Museums and Heritage

If you love museums and heritage then Dorset is the place for you. There’s lots of places to visit:

Beaminster Museum – Beaminster

Beaminster Museum reflects and interprets the rich social history of this rural West Dorset market town and the surrounding villages.

Bennetts Water Gardens – Chickerell

150 years of local history including Chickerell Brickworks

Bridport Museum – Bridport

A unique rope and netting collection with working machinery, Roman jewellery, fossils from the Jurassic Coast World Heritage site, plus Bridport’s dark history.

Bournemouth Aviation Museum

Aviation museum next to Bournemouth International Airport, with a number of aircraft, aero engines, cockpits and ground vehicles.

Bournemouth Natural Science Society – Bournemouth

Natural history museum in a Victorian building, with fossils, minerals and an Egyptology collection.

Castletown D-Day Centre & Museum – Portland

An authentic recreation of the busy wartime dockyard on the Isle of Portland, from which thousands of American troops embarked, bound for the beaches of Nazi occupied France.

Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre – Charmouth

Local fossil collections and home to the Attenborough and the Sea Dragon display

Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre

Clouds Hill

An isolated cottage near Wareham. It’s the former home of T. E. Lawrence. Owned by the National Trust.

Dorset County Museum – Dorchester

Founded in 1846, the museum covers the county of Dorset’s history and environment.

Dorset Teddy Bear Museum – Dorchester

The museum includes Teddy Bear House and displays antique and other teddy bears. Bears on display include Paddington Bear, Rupert Bear, and Winnie the Pooh.

Dinosaurland Fossil Museum – Lyme Regis

A private museum which is owned and run by Palaeontologist Steve Davies and his wife Jenny. The museum contains a spectacular collection of the local Jurassic marine fossils. The collection grows each year and is now probably the best fossil collection on public display in south west England.

Gillingham Museum – Gillingham

The Museum tells the story of the town, the immediate parishes and their people.

Gold Hill Museum – Shaftesbury

Local history museum with an award-winning cottage garden and wonderful views over Thomas Hardy’s Blackmore Vale.

Grove Prison Museum – Grove

A small museum showing and explaining about the history of the HMYOI, during its Convict Prison days, Borstal Institute days, Youth Custody and Young Offenders Institute days, with film, snippits of information, photographs and items of interest on show.

Hardy’s Cottage

A small cob and thatch building that’s the birthplace of author Thomas Hardy. Owned by the National Trust.

Lyme Regis Museum – Lyme Regis

The museum, built on the site of Mary Anning’s home, is packed with interesting and thought-provoking displays. The collections are unusually rich for a small museum and they have a lot of good stories to tell. Lyme’s lively local history is well represented by its spectacular fossil collections, maritime and domestic objects, and illustrated by paintings, prints and photographs.

Max Gate – Dorchester

Atmospheric Victorian home where author Thomas Hardy once lived. it’s owned by the National Trust.

Max Gate interior
Max Gate

Museum of Design in Plastics (MoDiP) – Poole

Set up in 1988. The only accredited museum in the UK with a focus on plastics. It’s the UK’s leading resource for the study and interpretation of design in plastics and a specialist research resource at Arts University Bournemouth.

Museum of East Dorset (Priest’s House) – Wimborne Minster

Explore the numerous collections and themed exhibitions, and find out more about Wimborne Minster and the surrounding areas of East Dorset.

Nothe Fort – Weymouth

Built in 1872 to protect Weymouth and Portland harbours. Made up of three levels, it encompasses a museum of the fort’s history, café, gift shop, and excellent 360 degree views across both harbours and the beautiful Nothe Gardens of the peninsula.

Poole Museum – Poole

Local history museum

Portland Museum – Easton

Tucked away in a beautiful corner of the island in two cottages dating to the seventeenth century. Find out about author Thomas Hardy and museum founder Dr Marie Stopes’ connections to the island. Ancient superstitions in witchcraft, getting up close and personal with a Jurassic sea monster or finding out about the Nanny Diamonds.

Purbeck Mineral & Mining Museum

The Purbeck Mineral and Mining Museum is an independent museum which exists to preserve and interpret everything to do with the Purbeck extractive industries, especially those associated with the Swanage Railway branch line. At the moment the focus is on the Purbeck ball clay industry. The PMMM is housed in one of the last underground mine buildings which worked in Purbeck. The collections include mining equipment, as well as images and artifacts of all aspects of associated social and economic history including narrow gauge railways. However the Museum is also interested in the history of shale and shale gas, Purbeck limestones, other clays, chalk, other aggregates and oil.

Red House Museum and Gardens – Christchurch

Local history museum.

RNLI Poole Lifeboat Museum – Poole

Housing one of Poole’s historic lifeboats, Thomas Kirk Wright, the old boathouse and souvenir shop at Fisherman’s Dock at the end of Poole Quay offers the public a close-up view of the lifeboat and the history that surrounds it.

