 18 steam and diesel locomotives and over 80 carriages and wagons, some of considerable historic and technical interest.”
Museum of Power
Hatfield Road, Langford, Maldon, CM9 6QA
“The Museum of Power, set in seven acres of grounds and housed in the Steam Pumping Station at Langford in Essex , exhibits and demonstrates working examples of power sources of all types and chronicles the major roles that they have played in history.”
Essex Days Out Tips : try and get there when Marshall, their huge Lilleshall steam engine is operating. Watch the video on our article about a visit to a Steam Day.
Royal Gunpowder Mills
Beaulieu Drive, Waltham Abbey, EN9 1JY
“There is a detailed exhibition on the ground floor of the main building. Upstairs there is a cinema showing a film about the history of explosives manufacture. The film last for 15 minutes and is followed by a 5 minute pause to allow a change of audience. You can visit other buildings containing exhibitions of vehicles used for explosive transport. A former water tower, now known as the wildlife tower provides a view across the site and a description of the plants and wildlife.”
Essex Days Out Tips : The Royal Gunpowder Mills now hosts the ‘Secret Island’ with lots of children’s activities throughout the year.
Sir Alfred Munnings Art Museum
Castle House, Dedham CO7 6AZ
Castle House is home to a wonderful collection of Sir Alfred Munnings paintings – there are many of his beautiful horse paintings but also many other works. The grounds of the house are very attractive and there is also a pleasant tearoom.
Essex Days Out Tips : the ten minute walk from Dedham village is really interesting – look out for the magnificent pink plastered Southfields house on the right as you head up the road. There is a car park at the museum if you don’t fancy the walk and need to drive up the hill!
Southend Central Museum
Victoria Avenue, Southend on Sea, SS2 6EW
Phone: 01702 434449 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
“Home to collections of local and natural history and archaeology. It has a changing programme of exhibitions and events throughout the year. Entry to our exhibitions and building is free.”
Smaller Museums & Galleries
The Beecroft Gallery
Station Road, Westcliff on Sea, Essex
Situated at the top of Cliffs Gardens this Edwardian building was donated to the people of Southend by Edward Beecroft to house his eclectic collection of paintings, which includes local views and 17th century Dutch paintings.
Open: Tuesday to Saturday 10.00am – 1.00pm & 2.00pm – 5.00pm Closed Bank Holidays.
Bishops Stortford Museum
Rhodes, South Road, Bishop’s Stortford
The museum tells stories of 19th Century Southern Africa and the intertwined history of Bishop’s Stortford, Sawbridgeworth and surrounding villages on the Hertfordshire/Essex border. It is a part of the Rhodes Centre
Langham Lane, Langham,Essex,CO4 5NW
Opening times: 10.00 am to 4.00pm on the lst Sunday of each month from March until October 2013 inclusive.
Part of the Boxted airfield – one of the most important American airfields during the 2nd World War. There is a developing display of artifacts and displays and there are special events throughout the year.
Manor Street, Braintree, CM7 3HW Open 10am-4pm Tuesday-Saturday
At Braintree Museum the story of the Braintree District and its diverse industrial and cultural history unfolds.The museum’s main exhibitions focus on the textile and manufacturing industries of Courtaulds, Warner & Sons and Crittalls, with additional displays of Castle Hedingham pottery, the work of the Great Bardfield artists, and Essex straw and lace.
Cemetery Lodge, Lorne Lane, Brentwood, Essex, CM14 5HH. 01277 218854
“Brentwood Museum is housed in a picturesque 19th century building once a sexton’s cottage, and although small it offers a fascinating insight into Brentwood life in the early part of this century, with an exciting collection of social and domestic objects dating from around 1840-1950.” Opening hours : afternoon of the first Saturday and Sunday of the month, and lunchtime on the first Monday of the month, between April-October). Also monthly evening talks.
1 Duke Street, Brightlingsea, Essex, CO7 0EZ. 01206 303286
Limited opening – Easter to September : Saturday 10-4, and Sunday/Monday 2-5)
Burnham on Crouch & District Museum
Coronation Road, Burnham-on-Crouch, Essex CM0 8AS
Opening hours 2.00pm until 5.00pm Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays, and Bank Holidays from Easter to the end of November and every day during the school holidays (except Winter)
A collection of exhibits, displays and archive material relating to Fishing, the Oyster Fishery, Farming and Agriculture, Boat Building and the local Iron Foundry as well as more homely items, showing how people in the area used to live.
Castle Point Transport Museum
Housed in the historic former Canvey & District Bus Depot. The Castle Point Transport Museum is home to over thirty old and rare buses and coaches alongside vintage commercial, military and emergency vehicles. The display has vehicles from the 1940s to the 1990s,and also has a wide range of transport memorabilia and costumes on display.
