20 top Kent museums to visit
PUBLISHED: 17:28 03 May 2015 | UPDATED: 15:59 31 May 2016
International Museum Day on 18 May is the perfect excuse to show your support for Kent’s fabulous museums. The following family friendly suggestions are an ideal place to start
Romney Marsh Wartime Collection (including Brenzett Aeronautical Museum)
Ivychurch Road, Brenzett, Romney Marsh TN29 0EE. 01797 344747
To see: Housed in a former Women’s Land Army Hostel, this museum is full of Second World War artefacts, including a Barnes Wallis Bouncing Bomb recovered from the famous Dam Buster raid, the cockpit of a PR9 Canberra Reconnaissance aircraft, uniforms, bomb disposal equipment, aircraft relics, touching personal accounts and, of course, aeroplanes and Women’s Land Army history.
To do: Look for the Women’s Land Army graffiti, step inside the PR9 Canberra Cockpit to view the navigator’s station and visit the Memorial.
When to go: 11am-5.30pm on Wednesdays and Bank Holidays until the end of October.
How much: adults £4, senior citizens £3, children under 16 are free.
Lashenden Air Warfare Museum
Headcorn Aerodrome, Headcorn, Ashford TN27 9HX. 01622 631799
To see: Flying bombs, RAF Prisoner of War memorabilia, hundreds of British, German and American uniforms, a genuine Second World War German aircraft, ‘wreckology’ and the world’s only fully restored and working example of a Second World War airfield defence fort are just a few of the exhibits waiting for you.
To do: Once you’ve explored the museum, grab a safe spot near the working airfield and look out for aeroplanes, parachutists, hot-air balloons, radio controlled model aeroplanes and, if you are really lucky, the visiting Spitfire.
When to go: From May to September the museum is open 10.30am-6pm on Saturdays, Sundays & Bank Holidays
How much: Free but donations towards the new, double-sized museum opening next spring are greatly appreciated.
More info: www.lashendenairwarfaremuseum.co.uk
Sandwich Guildhall Museum
Castle Market, Sandwich, CT13 9AH. 01304 617197
To see: Sea battles, religious ‘strangers,’ political radicals and Cinque Port ceremonial; this ancient town has seen it all and the museum now tells its remarkable story. A special display marking the First World War centenary also explores Sandwich’s First World War heritage.
When to go: Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays 10.30am-12.30pm and 2pm-4pm, Thursdays and Sundays 2pm-4pm, closed on Mondays.
How much: adults £1, children and senior citizens 50p, families £2.
The Toy Museum
Penshurst Place, Penshurst, Nr Tonbridge TN11 8DG. 01892 870307
To see: Beautiful fashion dolls, royal playthings and the toys of the De L’Isle family and friends fill this old carpenters’ workshop. Many of the original toys are from the collection of the royal toymaker, Yootha Rose, but there are newer ones that you may recognise too.
To do: Discover Mickey Mouse’s original name and find out what ‘Moggie’ is made of. Go on a children’s toy museum trail and try to spot toys from your own childhood.
When to go: Open daily until 1 November 12 noon-4pm.
How much: Entrance via a ‘Garden and Grounds’ ticket, adults £8.50, children (aged 5-16) £6. Family tickets are available and for every paying adult there’s free admission for two children under the age of five.
More info: www.penshurstplace.com
Kent Firefighting Museum
The Woodlands Garden Centre, Ash (nr Brands Hatch) TN15 7EG. 01474 852788 ext. 6
To see: Calling all Fireman Sam fans! This new museum shows the history of firefighting through the ages and allows visitors to see authentic firefighting equipment, appliances, uniform, photographs and memorabilia. New material is constantly being added and Bromley’s horse-drawn, steam fire engine will be arriving soon.
To do: The friendly visitor guides are mostly former firefighters and they are happy to answer questions and show you around. Footage of the Blitz and a film about Kent’s fire brigade are also on show and children can take part in a quiz before playing on a real fire engine.
