The Museum of Nottingham Life at Brewhouse Yard

Recently I decided to visit the Museum of Nottingham Life at Brewhouse Yard which, as I mentioned in my post about Nottingham Light Night, I didn’t think I’d visited before, though it actually appears I may have made a trip there when I was at primary school. Regardless it all felt new and has certainly undergone some changes since that trip. It is based just around the corner from the entrance to Nottingham Castle, right next to Ye Olde Trip To Jerusalem and traces the social history of Nottingham over the past 300 years. It spans five 17th century houses and includes a school room, kitchen and bedroom, shop fronts such as grocers and pharmacies and an air raid shelter from the Second World War.


The entrance fee is an exceedingly reasonable £2.50, and you can also get a combined ticket for entry to the Castle as well for £5.50. On arrival we were directed outside to the Rock Cottage (below) by the very friendly staff (most of whom are volunteers) which houses a replica Victorian school room and an exhibition on growing up in Nottingham.


The Victorian schoolroom is quite fun to see, especially as under the lid of each desk are displays of various aspects of school life at the time, such as spelling tests and Sunday school instructions.


The room across the way from the school room holds cabinets full of toys and other items spanning several decades such as this Victorian sewing kit,


and these old football programmes. 


We then proceeded back into the Museum proper which is inside the terraced houses in the picture at the top of the page; originally Brewhouse Yard would have contained 20 such houses but now there are only five. Directed through the entrance you first turn into the below room, laid out as it once would have been for the Victorian occupants of this particular house.


The next room is the Victorian kitchen, where you are encouraged to open drawers and investigate inside cupboards. One of the interesting items in this room was this goose feather, attached to the wall.


This was the Victorian version of a brush. One goose, which was more readily eaten in those days than now, could furnish what was the equivalent of two expensive to purchase brushes in the form of its wings. Certainly an insight into Victorian housekeeping I hadn’t been familiar with before.

Another item of interest was this example of an early fridge. The open top part you can see in the picture below is where a slab of ice, brought over from Scandinavia or America, would sit, keeping the food cool for about four days, during which time the ice man would deliver more ice to the household, ensuring the food was preserved as round the clock as possible.


The next step is into a replica grocer’s, with an excellent attention to detail,


and the remnants of an original fireplace from the Brewhouse Yard from the 1700s.


And then it is on to possibly the most fascinating section, the caves cut out of the rock behind the building that were used as air raid shelters during the Second World War, but also as food storage and a place for cooking by those who used to live in the cottages. The picture below shows an Anderson air raid shelter, which was constructed from corrugated steel, bolted onto rails and then sunk into the ground.


I find that people are often surprised to learn that Nottingham was actually bombed during the Second World War. In fact, as notices within this section of the museum highlight, Nottingham was subject to 11 air raids, the most serious being that of the night of 8th and 9th May 1941 when 159 people were killed and over 200 injured.


The caves themselves go back a fair way, and it’s always interesting to wander through them, be they here or at the Castle. The Museum has laid out various sections so you can see the work that would have gone on in them, such as storage for beer, candle-making and even as bedrooms.

The next stage explores childhood, with rooms full of cabinets filled with children’s toys and collectibles from various decades, such as those below:


There’s a lovely selection of toys on display stretched over several rooms, including a doll’s house that was made in the ’30s which didn’t photograph particularly well through the glass as the surprise appearance of the sun was creating even more reflections than normal.

The next stage is then the recreation of a 1920s shopping experience – not only authentic shop fronts filled with interesting items, but also the sound of people shopping is played in the background, giving you some idea about the hustle and bustle of the area. Shops here include an ironmonger’s, pawnbrokers, doctor’s surgery and hairdresser’s.



One of the shops which had some of the more interesting items on display was the pharmacy, which as well as lots of bottles marked up with ingredients such as arsenic and boric acid…


…also had this veedee on display:


This odd-looking instrument was supposed to be imbued with “curative vibration” which among other things could allegedly make men’s hair grow and cure deafness – quite some claim!

I was very impressed in fact with the breadth of things that there are to see and explore at the Museum, particularly given the amount of the caves you are able to walk through; it definitely feels like one of Nottingham’s hidden gems and along with the Castle is absolutely worth a visit.

You can find more photos of the Museum at my Flickr account here.

Categories: England, Nottingham, Nottinghamshire | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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