Open 1st and 3rd Sunday of the month in April, and every Sunday in August.
Colchester Roman Circus Centre
Camp Folley North, Colchester
The foundations of the Roman ‘Circus’ (the chariot-racing track) in Colchester were finally found just a couple of years ago and how there’s a small centre devoted to telling you all about it.
Essex Days Out Tip : read our article about the grand opening in March 2015
Colne Valley Railway
Castle Hedingham, Essex CO9 3DZ
A pretty heritage steam railway set in the North Essex countryside with lots of rolling stock and family activities. You could visit Hedingham Castle at the same time for a really full day out. Opening times vary, there is a timetable of steam days and events throughout the year. Check their website before setting out to see what is happening.
Essex Days Out Tips : It’s under threat of closure/moving in early 2015, so get there this summer!
Earls Colne Heritage Museum
The Old Water Tower, Earls Colne, Colchester
Open: Easter until October: Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday: 2:00 – 4:00pm and November until Easter Saturday and Sunday:2:00 – 4:00pmm
This small museum tells the story of the village of Earls Colne and the surrounding rural area. There is a programme of exhibitions and events. It is in an old water tower which was once a part of the Atlas Works – a foundry in the 19th and 20th centuries
Epping Forest District Museum
39 – 41 Sun Street, Waltham Abbey, Essex, EN9 1EL. 01992 716882.
Based in a building dating back to 1520, the Museum closed in 2014 for a multi-million pound refurbishment.
museum website and their regularly updated blog
Essex Fire Museum
Grays Fire Station, Hogg Lane, Grays, RM17 5QS
A small museum run by a dedicated goup of volunteers. On display are a collection of fire appliances from hand drawn pumps to more modern equipment. The exhibits and displays show the development of fire fighting in Essex. There’s also a collection of documents and artefacts illustrating the fire services work during the 2nd World War. The museum can be visited by appointment – contact Tel 01375 379167 or email: email@example.com
Essex Police Museum
Kingston Crescent, Chelmsford, CM2 6DN. website
Open: Saturday 10am-4pm and in school holidays Wednesday 10am-4pm
The Museum holds objects and archival material relating to the history of the force from 1840 including personnel, disciplinary and other records, together with more general documents and a large photographic collection.
Essex Regiment Museum
Oaklands Park, Moulsham Street, Chelmsford, CM2 9AQ
Admission charges:free. Opening Hours: Monday – Saturday, 10.00am – 5.00pm. Sundays (Summer) 2.00pm – 5.00pm, (Winter) 1.00pm – 4.00pm
The Essex Regiment Museum is housed in a new extension at the Chelmsford Museum. There are displays on the history of the Regiment and its modern successor, the Royal Anglian, and includes the famous ‘Salamanca Eagle’, captured from the Napoleonic French army in 1812. The Regimental archive is held at the museum.
Frinton’s Crossing Cottage, Garden and Railway Museum
Frinton Crossing, Frinton, Essex.
Opening times: Easter to mid-October coffee mornings every Tuesday morning from 10:00am to 12:00pm, and every third Tuesday of the month during the rest of the year. Admission is free of charge (donations are always greatly appreciated!)
One of a number of heritage centres and museums run by the Frinton and Walton Heritage Trust. Once occupied by the crossing keeper of the railway gates, today Frinton’s Crossing Cottage houses a selection of artifacts and archive material that tell the story of the local area. Situated in a well-maintained cottage garden, with a wildlife area. Events and exhibitions throughout the year.
The Fry Art Gallery
Castle Street,Saffron Walden, Essex,CB10 1BD
Open: Easter Sunday to last Sunday in October: Tuesday – Thursday 2.00pm – 5.00pm, Friday 2.00pm – 5.00pm, Saturday 11.00am – 5.00pm, Sunday 2.15pm – 5.00pm. Bank Holidays: 2.15pm to 5pm
The gallery is home to a collection of paintings, prints, illustrations, wallpapers and decorative designs by artists of the 20th century and the present day who have local connections and have made a significant contribution to their field. There are works by artists who lived in the Great Bardfield area during the 20th century
Gallery in the Garden
This a a small, exclusive gallery which hosts a small number of exhibitions a year. It is a part of the North Essex Saling Grove Estate, whose grounds were originally designed by Sir Humphrey Repton. Before planning a visit, check their website for opening hours and details of current exhibitions.
Great Dunmow Museum
The Maltings, Mill Lane, Great Dunmow, Essex, CM6 1BG. 01371 878979.
The museum was opened in 2001 and is located in the town centre. The museum records aspects of the social history and economic development of Dunmow and the surrounding area.