When to go: Normally open from 10am-4pm except for Monday and Friday. Special arrangements and events may take place on Bank Holidays, so please check the website for updates.
How much: Entry and parking is free.
More info: www.kentfirefightingmuseum.org.uk
Deal Timeball Tower
Victoria Parade, Deal CT14 7BP. 01304 360897
To see: Located over four floors, the Timeball museum tells the story of how Astronomer Royal, George Biddell Avery, and Charles V Walker, the superintendent of the telegraphs for the South Eastern Railway Company, established a system that would set the time for ships in the Channel. Discover how an electrical signal was passed directly from the Greenwich Observatory to the Timeball in order to release the drop and learn how people communicated over long distances before the invention of the mobile phone.
To do: Find out how silent communication methods aided smugglers and try your hand at semaphore and signalling. Admire the view of Deal, the Downs and the Goodwin Sands from the top floor and watch the Timeball drop, every hour on the hour between 9am and 5pm.
When to go: Saturdays and Sundays 11 May-7 June, 11.30am-4.30pm. Also open on the Bank Holiday Mondays of 4 and 25 May, 11.30am-4.30pm.
How much: adults £3, children under five free, students/children five years and over £2.
More info: www.dealtimeball.co.uk
Belmont Park, Throwley, nr. Faversham, ME13 0HH (please refer to website for directions as Satnav can take you to the wrong part of the estate). 01795 890202
To see: Owing to the success of his military career in India, General George Harris, latterly known as Lord Harris, was able to buy Belmont house in 1801 and fill it with Indian treasures gained in payment for his service. Now his 200-piece arms and armoury collection has been professionally conserved and a number of rare and special pieces are on show for the first time at this 18th-century gem of a house.
To do: Discover how six generations of the Harris family left their mark on this beautiful home by going on house tour. See the finest private collection of clocks in Britain and attend a special monthly ‘Meet the Head Gardener’ event. Visitors on 3 and 4 May can also enjoy the Plant and Craft Fair where children can have a go at archery.
When to go: Gardens are open all year round between 10am and 6pm or dusk, if earlier. Tours of the house are available until September on Wednesdays, Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holiday Mondays. Please refer to website for timings and further details.
How much: adults £8 children £5 (under 12 free), concessions £7. A reduced garden only ticket is also available. Additional charges may apply for special events.
More info: www.belmont-house.org
Dover Transport Museum
Willingdon Road, Whitfield, Dover CT16 2JX. 01304 822409
To see: This is a ‘hands-on’ museum where there is far more to see than transport. Visitors are encouraged to get on board a double-decker bus, wander down bygone street scenes filled with vintage vehicles and visit the telephone exchange. Don’t forget to look out for examples of rare First World War lorries, steam rollers, ship models and a beautifully restored Romany caravan.
To do: Put yourself in charge of the model railways and go on a hunt for the model taxes and buses hidden around for the museum for a monthly word search competition.
When: On Sunday 10 May, visitors can join in the Classic Motorcycle, Scooter and Autocycle Day and over the weekend of 16-17 May visitors can take part in their Military Vehicle Show.
How much: adults £6, senior citizens/concession £5, children £4 (age five-16), family: £18 (two adults and two children or one adult and three children)
Tickets are valid for 12 months from date of purchase although special-event tickets are notT valid for 12 months and prices may vary.
More info: www.dovertransportmuseum.org.uk
Tenterden & District Museum
Station Road, Tenterden, TN30 6HN. 01580 764310
To see: New displays for 2015 commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, investigate the origins of theatre and show how the Georgian period changed Tenterden forever. Housed in a Victorian weather-boarded stable and store, the museum has its own Tapestry room, nostalgic 20th-century room and exhibitions revealing the history - and great fire of Small Hythe (its 500th anniversary was in 2014).
To do: Pick up a children’s quiz sheet on arrival.
When to go: Open every day from Easter to the end of June, 1.30pm-4.30pm. Between July and October the opening hours are extended from 11am-4.30pm.
