Weston Park, Sheffield, S10 2TP.
Telephone: 0114 278 2600
Opening Times: Tuesday to Saturday 10.00 am - 5.00 pm; Sundays 11.00 am - 5.00 pm; Bank Holiday Mondays 10.00 am - 5.00 pm.
This museum is undoubtedly the best free thing to do in Sheffield!
There are permanent exhibits pertaining to the environment and wildlife, both local and exotic-even a stuffed polar bear! There is then a temporary exhiit which in the past year has covered varied subjects from Bugs to Space Travel.
It is a lovely little museum and well worth the visit for the local history section on Sheffield's industrial past, including a great interactive 3d map.
There is the obligatory gift shop and cafe attached both of which are god examples of their kind. The Hazelnut Ice Cream in the cafe is highly recommended.
The museum in set in Weston Park which was renovated at the same time as the museum and is lovely despite the fact that they have chosen to paint the bandstand an awful turquoise colour! There is a small duck pond with bridges over and a little duck house. There are tennis courts and the park leads over to Crookes Valley park, equally diverting.
I recently visited Weston park museum in Sheffield with my son of nearly two years of age. We went with a friend and their twins of three years. The museum was recently updated and is now a beautifully restored building with lovely displays all sympathetic to each era.
They have several displays from a section all about animals from the prehistoric to present day with information on each, about how and were they live to what they eat and how they hunt for food. In this part of the museum is a fantastic ant colony with live camera's inside that you can watch in zoom mode on a large screen, and all through there is little peep holes with covers that have pictures, facts or small animals behind that children just love to look at.
There is a part that teaches us about the earth and its layers and what has been dug up from each section from the past like roman coins and armour to crockery and first cutlery also they show things that will be found in the future from our period of time like CD's and children's dummy's.
There is a fantastic section with history and art from other countries like Chinese jewellery boxes made from precious materials and stones, also Egyptian artefacts, Greek pottery and French harpoons plus much more, I couldn't see everything with a toddler running around .
My son really enjoyed the fact that their were things to touch or look at at his level and their was nothing to brake so I wasn't always holding him back. They also had some parts with play area's like a dolls house and a life size butchers shop with a till and weighing scales with food and money for them to play with. This was the section dedicated to Sheffield and it's own history's that as a Sheffielder born and bread was great for me to see and get nostalgic about (even at only 25). The other great part for kids was a Charlie and Lola exhibition (popular children's program on the TV) that was just for the kids with play area's for colouring and playing kitchen games and a puppet theatre that was also the scene of the story The Princess and the pea. A great room that was very popular with all the children there.
To top it all the fact that admission is free is a real winner and as its so educational means you cant complain.
However there are a couple of complaints on my part. there is no parking near by and the little that is around is always taken as the museum is surrounded by hospitals so its always a very busy area. The other point I would make is not so much a complaint more advice for those with very young children, there is so much for them to do I found my little one was a little too excited and I barely caught anything myself and I feel at almost 2 years old he was a little too young yet. My friends children got much more out of the trip (though my son did enjoy it) as being a year older they understood a little more.
So in all I definately recommend a visit but for over 3's and with a couple of adults per child if they are very young so you can share the experience better
Weston Park Museum is located within Weston Park, which is the closest public park to Sheffield City centre. The City's hospitals and university buildings surround it making it very easily accessible by car, bus or tram from the City centre, which is less than one mile away.
The museum closed in the March of 2003 for a major £17million refurbishment that was partly funded by National Lottery money. It was due to re-open in the autumn 2005. However major structural problems that were discovered during this refurbishment meant that the museum only finally re-opened its doors to the public on Saturday 14th October 2006.
This major refurbishment was undertaken by a company called Mivan PLC, this same company was responsible for work at the Imperial War Museum in Manchester, at Dubai's Islamic Art Museum and several parts of Disneyland in America.
The Weston Park Museum is the oldest of all of Sheffield's museums dating from 1868, although it did not open to the public for the first time until 1875. Since this date the building has been extended twice. The first of these being funded by a well-known local Victorian businessman called J. G. Graves who also donated a large area of land to the City that we now know as Graves Park. His collection of art and other artefacts that were bequeathed to the City following his death still forms the bulk of the collection on display at one of Sheffield's other cultural attractions, the Grave's Art Gallery.
The second extension to the building extended the existing building from the front. From this point onwards the front part of the building was used as the City museum whilst the rear was an art gallery. The whole building was known as the Sheffield City Museum & Mappin Art Gallery. This name remained right up to 2006 and the re-opening of the building. It is now officially known as the Weston Park Museum. The art exhibits have been relocated to new premises within the city.
For the past four years this building had remained hidden beneath large sheets of dark blue plastic, and the entire perimeter of the building surrounded by an impervious run of steel fencing. The sound of hammering and drilling and the occasional glimpse of one of the workmen reminded me that this place was under renovation but as the months dragged on I came to accept that maybe this building would never be completed to reopen its doors to the public. Then suddenly last summer things slowly started to happen. Huge lorries queued outside the gates with empty skips whilst other ones took away tonne after tonne of rubble, but still the blue plastic sheeting revealed nothing. Then one day in the middle of September the blue plastic sheeting was removed.
