The Museum


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.

In 2019, Sturminster Newton Museum & Mill Society became Sturminster Newton Heritage Trust.

Sturminter Newton Museum - Present Day
Old Market Cross House - Mid 1960's

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 Trust (then, the Society) was able to, thanks to the generosity and enthusiasm of the community, 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 Trust to make some necessary internal alterations and refurbish the building as a museum. The new Museum opened to the public on August 1st 2008.

During the first three months of the year, the museum has restricted opening times (see opening times in the footer).

The Collection

The Trust 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.

Currently on Display

Upstairs, in the ‘Railway Room’, an interesting collection of rural Victorian clothing temporarily replaces the working model railway, which is being restored.

Also permanently displayed is the earliest map we have of Sturminster Newton and a collection of crested china pots. The small pots are labelled Sturminster Newton and bear crests supposedly relating to the area. These pots were popular holiday souvenirs from the late 19th C until about 1930. Their popularity coincided with the development of the railways which made possible affordable travel for ordinary people to seaside resorts and elsewhere. The map is dated 1783. It was drawn for the estate manager for the Pitt Rivers family and lists all their tithed properties and tenants in Sturminster and the surrounding area.

Displays for 2024


Roman Heritage

SNHT-The MuseumThis exhibition is centred on the Roman heritage of Sturminster Newton and its surrounding area and includes the former villas at Shillingstone, Fifehead Neville and, particularly, Hinton St Mary. Emphasis is on the discovery of the famous mosaic, famous because it is the first depiction of Christ in mosaic form, found at Hinton in 1963. It later took pride of place at the British Museum; now no longer displayed in London but being returned to Dorchester sometime in the future.


A small hoard of post medieval coins discovered at Bagber is on display. Found by the Search and Recover Metal Detecting Club it has been designated “treasure” by the British Museum as it includes 16 silver and two gold coins, though almost all of them are rather worn suggesting that it was a “purse” hoard of used coins and not meant to be savings. They date from Mary I to James I.

Waste and Climate Change in Sturminster Newton

For millennia humans have left behind debris associated with their life styles. Early “waste” consisted mainly of items that could not be re-used because they were either broken or inedible. The onset of industrialisation and cheaper production of most goods, particularly during the Victorian era, led to an increase in items being thrown away because they were empty rather than broken. This display, updated for 2023, now focuses on the effects of waste, especially plastic waste, on climate change. The exhibition now includes data on local changes in coastal wildlife from the Dorset Wildlife Trust and threats of climate change on Dorset coastlines and inland waterways courtesy of the Sustainability Implementation Group at the University of Southampton.


The History of Sturminster Newton

A new display at the Museum summarises the history of Sturminster Newton from prehistoric times to the modern day.


Victorian Rural Clothing

A new exhibit at the museum for 2023 features an interesting collection of rural Victorian clothing, helping visitors to imagine how residents of Sturminster may have dressed in the 19th century. This exhibit temporarily replaces the model railway, which is being rebuilt.


Dorset Poets

Finally, our display on the lives of Dorset poets Tomas Hardy, William Barnes and Robert Young, all of which have strong connections with Sturminster Newton, continues for another year. The display contains personal items belonging to Hardy and Barnes on loan from the County Museum.

SNHT-The Museum 2

Swanskin Seafarers of Sturminster

The Sturminster Newton Heritage Trust was awarded a grant by the Association of Independent Museums to explore the history of the ‘Swanskin Seafarers’- local people who migrated from Sturminster Newton to Newfoundland, Canada, over two-hundred years. You can read more in our news section.

As part of the project, local students from Sturminster Newton High School researched the history of these seafarers, connected over shared heritage with a school in Twillingate, Newfoundland, and produced a shadow puppet film with local artists Emerald Ant. You can watch their film below:

If you are struggling to play this video please copy and paste into your web browser, or click this link.

Literary Festival

This video was made to accompany the Sturminster Literary Festival and is narrated by local writer and historian, Roger Guttridge. This film reflects the significance of the Town`s heritage and the importance of maintaining this heritage for the character of the Town.

Events at the Museum

A visit by a local school, here they are dressed up in Victorian caps and bonnets.
The county Finds Liaison Officer visits to identify finds brought in by children and adults.
Museum wins MLA (Museums, Libraries and Archives Council) accreditation
Erecting the Sturminster Newton railway station sign after restoration.
Audrey Cooper (Robert Young's great great granddaughter) attended book launch.
John Smith telling stories of the life of a Roman soldier in Britain
For Sturminster Newton Museum or Mill contact information, please visit the contact page.