How much: adults £1.50, over 60’s £1, under 18’s and students with ID are free.
More info: www.tenterdenmuseum.co.uk
The Old Town Hall, Market Place, Margate CT9 1ER. 01843 231 213
To see: Frequently called the Tardis, this museum is packed with unexpected treasures ranging from Victorian police cells and the remains of a paddle steamer jetty to a magistrates’ court and an early ambulance. Numerous artefacts reveal the town’s history as a holiday destination and new displays include a 200th-anniversary celebration of the arrival of the Margate Paddle Steamers and a 75th-anniversary commemoration of the Dunkirk evacuation.
To do: There will be several display-related children activities on offer, including themed colouring and a ‘guess the object’ photo challenge.
When to go: Open from May to September on Saturdays, Sundays, Wednesdays and Bank Holiday Mondays, 11am-5pm (last entry 4pm)
How much: adults £1.50, joint ticket with Tudor House £2.50, accompanied children (under 16 years old) free
More info: www.margatemuseum.wordpress.com
Sevenoaks Museum and Gallery at the Sevenoaks Kaleidoscope Library
Buckhurst Lane, Sevenoaks, TN13 1LQ. 03000 41 3131
To see: Visit May’s new temporary exhibition ‘A Sevenoaks Timeline ‘(from fossils to the Olympics) then look at a display about hats and complete the quiz. Other local-interest displays include hop picking, the town’s involvement in the Second World War, including the Women’s Ambulance Service, brewers, vets, firemen and blacksmiths. Children also love meeting the museum’s stuffed wildcat.
To do: Dress up, peer at objects under a magnifying glass, try out the touchy-feely ‘guess the object’ box, complete jigsaws, makes crafts, go on a museum trail, listen to the oral history telephone and watch a film about Sevenoaks. On 29 May, children up to the age of 11 can take part in pottery workshops and object-handling sessions.
When to go: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday 9am-6pm, Thursday 9am-8pm, Saturday 9am-5pm.
How much: Free entrance, children’s pottery workshops are £2 per child.
Whitstable Museum and Gallery
Oxford Street, Whitstable, CT5 1DB. 01227 276998
To see: Whitstable is famed for its seafaring, diving and oyster catching history, but did you know it has also had its fair share of Roman shipwrecks and celebrity residents? From Hammer Horror to Star Wars and from horse-drawn fire engines to seaside postcards, this coastal museum has a wide variety of displays.
When to go: Please view website for current opening hours.
How much: adults £3, discounts £2, children are free up to a maximum of two children per paying adult. Admission free to MyTownMyCity users, except for some special events.
Dickens House Museum
2 Victoria Parade, Broadstairs CT10 1QS. 01843 861232
To see: Charles Dickens regularly brought his son, Charley, to have tea and cakes with Miss Mary Pearson Strong, the former owner of this cottage. He went on to base one of his characters on her and the house is now filled with Dickens’ personal belongings, period artefacts, costumes and snippets of history that allow you to step back into his lifetime and learn about his connections with the area. A new exhibition takes inspiration from his actual life and reveals the history of the blacking (shoe polishing) factories where he once worked.
To do: Children can completed trails, treasure hunts and jigsaw puzzles.
When to go: Until 12 June the museum is open every afternoon from 1pm-4.30pm. Summer season timings are on the website.
How much: adult £3.75, children under 16 years £2.10, family (two adults and four children) £10
Eden Valley Museum
72 Church House, High Street, Edenbridge TN8 5AR. 01732 868102
To see: This museum is constantly changing so there’s always something new to see. Focused on telling the community stories of the Eden Valley, new exhibitions for 2015 include Fossils and Prehistoric Archaeology, Silks and other World War One Post Cards, ‘Til the boys come home First World War exhibition and a new Map of the Month display in addition to the permanent local industry, flooding and Subbuteo exhibitions.
To do: Children can play with a Victorian picture maker, have a go on an old typewriter, bang a steel drum and build a medieval building.
