There are plenty of ways to get involved with the history and archaeology of Warwickshire. 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).
Market Hall Museum is part of Warwickshire Museums, the oldest county museum service in Britain. The Museum is housed in the Market Hall, a 17th century landmark in the heart of Warwick, and has recently been refurbished with the help of a generous grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
The Market Hall Museum tells the story of Warwickshire, and how the natural, built and human landscapes have shaped the county to the present day. It contains many finds recorded on the PAS database, including stunning medieval jewellery such as the Middleton gold pendant (WMID-BC01F1), the Wootton Wawen jewelled brooch (WMID-86D485) and a gold, garnet and sapphire brooch from Warwick (PAS-66CB63).
St Johns House is also part of Warwickshire Museums. Used exclusively by local school children during term time for activities and learning sessions, galleries include a Victorian kitchen and schoolroom, displays on childhood, toys and games, costumes and learning space. The first floor houses the museum of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment of Fusiliers. There are also lovely gardens in which to sit and enjoy a picnic.
Nuneaton Museum has permanent galleries of local history (including industrial archaeology), fine art and local writer George Eliot.
Nuneaton Heritage Centre houses an eclectic collection of objects and memorabilia relating to Nuneaton’s past, including archives from now-vanished industries. There is a recreated Victorian schoolroom and a large collection of local history resources including historic maps.
The Bedworth Heritage Centre is run by the Bedworth Society and is housed in an unusual building called The Parsonage. It has displays on the almshouses of the area, the silk ribbon weaving industry and the coalmining heritage of the area.
The Heritage Centre at Henley-in-Arden is a museum of the town’s history from the Norman Conquest to the present day. The museum’s medieval collection has recently been redisplayed, and includes the museum building itself, parts of which have been tree-ring dated to 1345 AD.
This small museum is housed in a medieval building that was formerly part of the Abbey of St Mary the Virgin. Although called the ‘Barn’, it has two floors and so was clearly not built as an agricultural building – but exactly what it was is still a puzzle. Downstairs is material from the Abbey, and upstairs concentrates on Kenilworth itself. The collection ranges from the Bronze Age to the present day, and the museum is run by volunteers from the Kenilworth History and Archaeology Society.
Roman Alcester Heritage Centre is a small but interesting museum created by a partnership between the Alcester Heritage Trust and Warwickshire County Council. It is run by a staff of friendly volunteers, and tells the story of what life was like in Roman times between the 1st and 4th centuries AD. There are lots of finds to see and handle, and children can dress in Roman armour and try their hand at Roman crafts.
The star finds of Rugby Museum come from the Roman town of Tripontium, but the Museum also collects archaeological material from other fieldwork in and around Rugby. A silver Viking-age ring from Kings Newham (WMID-5C23C2) was acquired under the Treasure Act a few years ago. The Museum also has a good social history collection and a renowned collection of modern art.
You can’t have a page on museums in Warwickshire without mentioning its most famous historic resident. Shakespeare’s Birthplace is a mid-16th-century house with a modern heritage centre and a Tudor-style garden. If you are in Stratford, you may like to pop in to the other Shakespearean museums – Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, New Place, Hall’s Croft, Mary Arden’s Farm, Shakespeare’s Schoolroom and Guildhall, and Tudor World.
The world’s largest collection of historic British cars, the British Motor Museum was completely refurbished in 2016 and now displays over 300 classic cars in exhibitions on design, motorsport, royal collections and film and television. The collection includes extensive archives of the British motor industry.
Societies & Organisations
BWAS was founded in 1870 as the main county society for archaeology. They organise lectures and excursions, and publish the Transactions of the Birmingham and Warwickshire Archaeological Society, the county journal. The website has some self-guided walks to get fit and see the region’s heritage up close! They are also currently looking for volunteers to expand their activities.
CADAS is a thriving and active society with nearly a hundred members. They carry out excavation and post-excavation projects, as well as having monthly lectures and a regular bulletin of news. There is a Fieldwalking Group and a team working on a Heritage Lottery Fund supported project studying Broadwell, near Rugby.
KHAS organises monthly lectures and outings. It has a useful website with lots of resources for the researcher, and a forum for discussion. The society also runs the Kenilworth Abbey Museum and Heritage Centre.
RAS is an award-winning and very active society which was originally founded to excavate Tripontium Roman town as a rescue project in advance of gravel-digging. Since then, the society has been involved in a range of fieldwork, conducting excavations at Dunchurch in 2012 and Cave’s Inn in 2014. RAS members have also been involved with research organised by Coventry and District Archaeological Society at Broadwell, and at Shawell and Lutterworth (Leicestershire) in conjunction with the Lutterworth Fieldwalking Group. Members meet monthly throughout the year at Rugby Museum.
The Warwickshire Industrial Archaeology Society (WIAS) was formed in 1989 with the aim of promoting the study, recording and preservation of the industrial archaeology of Warwickshire, Coventry and Solihull. The area is full of transport infrastructure, from Roman roads to modern canals and railways, and is famous for coal mining, bicycle and car manufacture, and textile and needlemaking. WIAS organises monthly lectures and occasional site visits, and publishes a newsletter.
The WLHS maintains a list of other local history societies here.