Read about my research at Christchurch here
The Red House Museum and Gardens (RHMG) in Christchurch, Dorset, are set within a purpose-built Georgian Workhouse. As with many of the local museums, the focus is on the history of Christchurch and the surrounding area, as well as the past functions of the building. A long room downstairs offers the more recent history, exhibiting insights into life at the Workhouse, the various industries that operated in Christchurch, and a collection of Victorian toys, with replicas to handle and play with.
The archaeology galleries, which is where I naturally spent most of my time, form the second floor of the museum. The first room you enter is dedicated to offering an insight into what archaeology is, how we interpret it and how it links with history.
From here you enter a snaking series of exhibits that lead you from the Palaeolithic period through to Anglo-Saxon times, with material from a whole variety of contexts. I’m told the display is about twenty years old, but you wouldn’t know it. Beneath each display is a series of drawers filled with more and more objects and you really get a sense of how archaeologically diverse this region is. Hafted arrowheads protrude outwards from the Neolithic case as though they’re being fired upon you,
and a reconstruction of archaeologists excavating a Beaker (Early Bronze Age) grave greet you in the Bronze Age section.
The real highlight of the Christchurch archaeology room, however, is the Hengistbury Head material – an Iron Age and Romano-British settlement from which an innumerable amount of artefacts were recovered. Artistic reconstructions adorn the panels behind the cases, helping people to really visualise the functions of the objects, as well as the people using them.
Downstairs again, you can head out to the gardens. In the glorious sunshine and with little else to do, it’s lovely to just sit in amongst the menagerie of plants. The Priory Church peeps over the wall of the South Garden and I was particularly fortunate to arrive whilst a dinosaur exhibit was ongoing and searching around I found many lurking in the trees and shrubbery.
The RHMG is a really great museum set in a beautiful place and if you’re ever in the vicinity I insist that you go and check it out!