Museums and Groups in Lancashire

There are plenty of ways to get involved with the history and archaeology of Lancashire. Why not visit a museum or join an archaeological society?

Many Portable Antiquities Scheme finds can be seen on display at museums around the county (see the links that accompany the descriptions below).


Bacup Natural History Museum

Known affectionately as the ‘Nat’, the Bacup Natural History Society & Museum was established in 1878. Over the years the focus of the museum has switched from natural history through archaeology to local history, and the collections include fossils, lithics and domestic artefacts as well as a huge documentary and photographic archive.

One of the first purpose-built free museums to open outside London, Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery houses a rich and fascinating collection covering fine art, decorative art, Egyptology, coins, manuscripts, natural history, social history and South Asia – as well as of course the local and social history of Blackburn. Three galleries tell the story of Blackburn from the Iron Age to the present day.
Clitheroe is in the heart of the Ribble Valley and its castle is said to be the smallest surviving Norman keep in England. The castle was bought by the people of Clitheroe as their war memorial in 1920, and the museum in the Steward’s house was opened in 1954. The museum has displays on geology, natural history, the history of the castle, Clitheroe, and the local area. Recent acquisitions include the Mitton hoard of medieval coins (BM-193206) found just outside the town, and a gilded silver Tudor pendant (BM-194C07).
Overlooking beautiful Morecambe Bay, this friendly museum is housed in the old Customs House. Like much of the new town of Fleetwood, the Customs House was designed by the great neo-classical architect Decimus Burton, who also built much of London Zoo.  The museum explores the story of Fleetwood from past to present, concentrating on its life as a seaside resort, deep-sea fishing port and home of the famous Fisherman’s Friends lozenges. The museum is run by the Fleetwood Museums Trust.
Run by Preston City Council, the Harris has enriched the lives of visitors and the local community since 1893. The Discover Preston history gallery tells the story of Preston from prehistory to the present day, including an exceptional prehistoric collection and a fine range of numismatics including many trade tokens. Don’t miss the exhibition on Preston’s world-famous football team, the Dick, Kerr’s Ladies FC (closes summer 2018).
Housed in the beautiful Old Town Hall, Lancaster Museum was founded in 1923. It is full of objects illustrating the history and archaeology of the city of Lancaster, with recent acquisitions including a 16th-century enamelled gold hat badge from Quernmore (LANCUM-371FC5).
This museum closed on 30th September 2016 following the withdrawing of funding by Lancashire County Council. Negotiations to re-open the museum in partnership with a new operator are continuing, and schools can still visit in pre-booked parties. Before closure, the museum acquired many finds recorded on the PAS database, including the famous Silverdale hoard (LANCUM-65C1B4).
Lancashire’s only specialist Roman museum, Ribchester Museum opened in 1915 and had a major refurbishment in 2001, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund. The museum has a large collection of archives and finds from years of excavation at the Roman fort of Bremetennacum. It also has an innovative 3D interactive visualization of the fort and settlement, using game engine technology and regularly updated to include new discoveries.
This museum was founded in the Old Grammar School at Leyland in 1978. The collections have grown mainly through the donations of local people, and include the finds from E .E. Pickering’s excavations at Roman Walton-le-Dale. More recently the museum has acquired a silver ‘posy’ ring found in two pieces (LANCUM-5D5833). Also on display is a selection of coins from the Cuerdale Hoard, on loan from the Harris Museum.

Societies & Organisations

Lancashire and Cheshire Antiquarian Society

The Lancashire and Cheshire Antiquarian Society was founded in 1883. Its sphere includes archaeology (both traditional and industrial), economic and social history, architecture and the arts, and folklore from antiquity to the more recent past. The Society covers the historic counties of Cheshire and Lancashire, including the conurbations of Liverpool and Manchester.

The Society organises field trips and dayschools, publishes peer-reviewed research in its Transactions, and comments on planning applications. It also has an extensive library relating to the history and antiquities of both counties, held at Manchester Central Library.

Lancashire Archaeological Society

LAS was founded in 1976 to give the ‘new’ county of Lancashire an archaeological society of its own. It provides an annual programme of high-quality talks in the winter months and guided walks, outings or visits during the summer.

Lancaster Archaeological and Historical Society

LAHS was founded in 1973 and currently has around a hundred members. The society holds winter lecture meetings, with topics alternating between history and archaeology, and summer field trips. The Society’s journal Contrebis is published annually, and contains articles on archaeology and local history in Lancashire and the north-west of England; back copies can be accessed here.

West Lancashire Archaeological Society

This society organises monthly lectures and maintains a blog and Facebook page.

Chorley Historical and Archaeological Society

This society organises lectures and field trips, and encourages projects by members.

Wyre Archaeology Group

Wyre Archaeology Group is a keen group of amateur archaeologists based in the Wyre and Fylde areas of Lancashire, who focus on fieldwork and most particularly excavation.

Lancashire Local History Federation

This is the official co-ordinating body for local history in the County Palatine (historic county) of Lancashire. From Dalton in Furness in the north to Denton in the south, from Fleetwood in the west to Farnworth in the east, whether you are interested in local history, family history, archaeology or industrial archaeology, one or more of our member societies will be able to help. Find a list of the member societies here and an integrated diary of all their events here.

CBA North West also has a list of archaeological societies in the region.