Watford Museum

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Watford Museum
Georgian red-brick 3-storey mansion house with neoclassical pediment
Watford Museum (the former Benskins Brewery building)
Watford is located in Hertfordshire
Location of Watford in Hertfordshire
Established14 March 1982 (1982-03-14)
Location194 Watford High Street, Watford, Hertfordshire, United Kingdom
Coordinates51°39′07″N 0°23′28″W / 51.652043°N 0.391166°W / 51.652043; -0.391166Coordinates: 51°39′07″N 0°23′28″W / 51.652043°N 0.391166°W / 51.652043; -0.391166
TypeLocal museum
AccreditationHertfordshire Association of Museums; Museums, Libraries and Archives Council
CuratorSarah Priestley
OwnerWatford Borough Council
Public transit accessLondon Overground Watford High Street
Nearest car parkOn site

Watford Museum is a local museum in Watford, Hertfordshire, in the United Kingdom. It is owned by Watford Borough Council and is located on the Lower High Street in Watford.

The museum opened in 1982 and is housed in a Grade II-listed Georgian town house which was previously the premises of Benskins Brewery.[1][2] Its collection includes fine art, displays about local heritage, industry and sport, with a special collection related to the history of the Cassiobury Estate.[3]


The mansion house at 194 Watford High Street was built for the Dyson family around 1775, although there are records of a brewery operating on the site since 1750. The three-storey, red-brick house, built in the Georgian neoclassical style, is fronted by a three-bay pediment with a central bull's eye window, and flanked by two lower wings which were added circa 1807. Tall, yellow-brick Victorian brewing premises once stood behind the house, although these have since been demolished.[4][5][6]

The house was bought in 1867 by Joseph Benskin and continued to operate as a brewery until it was acquired by Ind Coope in 1957. The mansion house was later converted into offices, and it was listed grade II by English Heritage in 1952.[5] It became the site of the Watford Museum in 1982 and was officially opened on 14 March 1982 by the Watford-born actor and comedian, Terry Scott.[7]

The museum celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2011.[7]


Sir Peter Lely's Portrait of Arthur Capell, 1st Earl of Essex (Cassiobury Fine Art Collection)
A Watford FC-inspired stage costume worn by Elton John
Art exhibition space at Watford Museum

The museum has a significant fine art collection, which includes the notable Cassiobury Collection. Works on display include artworks formerly of the Earl of Essex's collection at Cassiobury House, with paintings of the Cassiobury Estate such as A view of Cassiobury Park by John Wootton, View of the South-West Front of Cassiobury House by J. M. W. Turner, Cassiobury Park Gates by Charles Vickers and an 1831 painting of the Cassiobury House Winter Dining Room by William Henry Hunt.[8] The museum also houses portraits of a number of Earls of Essex.[9][10]

Among the other works of art on display are oil paintings of the Dutch and Flemish schools, with works by Adam François van der Meulen, Klaes Molenaer, Pieter Neeffs the Elder and Adriaen van Ostade, as well as paintings by Turner, Peter Lely, Ronald Pope and Joshua Reynolds.[11] A number of acquisitions for the fine art collection have been assisted by grants from the Art Fund, including paintings by Henry Edridge, Sir Hubert von Herkomer, William Henry Hunt and John Wootton, and a set of 21 engravings from the Illustrations of the Book of Job by William Blake.[12]

The museum's sculpture collection features works in works in bronze, copper and steel by Mary Bromet, Charles Browne, Charles Dyson-Smith, Jacob Epstein, Mario Negri, Ronald Pope and Takaaki.[13]

Displays in the museum document the development of Watford Junction railway station, and a small gallery dedicated to the history of Watford Football Club includes sports memorabilia and a stage costume worn by Elton John.[14]

The museum holds an archive collection of documents, printed ephemera, photographs and diaries related to Watford townsfolk, local government, nobility and businesses.[15]

Around a third of the museum's collection is on display.


Watford Museum is located on the lower part of Watford High Street, around 160 metres (0.1 mi) south of the Harlequin Shopping Centre. The nearest railway station is Watford High Street London Overground station; after 2017 this will also become a London Underground Metropolitan line station. The museum is within easy reach of the A41, the M1 motorway, and National Cycle Route 6.


  1. ^ "Watford Museum Scrutiny 2008" (PDF). Watford Borough Council. Retrieved 15 November 2014.
  2. ^ Goose, Nigel (2008). Slater, Terry (ed.). A county of small towns : the development of Hertfordshire's urban landscape to 1800. Hatfield: Univ. of Hertfordshire Press. p. 295. ISBN 9781905313440.
  3. ^ "Watford Museum". Hertfordshire Museums. Retrieved 16 November 2014.
  4. ^ Pevsner, Nikolaus (1953). The Buildings of England: Hertfordshire. Penguin Books. p. 267.
  5. ^ a b "Watford Museum, Watford". British Listed Buildings. Retrieved 17 November 2014.
  6. ^ Historic England. "Watford Museum (1101099)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 17 November 2014.
  7. ^ a b Dakin, Melanie (10 March 2011). "Many happy returns for Watford Museum". Watford Observer. Retrieved 15 November 2014.
  8. ^ "The Cassiobury Collection:Cassiobury House". Watford Museum. Retrieved 15 November 2014.
  9. ^ "The Cassiobury Collection:Earls of Essex". Watford Museum. Retrieved 15 November 2014.
  10. ^ "More about Watford Museum". Art UK. Retrieved 15 November 2014.
  11. ^ "Fine Art". Watford Museum. Retrieved 15 November 2014.
  12. ^ "Watford Museum tells the story of Watford past and present". The Art Fund. Retrieved 16 November 2014.
  13. ^ "Sculpture from the Watford Museum Collection of Fine Art". Watford Museum. Retrieved 15 November 2014.
  14. ^ "Welcome". Watford Museum. Retrieved 15 November 2014.
  15. ^ "Archive collection of the Watford Museum". The National Archives. Retrieved 16 November 2014.

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