Halstead Heritage Museum
Mill House, The Causeway, Halstead
Opening hours: Sunday: 13:30 to 16:30 & Wednesday: 13:30 to 16:00
The museum opened in 2012. Displays and exhibitions include: transport through the ages, the history of Courtaulds, a look at the famous Victorian stove manufacturers Portway and various artifacts from Halstead and surrounding villages.
Muskham Road, Harlow CM20 2LF
The Museum located in the former Mark Hall stables, linked with the Mark Hall Manor House. It is surrounded by the beautiful Walled Gardens. The four main Galleries tell the story of Harlow over four periods: prehistoric days, the Roman era and the middle ages to the story of how modern Harlow was designed and built
High Street, Romford, RM1
Wednesday to Friday: 12 noon to 5pm. Saturday: 11am till 5pm. (Check their website for winter opening hours)
Havering Museum is on part of the site of the old Romford Brewery. It tells the story of Havering’s past and celebrates the achievements of the people who have lived there. Events and exhibitions are held throughout the year
Jaywick Martello Tower
The Jaywick Martello tower was built as part of the east coast defences during the Napoleonic Wars. It is now an art gallery and community facility which supports creative collaborations relating to the themes of Community, Heritage and Environment that affect our lives today.
Essex Days Out Tips : One of a string of Martello towers – why not start a walk from Clacton and see how many you can pass – Martello bagging rather than Munro bagging.
Leigh Heritage Centre
High Street, Old Leigh
Two old cottages and the old smithy have been saved from redevelopment and now houses the centre. An atmospheric little museum and well worth keeping an eye open for on a trip to Old Leigh.
Lindsell Art Gallery
Set in rural North Essex there are a number of artists and crafts people based at the gallery. There is a wide variety of work on show and for sale. The gallery hosts a range of workshops, exhibitions and events throughout the year.
Little Baddow History Centre
Chapel Lane, Little Baddow, CM3 4BE
Opening times: January & February by appointment, March – December: Tuesdays 10am – noon, Wednesdays 2 – 4 pm Thursdays 10am – noon Sundays 2 – 4 pm
This small but vibrant history centre and museum tells the story of Little Baddow and the people who have lived there. The story is told through the photographs, pictures, documents and artefacts that make up the village history collections. Collections of artefacts and documents and newspapers telling the story of the village. .
47 Mill Road, Maldon, Essex, CM9 5HX. 01621 842688.
Maldon Museum exhibits items directly related to the District, whether they are domestic, industrial, natural or manufactured, discovered locally or collected from afar. The Maldon Museum is housed in an Edwardian building, formerly known as the Park Keeper’s Lodge and stands near the main gate to the Promenade Park. Limited opening hours.
Read our article, with pictures, following our visit in April 2015
Manningtree Library, High Street, Manningtree
Wednesday: 10.00am – 12.00pm, Friday: 2.00pm – 4.00pm, Saturday:10.00am – 12.00pm
A small one room museum displaying artefacts telling the story of Manningtree
Mersea Island Museum
High Street, West Mersea, Colchester, Essex, CO5 8QD. 01206 385191.
The reconstruction within the museum of a typical weather-boarded fisherman’s cottage provides an interior display centred on a Victorian coal-fired kitchen range, with adjoining facilities for washing clothes using old-fashioned manual equipment. Children are welcome, with puzzles and quizzes available. (limited opening hours)
Natural History Museum
opposite Castle Park, Colchester, Essex, CO1 1TJ. 01206 282939.
Housed in the unique setting of the former All Saints Church in 1957, the Museum focuses on the rich natural heritage of north-east Essex.
North Weald Airfield Museum
Ad Astra House, Hurricane Way, North Weald, Essex, CM16 6AA. 01992 523010.
Open every Saturday, Sunday and Bank Holidays from early April till the end of November – 12noon till 5pm.
North Weald Airfield Museum is all about people. It’s about the service personnel and civilians, who have lived, worked, flown, fought and died here since the airfield opened in 1916. The museum sets out to tell their story of a famous airfield that has protected London during two world wars. The story is told in displays, with photographs, artefacts and personal memories.
Peter Edwards Museum & Library
Essex Cricket, The County Ground, New Writtle Street, Chelmsford
One for the cricket enthusiasts among you. A very specialised small museum. The permanent displays mark the progress of Essex County Cricket Club over the years and, from time to time, special exhibitions are mounted. The library contains a vast collection of cricket books – and not just about Essex.
Opening Times All match days (apart from evening Twenty20 games) or by appointment.
Victoria Avenue, Southend on Sea SS2 6NB Free entry – check website for summer & winter opening.
