Museums Act 1845

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Museums Act 1845
Long title An Act for encouraging the Establishment of Museums in Large Towns
Citation 8 & 9 Vict. c. 43
Territorial extent England and Wales
Royal assent 21 July 1845
Status: Repealed

The Museums Act 1845 (8 & 9 Vict c. 43) was an act of the United Kingdom Parliament which gave the town councils of larger municipal boroughs the power to establish museums.

Historical background[edit]

In the 1830s, at the height of the Chartist movement, there was a general tendency towards reformism in the United Kingdom. This prompted much new legislation to be passed, such as the Parliamentary Reform Act 1832, the Factory Act 1833, the first instance of a government grant for education in the same year and the Poor Law Amendment Act 1834. The capitalist economic model had created shift patterns which left workers with free time, in contrast to the agrarian model, and the middle classes were concerned that the workers' free time was not being well-spent. This was prompted more by Victorian middle-class paternalism rather than by demand from the lower social orders.[1] Campaigners felt that encouraging the lower classes to spend their free time on morally uplifting activities, such as reading, would promote greater social good.

In 1835, and against government opposition, James Silk Buckingham, MP for Sheffield and a supporter of the temperance movement, was able to secure the chair of the select committee which would examine "the extent, causes, and consequences of the prevailing vice of intoxication among the labouring classes of the United Kingdom" and propose solutions. Francis Place, a campaigner for the working class, agreed that "the establishment of parish libraries and district reading rooms, and popular lectures on subjects both entertaining and instructive to the community might draw off a number of those who now frequent public houses for the sole enjoyment they afford." [2] Buckingham introduced to Parliament a public institution bill allowing boroughs to charge a tax to set up libraries and museums, the first of its kind. Although this did not become law, it had a major influence on William Ewart and Joseph Brotherton, MPs, who introduced a bill which would "[empower] boroughs with a population of 10,000 or more to raise a 1/2d for the establishment of museums." [3] This became the Museums Act 1845.


  1. ^ McMenemy, David (2008). The Public Library. London: Facet Publishing. pp. 24–26. ISBN 978-1-85604-616-9.
  2. ^ Select Committee on inquiry into drunkenness, Report (1834)
  3. ^ Kelly, Thomas (1977). Books for the people: an illustrated history of the British public library. André Deutsch. p. 77. ISBN 0-233-96795-8.