Royal Signals Museum – Blandford Camp

Tells the story of military communications from semaphore to cyber.

Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum – Bournemouth

Dream house and galleries built by Merton Russell-Cotes as a present for his wife. Filled with world art and beautiful objects, overlooking the sea.

Scaplen’s Court Museum and Garden – Poole

A fifteenth century Grade I listed house in Poole, next to the Poole Museum. The museum focuses on life in Poole between the fifteenth and nineteenth centuries, and includes a Victorian schoolroom and kitchen.

Shaftesbury Abbey, Museum and Garden Trust – Shaftesbury

The story of the Abbey and its inhabitants has been vividly brought to life. The museum houses a fascinating collection of carved stonework including samples of Saxon carving, medieval floor tiles and other excavated objects.

Sherborne Museum – Sherborne

Local history museum.

Sherborne Steam and Waterwheel Centre – Sherborne

Houses an extensive collection of Victorian engineering. Central to the display is the massive, 26 foot diameter waterwheel built in 1869, which features the system of ventilated buckets designed by William Fairbairn, but so seriously corroded that it is had to be rebuilt. It’s now restored to full working order. Visitors can see the wheel driving a twin cylinder pumpset built in 1883 by Sparrow’s of Martock for a local tannery. They also have a Hindley steam engine.

Shire Hall Historic Courthouse Museum – Dorchester

Brings over 200 years of justice and injustice to life. Walk in the footsteps of people whose lives were forever changed in the historic court at Dorchester’s Shire Hall. Immerse yourself in the cells before ascending to the dock.

Sturminster Newton Museum – Sturminster Newton

The Museum’s collection contains objects, documents and photographs relating to the history of the town and its surrounding villages.

Sutton Poyntz Water Supply Museum – Sutton Poyntz

The site is not only a water supply museum but also a spring source and current day pumping station. travel back in time to learn about how the Victorians transformed public health with the introduction of a clean water supply. Your visit is also an opportunity to learn about treating and supplying water and protecting local water resources and the environment in the 21st century

Terracotta Warrior Museum – Dorchester

Over 8000 life-size clay warriors protected the First Emperor of China’s tomb. The Famous Terracotta Army – is now referred to as the eighth wonder of the ancient world.

The Blandford Fashion Museum – Blandford Forum

Small fashion museum in Dorset with 12 exhibition spaces and a welcoming tearoom, showcasing fashion and textiles from the eighteenth century to the 1980s.

The Blandford Town Museum – Blandford Forum

A wealth of artefacts and archives from prehistoric to the present day.

The Dinosaur Museum – Dorchester

The Dinosaur Museum transports visitors back into the prehistoric world of the dinosaurs. Set in a converted Victorian schoolhouse in the centre of the historic town of Dorchester. See dinosaur skeletons, walk among life-size reconstructions including Stegosaurus and T-Rex, and learn through hands-on interactive displays.

The Etches Collection Museum of Jurassic Life – Kimmeridge

Independent fossil museum based on the lifetime collection of Steve Etches. The Etches Collection was opened in 2016. It’s a unique, modern museum of amazing fossils – the marine life of Jurassic Dorset. Learn about life and death in the Kimmeridgian seas 157 million years ago during the age of the dinosaurs. The Etches Collection is home to Sea Rex – the amazing pliosaur skull featured in Attenborough and the Giant Sea Monster.

The Etches Collection
The Etches Collection

The Keep Military Museum – Dorchester

Creative displays telling the stories of the regiments of Devon and Dorset.

The Keep Military Museum
The Keep Military Museum

The Tank Museum – Bovington

The world’s finest collection of tanks.

The Tutankhamun Exhibition – Dorchester

A spectacular recreation of Tutankhamun’s tomb and treasures.

Tolpuddle Martyrs Museum – Tolpuddle

Tells the harrowing tale of the Tolpuddle Martyrs arrest, trial and punishment, leading to the foundation of modern day trade unionism.

Tudor House Museum – Weymouth

One of Weymouth’s treasured Tudor buildings and thought to have been a merchant’s property. Furnished in the style of an early seventeenth century home of a middle class family. A fascinating insight into the life of the times during the heyday of Weymouth as a port for trade and exploration. Guides describe the domestic daily life of the times, including furniture and clothing, cooking and serving of food, lighting and candle making.

Wareham Town Museum – Wareham

Tells the story of the Wareham area from prehistoric times to the present day.

West Bay Discovery Centre – West Bay

Local history museum.

Weymouth Museum – Weymouth

Local history museum.

Wimborne Model Town & Gardens – Wimborne Minster

1/10th scale model of the town’s streets, shops and gardens as they looked in the 1950s.

Have we missed somewhere?

If you represent a Museum or Heritage location and want to be added to the above please contact us with details