If you are reading this article then it’s a fair bet that like me, you are interested in the history of the area we live in. Hopefully you will have already visited Spelthorne Museum in Staines, but if not you are missing a treat!
Next time you are in Staines, come and find us, just through Staines library. We are open whenever the library is, from Monday to Saturday, but extra exhibits are on view in the Thames Room when the museum is staffed, on Weds, Fri and Sat afternoons. The museum is free to visit, and always has been since it was opened by a group of volunteers back in 1980, in the Old Fire Station in Staines Market Square.
In the early days the intention was to exhibit the finds from archaeological digs in the Roman town of Staines, and while these are still an important part of the museum’s displays, the collection has expanded to include the history of the whole Borough from the earliest settlements to the present day.
The museum moved to its current location in 2005, and the following year was re-opened by Michael Aspel after a complete redesign, funded by a substantial Heritage Lottery Fund grant and Spelthorne Council.
Visitors entering the Elmsleigh Room from the library are greeted by a replica of Spelthorne’s earliest known inhabitant, ‘Shepperton Woman’, who lived 5500 years ago in the Neolithic period, when people first began to settle in one place and farm. The displays continue in chronological order from the Ice Age, and besides the Roman artefacts, another highlight is a model of how the Roman town may have looked. Nearby is the original London Stone of 1285, placed at Staines to mark the jurisdiction of the City of London over the River Thames.
A replica has replaced it on the riverbank across the road from the museum. Other displays here include the origin of our Saxon place names, Magna Carta, the Stanwell connection with the Gunpowder Plot of 1605, and local industries such as Staines Linoleum and boatbuilding. There is also a large architect’s model of the new Walton Bridge.
Next door in the Thames Room, we encounter a replica Roman tavern of the kind that would have served thirsty travellers in Staines High Street nearly 2000 years ago. There is also a ‘Victorian Kitchen’ displaying many household objects of the day. Another highlight is the Staines Parish fire engine of 1738, an amazing survival.
It was pumped by hand. Next to it, a digital screen shows a large collection of old photos of the area. Finally we come to the shop, which sells a wide range of local history publications and historical toys and souvenirs, and the temporary display area.
The museum is still run by friendly volunteers from the local community, with the financial support of Spelthorne Borough Council. Do come and visit us!
The current temporary exhibition in the Thames Room, ‘Made in Spelthorne’ looks at the companies who have manufactured a wide range of products here over the years, and will continue until Christmas. Admission free.