Sturminster Newton’s Museum Society was formed in 1984, prompted by the death of Ray Rogers, former registrar of Sturminster Newton, a keen collector of archival material and a long-time campaigner for a museum.
The Museum was finally opened in the disused Chapel of the old Union Workhouse in Bath Road on 15th July 1989 by Miss Agnes Williams, the granddaughter of Montague Williams who built the chapel in 1890.
The Chapel suffered several problems as a Museum: it was on the outskirts of the town, had inadequate parking and very poor conservation conditions. It did not attract many visitors.
In 2007, the Society, now the Museum & Mill Society, were able, thanks to the generosity and enthusiasm of the community, to raise sufficient funds to provide a deposit on a mortgage to purchase the current Museum building.
Subsequently, a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund enabled the Society to make some necessary internal alterations and refurbish the building as a museum. The new Museum opened to the public on August 1st 2008.
The Society is preserving the heritage of Sturminster Newton and its surrounding villages by collecting and conserving objects, written material and photographs relating to the social history of the area. The Museum houses a valuable collection of archival photographs and legacies from Sturminster’s once thriving cattle market, cheese making industry and railway, now all gone. Amongst our collection, we house census information from years 1841 to 1901, available for viewing by appointment.
The Museum also has items relating to the cottage industries of buttony and glove making and other past trades in the town. The Museum has inherited a large number of items related to the Dorset dialect poet Robert Young, who was both a contemporary and friend of William Barnes and Thomas Hardy.
Permanent exhibits in the Museum cover aspects of the main history of the town. These include the rise and fall of the cattle market, the history of the "milk factory" or creamery, where prize-winning cheeses were once made and details of Sturminster Newton's literary connections with Thomas Hardy, William Barnes and Robert Young.
There is, also, a permanent display centred around the famous mosaic (now in the British Museum) found at Hinton St Mary in 1963 which is thought to be the first depiction of Christ in mosaic form. The display includes a painting of the whole mosaic floor by Janet Swiss.
Each year we aim to provide a series of changing displays on different themes. In 2017 the subjects for these themes are as follows. Dates of showing can be found on the events information page.
Upstairs, in the "Railway room", one may see a scale model of the former Sturminster Newton station (closed in 1966) and the adjacent areas of the livestock market together with memorabilia from the staff and station and information on the Somerset & Dorset Railway in general. Our model is working and proves young visitors with much entertainment.