Keswick Museum and Art Gallery

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Keswick Museum and Art Gallery in 2011

Keswick Museum is a museum in Keswick in the English Lake District which reopened in 2014 after extensive refurbishment of its purpose-built 1898 building. Its varied collections feature Keswick’s landscape, history and culture.[1] The Mountain Heritage Trust maintains a changing exhibition in the museum, which in 2014 focused on the effect of World War I on the climbing community.[2]

The museum and art gallery is owned by Allerdale Borough Council and run by the largely volunteer Keswick Museum and Art Gallery Management Ltd.


The museum was founded in 1873 and had a number of temporary homes as it grew, including The Moot Hall in Keswick town centre.

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, 11 April 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 February 2007, Keswick Museum and Art Gallery Management Limited was formed; a company made up of local people, who now run the Museum on behalf of Allerdale Borough Council, the sole trustee.[3]

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,[4] It reopened in May 2014.[5][6]


in 2008 the museum was ranked as the third strangest museum in the world by[citation needed]

Some of its contents include:[7]


The museum was also once home to the legendary Girt dog of Ennerdale after it had been stuffed and mounted.[citation needed]

Historical chronology[edit]

1784 Peter Crosthwaite opened the first museum in Keswick

1865 Cockermouth, Keswick and Penrith Railway opened on 2 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 its 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.

1884 Canon Rawnsley, Vicar of Crosthwaite founds the Keswick School of Industrial Art

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.

1895 The National Trust was founded by Canon Rawnsley, Octavia Hill and Robert Hunter.

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 given 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.

1939-45 Art Gallery used as a classroom for St Katherine’s College Liverpool and Roedean School Brighton

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 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. [9] Mr Jamie Barnes appointed as Curator

2012 Closed for refurbishment

2014 The fully refurbished and enhanced museum reopens.[5][6]

2016 Re-brands as Keswick Museum.


  1. ^ "Keswick Museum and Art Gallery (leaflet)" (PDF). Retrieved 17 October 2014. 
  2. ^ "MHT Residency at the Keswick Museum now open". Mountain Heritage Trust. Retrieved 17 October 2014. 
  3. ^ Source: Short history of Keswick Museum given as handout to visitors
  4. ^ "Keswick Museum to shut for a year for £2m refurbishment". BBC News. 29 March 2012. Retrieved 13 January 2013. 
  5. ^ a b "New beginning for Keswick museum". The Cumberland News. 23 May 2014. Archived from the original on 6 October 2014. Retrieved 17 October 2014. 
  6. ^ a b "Keswick Museum reopens after £2m refurbishment". BBC News. 25 May 2014. Retrieved 17 October 2014. 
  7. ^ Source: Keswick Museum brochure 2008
  8. ^ Hart-Davis, Rupert (1998). Halfway to Heaven: Concluding memoirs of a Literary Life. Stroud, Gloucestershire: Sutton. ISBN 0750918373. 
  9. ^ Taken from Chronology prepared by J.Renshaw, 2008

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 54°36′11″N 3°07′58″W / 54.6031°N 3.1329°W / 54.6031; -3.1329