Keswick Museum and Art Gallery
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A building was purpose built for it, in Fitz Park, partly as a memorial to the Hewetson brothers, distinguished Keswick benefactors, and to commemorate the jubilee of Queen Victoria. It remains the only purpose-built museum in the county.
The two original galleries were the Main Gallery and the Model Gallery, the latter built especially for Flintoft's famous model of the Lake District.
The building work started in 1897 and the grand opening was on Easter Monday, April 11, 1898.
The 'Picture Gallery' was added later, through the energies of Canon Rawnsley, a museum trustee and one of the founders of the National Trust. It opened in July 1906 with its first exhibition held by The Lake Artists Society.
The Fitz Park Trust, which was founded in 1882, took over the running of the museum and kept it and Fitz Park for the enjoyment of "the inhabitants of Keswick and the visitors thereto", until 1994.
The Museum was handed over to the Borough Council for financial reasons, in April 1994, and the park to the Town Council. Both are kept as charitable trusts on behalf of the local people.
In March 2012 it was announced that the museum would close for one year in September 2012 to allow a major refurbishment supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, and as of January 2013[update] the museum is closed.
The museum was recently[when?] ranked as the third strangest museum in the world by helium.com.
Some of its contents include:
- The Musical Stones of Skiddaw (Played to Queen Victoria)
- Napoleon's Teacup
- A mounted Golden Eagle
- Britain's rarest fish, pickled in a jar
- A 666 Year Old Mummified Cat
- The skin of a giant cobra
- Victorian rollerblades
- A man trap
The museum was also once home to the legendary Girt dog of Ennerdale after it had been stuffed and mounted.
As of 2004, the Museum became free to enter for all. It relies on donations from the public to stay open.
1784 Peter Crosthwaite opened the first museum in Keswick
1865 Cockermouth, Keswick and Penrith Railway opened on the 2nd January.
1870 Crosthwaite’s museum closed and collection sold.
1873 The Keswick Museum founded by the Keswick Literary Society The museum collection was intended to illustrate the Natural History and Antiquities of the Lake District. Temporary accommodation for the collection was provided in the reading room at the Library.
1874 The Museum Committee leased the southern end of the Moot Hall to accommodate the growing collection by which time it comprised some 1319 artefacts including mineral specimens, samples of ores, rocks and fossils, butterflies and moths, birds and flowering plants and grasses. The Keswick Literary Society changes it name to the Keswick Literary and Scientific Society.
1875 Mr James Clifton Ward appointed Caretaker of the Museum and Mr Birkett appointed assistant. The Museum was placed in Trust, to secure the collection in perpetuity and Mr R D Marshall Esq, Dr Knight and John Fisher Crosthwaite were appointed as trustees.
1877 Mr James Clifton Ward retired. The museum was opened free of charge to the inhabitants of Keswick for the first time.
1878 Flintoft’s model of the Lake District was bought for £160 for the Trustees of the Keswick Museum.
1882 Fitz Park Trust formed with the intention of providing space for the use of inhabitants of Keswick and its neighbourhood, and the visitors thereto, as a pleasure ground and a place of recreation.
1886 Mr John Postlethwaite replaced Dr Knight as Honorary Curator of the Museum.
1887 Fitz Park was opened to the public with support from Henry and Thomas Hewetson.
1896 The Keswick Literary and Scientific Society agree to approach the Urban District Council, the Fitz Park Trustees and the Hewetson Memorial Committee to establish if an alternative accommodation can be provided for the museum and model and on 3 July the Trustees offered the Museum, including Flintoft’s model to the Urban District Council “to be held in trust for the use of the town in perpetuity” The Society then asked the Fitz Park Trustees Mr Thomas Hodgson, who had drawn up the original plans for the gate lodge was appointed architect for the museum and presented plans at a meeting on 21 November.
1898 Mr and Mrs John Wilson were appointed Caretakers of the Museum and the Museum opened on Easter Monday 11 April.
1905 Thomas Hodgson prepares plans for the Art Gallery. Thomas Hodgson (1833–1905) architect, builder and artist Trustee and Honorary Secretary of Fitz Park Trust died.
1906 Art Gallery opened.
1914-18 Art Gallery offered for use as a hospital if required.
1917 Lithophone played by the Richardson family gifted to the Museum by Joseph Richardson’s great grandson, Richardson Henderson.
Art Gallery was rented out to the British Legion Band for three nights a week during the winter. It was subsequently also rented out to the Keswick Further Education Committee’s Physical Exercise Class, the Badminton Club and the Folk Dancing Club.
1928 Mr Davey appointed curator to the Museum (til 1960) A Short Catalogue of The Fitz Park Museum collection was published.
1938 Art Gallery used as a sorting office at Christmas.
1943 Museum acquires ‘500 year old cat’
1955 Exhibition of David Arthur Baxter of Rosthwaite organised in the Art Gallery.
1972 Cockermouth, Keswick and Penrith Railway was closed.
1960 Mr Gandy appointed as curator of Museum
1980s Public Toilets on Lower Floor level of the Museum and Art Gallery were closed.
1984 The Keswick School of Industrial Art closes.
1988 The ‘Queen of the Lakes Pavilion’ in Station Road is demolished.
1990 Ms Hazel Davidson is appointed as full time curator of the Museum.
1994 Application to the Museum & Galleries Commission for repairs and improvements.
1995 The Museum is separated from the Fitz Park Trust on the 11 January and Allerdale Borough Council take over role of Trustee.
1996 Keswick Museum and Art Gallery becomes part of Allerdale Museum Service and are registered with Museum & Galleries Commission
2002 Allerdale Borough Council propose closure of the Museum.
2003 The Friends of KMAG was established.
2004 Mr Philip Crouch appointed as Curator
2005 Mr Peter Fox appointed as Curator
2006 Feasibility Study commissioned.
2007 Allerdale Borough Council formally handed the day-to-day management and operation of the Keswick Museum and Art Gallery to Keswick Museum and Art Gallery Management Limited (KMAG Mgt Ltd) on 1 April. Collection of objects Keswick School of Industrial Arts purchased.
2008 Alterations to lower ground floor to provide additional accommodation for the museum and education centre.  Mr Jamie Barnes appointed as Curator
2012 Closed for refurbishment, planned to reopen in 2013.
- Source: Short history of Keswick Museum given as handout to visitors
- "Keswick Museum to shut for a year for £2m refurbishment". BBC News. 29 March 2012. Retrieved 13 January 2013.
- "Keswick Museum and Art Gallery: Where is it?". Allerdale Borough Council. Retrieved 13 January 2013. "The museum is now closed for a major enhancement project."
- Source: Keswick Museum brochure 2008
- Taken from Chronology prepared by J.Renshaw, 2008
- Keswick Museum and Art Gallery website
- Holding address of forthcoming website
- Description of the collections on Allerdale Borough Council website