“ Park End Road / Workington / Cumbria CA14 4DE / England „
When friends came up to stay I'd planned to take them to Workington's very own museum, the Helena Thompson museum. Hubby and I had already been several years ago with my parents on their first visit up to Workington, and it wasn't the most exciting attraction I'll admit. Things were made worse by my mum accosting the museum guide and talking for half an hour about the place being used as a wedding venue. Have no idea why since we were already married!
It's FREE and within easy walking distance of my house, with opportunities to visit pubs on the way back. However, my friends arrived later than anticipated, so the museum trip was cancelled.
A year later and my parents and family friends were staying with us and we were out shopping in Workington. Since they'd arrived a bit earlier than anticipated we had some spare time so wandered up to the Helena Thompson museum - and with a relatively expensive weekend ahead it was nice to have something to do which wouldn't cost anything!
---About Helena Thompson and the museum---
I have a guidebook from the museum bought the first time we went (I noticed it was on sale for £3 which is quite excessive for what it is - there were also some other slightly overpriced souvenirs on sale there), which has a picture of Helena on the front.
The museum (which is a Grade 2 listed Georgian house) was where Helena Thompson lived for over 70 years (and her family associated with the house since the late 18th Century), until she died in 1940. When she died she gave the house as a gift to the people of Workington on the condition that it would be made into a museum for Workingon, and a meeting place for women. Initially the house was used as a hostel for evacuated children in the Second World War, but the museum opened in 1949. It's a really nice house actually...I wouldn't say no to living there!
More history can be found on the website (www.htmworkington.com) - in fact all of the information in my guidebook is on the website, so really there was no point buying it!
Over her life Helena Thompson did a lot of good for the local area including founding a maternity ward in Workington Infirmary (not that there's a maternity ward in Workington now).
You enter the museum through the front door of the house, and on the ground floor there are three rooms to look at.
Costume Gallery - probably the most impressive section of the museum with various examples of women and children's dresses (and accessories) from the late 18th century to the early 20th century, with notes about them. Looking at the dresses it strikes me how much thinner we used to be!
Victorian Room - a fairly small room (used to be the dining room) and some nice enough furniture for those who like to look at this sort of thing!
Georgian Room - contains various pieces of artwork, and glassware from 1714 to 1830 - mainly things which belonged to the Thompson family, and a nice mirror.
Going upstairs we noticed the flocked wallpaper, a hideous green colour.....upstairs there are two main rooms to look around (not all of the rooms are open as part of the museum)
Curwen Room - an interesting display about local history, particularly farming.
Long Gallery - various artefacts relating to industry, particularly ship building, coalmining, and the steelworks - Workington's famous for manufacturing railway tracks. There's information about the history of local schools and churches, a general history of Workington government, and sports.
Plenty of things to look at including quite a collection of birds' eggs, and lots to read on displays if you have the inclination to do so!
Back downstairs there's other rooms (one a meeting room) and there are various events and exhibitions which take place and lace making, embroidery and craft classes. Details can be found in the museum.
Outside there's a nice garden - this can be used as a wedding venue and a fair sized marquee could fit out there. In the museum there were some photos of weddings which have taken place there.
---Did we enjoy it?---
We probably spent about 40 minutes at the museum including having a brief sit in the garden and enjoying a bit of rare sunshine.
There's some interesting stuff in the museum, and I think our guests enjoyed it. We could have spent longer if we were going to read everything on display. But I don't think anything really jumped out at us as being amazing!
---Is it worth visiting?---
It's certainly worth having a look if you're out and about in Workington and at a loose end. I imagine that lots of school trips go there, and it could be useful for teaching children about the history of the local area.
Obviously it's a bonus that it costs nothing to visit the museum, although we did put a donation in the donations jar.
However, as far as museums go it isn't the most exciting place to visit, and I wouldn't suggest that people go out of their way to visit.
---Opening Times and Getting there---
Open Tuesday to Sunday 1:30-4:30pm
In July and August open Tuesday to Sunday 10:30am-4:30pm
Closed on Mondays, but open at other times by arrangement.
There are various groups which use the museum as a venue, and of course you can get married here if you so desire.
It's fairly easy to find - if you approach from the main road into Workington (A595) there's 2 signposts (postcode's CA14 4DE for those with Sat Nav). There's a good sized car park too. If you're coming to Workington on the train, the museum's at the other end of town, probably just under a mile to walk, and up a bit of a hill.