As I young child this museum was a place that I visited many times and so I had been itching to pay a visit to this new refurbished museum since the end of October. I finally managed to get the chance to pay this place a visit.
The first thing that I noticed was that the building looked so clean and bright, the light sandstone and brickwork having been carefully blasted away to reveal what it must have looked like when it was brand new. The only other visible change on the outside of the building is that there is now a ramp up to the doorway where there was only formerly steps.
Stepping inside the museum it was difficult to remember exactly what it looked like when I last came here but I was certain that it was a lot brighter, the ceilings seemed to be a lot higher and there was a lot more daylight flooding into the rooms.
Directly in front of the glass entrance doors there is a small information desk in an open foyer area. Within this foyer there are lots of leaflets for other places to visit in the area and there is a large plan of the museum with information on what you can expect to find in each area. There are also some toilets located here, including ones for disabled access and baby changing facilities.
Before you leave the foyer and enter the main museum do not overlook the weather station in the far right hand corner of the room. Weston Park has been the location of where Sheffield's weather information is gathered since Victorian times. Here there are numerous scientific instruments linked to equipment outdoors in the park, measuring air pressure, wind speed and direction, humidity and temperature etc and forwarding this information onto the Met Office in London.
There are a number of different rooms that each lead off from the main foyer. These each have a name and a particular theme. These include rooms called Sheffield Life and Times, the Ice Age and Artic World.
The Sheffield Life and Times exhibition was one of my favourite areas. It is accessed by walking through a huge steel gate that symbolises the City's steel working past. Inside this room there are lots of photographs showing people working in the local industries from operating huge forges and rolling mills through to buffing cutlery by hand. There are also photos of local industrial heroes like Harry Borden.
Within the Sheffield Life and Times exhibition there is a complete replica of a Sheffield house called "number 5, Mushroom Lane." Mushroom Lane runs at the back of the museum and this is a model of what one of the houses that stood there would have looked like in the early 1900's. You actually walk in through a real wooden door and it feels like you are actually inside a real house. These houses were demolished in the 1950's so this model provides an interesting trip down memory lane.
Nearby there is also a full scale replica of a traditional butchers shop that was once in Attercliffe ( a popular pre-war suburb about 3 miles from here). This butcher's operated between 1895 and 1985. When this family owned business finally closed the owners donated many of their original equipment, including meat slicing machines, weighing scales etc to the museum. You can even look through their customer's order book from 1971.
The Harold Cantor Gallery is perhaps the largest of all of the individual rooms but this was strangely empty during my visit. This area will host temporary exhibits loaned from other museums but at the moment there is just a photographic history of the museum's recent renovation project in one corner of the large room.
We took along my friends grandchildren and their favourite rooms were without a doubt "Artic World" and "Nature on the doorstep"
Artic world is full of lots of stuffed animals including Snowy the Polar Bear and there are also life size models of creatures that once roamed this area 10,000 years ago including Artic Foxes, Bears, Wolves, Mammoths, and a gigantic Woolly Rhinoceros.
Nature on the Doorstep has stuffed birds and animals that are actually found in Weston Park including Foxes, Owls and Woodpeckers. There is also a Beehive which is fixed onto the outside wall and you can watch the Bees making their honeycomb nests through the glass front.
There is also a living ant colony in this area too where you can watch the Ants cutting leaves and carrying them to their young. Inside this cage there are three Webcams which you can operate yourself and watch the ants deep inside the colony on a TV monitor.
The whole museum is incredibly well set out, it is carpeted throughout and very easily accessible for anyone in a wheelchair with automatic glass sliding doors separating each area. The emphasis is certainly on education and there are many interactive exhibits that appeal to people of all ages. Children can dress up in replicas of Victorian costumes, whilst adults can open doors and drawers and reminisce about the articles in there from their past.
As you walk from room to room it is easy to forget to look upwards but if you do you will see a fantastic Birch ceiling that has been fully restored to its former glory.
Within the museum there is a large cafe and a shop, neither of which I had time to actually visit so I cannot elaborate on these areas any further.
It would be hard to criticise such an interesting place and especially one that is completely free to enter but I did find that there was no logical way to walk around the various rooms so people were walking in both directions and on more than one occasion we found ourselves in a room we had already visited, yet almost missed other rooms completely. I would therefore suggest that you study the plan in the foyer (something that we didn't do) and plan your route carefully.
Weston Park Museum is Open daily Monday - Saturday from 10am - 5pm and Sundays from 11am - 5pm . It is Closed on the 24, 25, 26 December, and 1 January.
Admission is free
Weston Park Museum
Sheffield's main museum is situated in the peaceful surrounds of Weston Park, and would make a fascinating combined visit with the Mappin Art Gallery next door. City Museum's vast collections of natural, artistic, archaeological and historical artefacts are displayed in themed exhibits. Displays range from the ancients of Japan and Egypt to modern environmental concerns, and include Sheffield's own rich history. Display panels are easy on the eye and helpful, and are often assisted by larger than life models. A cafe and a shop complete the fine facilities here. Admission is free.