It’s time to take a look at some of the more unusual museums and art galleries across England, which all happen to have free entry too!
House of Marbles, Devon, South West England
Long before the Xbox, Gameboy and iPod were invented, game playing with your siblings was an old school affair – think board games, puzzles and marbles! And at the working glass and games factory of House of Marbles in Bovey Tracey (on the eastern edge of the Dartmoor National Park), you can see these old toys in all their glory, such as chess sets, wooden diabolo and spinning tops. Parents can buy some of the traditional toys such as animal-themed skipping ropes, dominoes and table football. Kids will be enthralled with the glass making demonstrations and giant jenga puzzles. The exhibits are quirky and interesting and the on-site café also offers the ubiquitous Devon Cream Tea.
Natural History Museum, Tring, Hertfordshire
This Victorian museum promises amazing animals and birds alongside natural history artefacts. And during the school holidays and weekend kids can get messy at the special craft workshops, making creating and learning all about moths, butterflies and nocturnal creatures. Kids will be transfixed by the giant prehistoric dinosaurs, enormous blue whale and giant sloth. Adults and children alike will be mesmerised by the Wallace trail, to witness the huge array of animals collected by Alfred Russel Wallace.
Coventry Transport Museum, Coventry, West Midlands
If you enjoyed the BBC TV show ‘Das Auto: The Germans, Their Cars and Us’ then you’ll be fascinated by the Coventry Transport Museum. The programme concentrated on British motor manufacturing from the Second World War onwards and how if tried, and failed, to compete with German motor engineering. And here at the Coventry based museum – where the British motor industry was originally based – and here you can see 240 cars on display that have shaped automotive history. There’s Lady Diana’s red Mini Metro from 1980, the ThrustSSC which holds the World Land Speed Record for reaching 763 mph and there’s the iconic gull-winged DeLorean DMC-12 that fans of the Back to the Future movies will recognise.
Pen Room Museum, Birmingham
Kids will scoff with mirth when they catch sight of the myriad of pens on display. Time to pack the ipads, tablets and mp3 players away and get back to basics. And did you know that in the 19th century three quarters of everything written by pen originated in Birmingham? There are over 5,000 items in display and kids are encouraged to get hand on, especially in the authentic Victorian school room. Adults and children alike can take courses in calligraphy and braille.
Dewsbury Museum, Dewsbury, West Yorkshire
Accompanying children will be fascinated to learn just how much England has changed over the last century. Kids can immerse themselves in the authentic 1940s classroom, as well as following the country through World War II. There is also a really interesting toy gallery. There are special craft workshops running in the school holidays, where kids can make dream catchers and sock creatures within the grade 2 listed building.
National Football Museum, Manchester
The 2013/14 football season is official underway and what better way to celebrate than by visiting the National Football Museum! Kids of ages will appreciate the original football from the 1966 World Cup Final. On display is also the oldest FA Cup trophy and heaps of other interesting memorabilia. See collections from Sir Stanley Matthews alongside UEFA and football league items.
Museum of English Rural Life, Reading, Berkshire
It’s back to basics at the Museum of Rural Life in Reading, where visitors can join the Teddy Bears’ Picnic, get up close to various animals at the Miller’s Ark petting farm and try various traditional craft activities. There’s also an animal garden trail and treasure hunt where kids can spot and identify animals. The craft and tradition workshops include super spinning, felted fingers and various other drop-in workshops. The series of exhibitions houses the national collection of books, objects and archives all about rural life, farming, food and the countryside.
Images Credits; 1; Joe Mabel, 2; Lee Haywood