Find out more at www.htmworkington.com or phone 01900 606155.
This review can be found with photos on ciao.co.uk!
I spent a few days in the Lake District last summer and decided to stop off in Workington to visit the Helena Thompson Museum.
I love to visit Museums and this one appealed to me because I had read about her fine collection of costume dresses and hats in a magazine some time ago.
The house formally known as Park End was home to Helena Thompson for seventy years and after her death she left it as a gift it to the people of Workington so that it could be turned into a museum.
She helped the town of Workington in many ways over the years by donating to charities, improving the town and helping to build a maternity ward in Workington Infirmary.
Helena had a special interest in the history of costume and needlework; she collected a vast amount of women's and children's dresses in styles fashionable from the late 18th century to the beginning of the 20th century.
They are now displayed with jewellery and hats in the museum today.
The house is split into five galleries and they are all full of furniture and costumes, porcelain, maritime models and displays of local history.
As you enter the house you will be taken aback by the stunning stair case and Costume Gallery, it is really interesting to see such beautiful clothes and in such good condition.
Dresses worn over crinoline with huge hem lines and delightful children's outfits all lace and ribbons are shown in glass cases.
It really is an excellent display and you feel that Helena had a true love for her needlework and costume collection.
The Victorian Room is set out just like a Victorian parlour with gold flock wall paper, drapes and highly polished furniture I particularly loved the table it would look stunning in my dining room.
The Georgian Room was full of light wood glass cases displaying porcelain glass wear and some gorgeous tea pots.
The Exhibition hall which was originaly the stables is now used for weddings and for groups to hire.
Going up the stairs I noticed a stunning red brocade bench on the landing it was too beautiful to sit on and in immaculate condition.
The Curwen room.
This was full of displays of local history going back before industrialisation.
Workington was dependant on farming and fishing and there is a lot about Curwen Hall and John Christian Curwen who did a lot to improve farming methods in the early 19th century.
Beautiful wooden chests and clocks are displayed and a wonderful collection of ploughs and how they were improved over the years.
I was quite taken up with the model of Curwen Hall it must have taken hours of work to get it so perfect.
The Long gallery.
Here you can browse through displays of industrial development from ship building to coal mining, there are some model half built ships, and apparently these were used as ten plates back in the 20th century.
Displays of churches and schools in the area and a glass cabinet containing old math's books going back to the early 19th century, and finally a display of sport, I particularly found the Cumberland and Westmorland Wrestling Association display interesting being a wrestling fan myself.
The Lawrie Room.
This is dedicated to William Carruthers Lawrie who was a chemist in Workington and a very keen photographer and historian.
The display shows photographs of boys wearing skirts this was common practice during his childhood and other photographic work that he had won awards for over the years.
The thing that interested me the most in this room was a glass cabinet with items from his chemist shop it even has his original certificate showing that he was a qualified chemist.
***Opening times to the public***
Tuesday to Sunday 1.30pm to 4.30 pm, during July and August 10.30 to 4.30
Admission is Free.
It is a popular venue for weddings and the walled garden at the rear of the house is a great back ground for photos, and of course that stunning staircase.
The museum holds a licence for civil ceremonies and I noticed that it also holds a licence for same sex ceremonies.
***Group Activities offered.***
I noticed all of these advertised at the reception and the receptionist told me that all the groups are very popular with the local people especially the radio club. Apparently they have a special room equipped with every thing that a budding radio ham could possibly need.
Lace making, embroidery and patch work art groups,
History and civic societies for meetings lectures and presentations
Town's women's guild
Keep fit classes
Any one is invited to join these groups by contacting the museum.
Park End Road,
Tel 01900 326255.
Toilets and mobility wash room
This is a very interesting museum and a lot of care and hard work has gone into every room.
The small shop has the usual post cards and books along with mugs and memorabilia but I didn't buy anything because I found it to be a bit over priced.
Wheelchair access was easy for the ground floor but there was only the staircase to access the second floor, but still worth a visit just for the costume gallery.
Helena Thompson has left a remarkable gift to the people of Workington and they have turned it into a beautiful Museum full of History and local culture.
I am sure she would be over whelmed if she could see it now in all its glory.
This beautiful residence and been transformed into a museum with gallery exhibits consisting of period piece costumes, furniture and dishware. Dont forget to take in the beautiful grounds while visiting!