When to go: Wednesdays and Friday’s 2pm-4.30pm and Thursdays and Saturdays 10am-4.30pm.
How much: Free but donations appreciated.
More info: www.evmt.org.uk
Dock Road, Chatham, ME4 4UB. 01634 847747
To see: Built to defend Chatham Dockyard against attack, Fort Amherst is Britain’s largest Napoleonic Fortress and is renowned for its fascinating military history, carefully restored gun batteries, Grand Magazine and defensive gatehouse. It’s also well-known as a paranormal hot spot and ghost tours regularly take place.
To do: Travel underground to explore the Fort’s spidery network of tunnels with a guide. It’s dark and echoey during the day but at night, who knows what could be lurking? Bolder visitors can go looking for visitors from the past on 1 May or take an Evening Lantern Tour on 8 May at 7pm.
For a different type of family fun, you may like to visit on 10 May to watch the French Napoleonic re-enactment group or take part in the new interactive Escape Plan attraction which allows visitors to test their nerves as they search for clues and overcome challenges in order to escape entrapment in a movie-like situation. The game is running every Saturday and Sunday in April and May.
How much: The fort’s parkland is open free of charge from dawn to dusk. For costings and timings of the tunnel tours and other activities please see the website.
More info: www.fortamherst.com
67 East Street, Sittingbourne, ME10 4BQ. 07472 268388
To see: Travel back in time to visit the new Stone Age Finds display where stone buckets, axes and reconstructed tools have been set against a prehistoric backdrop. Then zoom across to the Bronze Age or drop by the Roman villa to see what the Romans left behind. Learn about the area’s Titanic passengers, bell founders and local paper mills before jumping forward to the Second World War to see what your living room and local shop may have looked back then.
To do: Test your memory with an online quiz.
When to go: Until October the museum will be open on Tuesdays and Thursdays 1.30pm-4pm and 10am-4pm on Saturdays.
How much: Free but donations are always greatly appreciated.
More info: www.sittingbourne-museum.co.uk
Faversham Fleur de Lis Heritage Centre
10-13 Preston Street, Faversham ME13 8NS. 01795 590726
To see: This museum is sure to be a hit with your family as there’s just so much to see and do. Full of local information you are taken on a true history tour as you step from room to room. The Victorian kitchen, old-fashioned shop fronts, period classroom, war exhibits, sports displays, new village display, gun-powder room and industrial big shed are full of objects to see and activities to do.
To do: Turn the handle and set off the air-raid siren, play a gramophone, make brass rubbings, open gunpowder barrels to discover the scenes inside, watch local history films, listen to recordings, make telephone calls in the exchange, go on the fleur family trail… it’s impossible to list it all!
When to go: Monday to Saturday 10am-4pm and Sunday 10am-1pm.
How much: adults £5, concessions £3.50, children and students £1.50.
More info: www.favershamsociety.org/_museum
Canterbury Heritage Museum
Stour Street, Canterbury CT1 2NR. 01227 475202
To see: The Clangers are coming! Get ready to make a rocket and zoom to the stars in time for the new Clangers TV series. From 23-31 May families can follow an outer-space gallery trail, join in creative activities, make a balloon rocket and watch episodes from the original TV series first shown back in 1969 and created by the legendary Oliver Postgate. The event is suitable for children aged three to 12.
To do: During the same period, the Canterbury Children’s Festival 2015 also offers a full programme of events, workshops, performances and free drop-in sessions at The Beaney, the Canterbury Roman Museum and The Marlowe Theatre (visit: www.thebeaney.co.uk)
When to go: Until 27 September, open Wednesday-Sunday, 11-5pm
How much: adults £8, discounts £6 and children under 16 free (maximum of two per paying adult).
More info: www.canterbury-museums.co.uk
Find out more
There are many other museums in Kent for you to discover, including those housed in the county’s National Trust and English Heritage properties.
You can find further information on the Visit Kent website.