The restoration of the Priory is now complete and it has reopened to the public. This stunning Grade 1 listed building tells the story of its former residents from the Cluniac Monks in the 13th Century to the Victorian Scratton family, the last people to live in this wonderful home.
Queen Elizabeth Hunting Lodge
Rangers Road, Chingford, E4 7QH. 020 8529 6681
There are three floors. On the ground floor, there is a colourful and fascinating display of Tudor foods and replica kitchenware. The upper floors are particularly remarkable for their good views over Chingford Plain and Epping Forest and also provide displays on Tudor carpentry joints and costume.
Bellingham Lane, Rayleigh, Essex SS6 7ED
Open:April to September Wednesday 10:00 – 1:00pm, Saturday 1:00 – 4:00pm, Sunday 1:00 – 4:00pm Entry is free
A Grade II listed building which is more than 200 years old. There is a museum, an exhibition space and information about Rayleigh Mount.
Saffron Walden Museum
Museum Street, Saffron Walden, Essex, CB10 1JL. 01799 510333.
Saffron Walden Museum opened in 1835. With wide-ranging collections, from moccasins and mummy cases to mammoth tusks and Wallace the lion, it still contains much to “stand awhile and admire”. This award-winning, “friendly, family-size museum” is open 363 days a year.
Essex Days Out Tips : only a couple of minutes walk from the pretty market square – make sure you pop into the museum and the nearby Bridge End gardens when you visit Saffron Walden
Sandford Mill Road, off Chelmer Village Way, Chelmer Village, Chelmsford, CM2 6NY. 01245 475498.
“Sandford Mill is Chelmsford’s old waterworks, situated on the River Chelmer to the south of Chelmer Village. In the waterworks buildings Chelmsford Museums Service stores its industrial collections and archives, but Sandford Mill is much more than a museum store.”
Chapel Road, Wivenhoe, CO7 9DX 01206 827490
The gallery in the heart of Wivenhoe; offering a diverse selection of artworks with a regularly changing exhibition program.
Southchurch Hall Museum
Southchurch Hall Close, Southend on Sea, Essex. 01702 467671.
Southchurch Hall museum is housed in the half-timbered medieval manor house, which dates to the early 14th century. Priority is given to school parties.
Southend Pier Museum
Marine Parade, Southend On Sea, Essex, SS1 1EE
01702 614553 / 611214.
To locate the Pier Museum entrance visitors should go into the station and walk to the right of the railway tracks. The Museum will bring back fond memories for some and will be a brand new experience for younger generations. Climb aboard an original 1949 train and remember days gone by. We have pictorial displays, working penny slot machines, an original Toastrack tram and much more. It’s fun, it’s a great way to learn and it’s out of the rain when we get a traditional English summer!
Stow Maries Aerodrome
The aerodrome was built by the RAF during the 1st World War, and was then abandoned in 1919. Having been mostly untouched since then, it has been recently been undergoing extensive restoration work by a committed group of enthusiasts. There are several public events throughout the year – like the amazing Armed Forces Open Day we went to in 2015. But they don’t have regular opening hours, so check their website for more information.
Colchester Institutes’s Fine Art & Design Department have recently taken over the Minories. It is a beautiful venue for contemporary art exhibitions and talks. There is also the Love Bistro and in the good weather a delightful garden to sit in – complete with its own folly.
The Naze Tower
The Naze Tower is an historic landmark, on the Naze at Walton on the Naze. it was built as part of the Napoleonic defences and is now an art gallery spread over eight floors, with a tearoom and viewing platform with panoramic views
The Time Machine
LeisureZone, Second Avenue, Harlow CM20 3LH.
Visit the Time Machine in Harlow – an amazing hands-on gallery for Science and Technology with over 50 amazing exhibits to play with and enjoy. There are also have great exhibitions with links to history and inventions which change every few months
Walton Maritime Museum
East Terrace, Walton (right on the seafront behind the beach huts)
Limited opening hours: 2pm to 4pm Easter Bank Holiday weekend, both May Bank Holiday weekends, and daily 2:00pm to 4:00pm) from 1st July to 30th September.
A museum telling the maritime and seaside holiday story of Walton on the Naze. The collection includes former lifeboats, an ex-RNLI boarding boat, information on the men who sailed them, and artefacts charting Walton’s colourful history as a seaside town.
Warner Textile Archive
Warner’s Mill, Silks Way, Braintree, Essex. CM7 3GB. 01376 557803.
“Located at Warner’s Mill, Silks Way, the Warner Textile Archive is of national importance, but its roots are firmly in Braintree. The archive is a unique record of the history of textile manufacture and design since the 18th century.”
(nb limited opening times : Weds 10:00 -16:00, and every first Sat of the month)