Kendal Museum in Cumbria

Kendal Museum, Kendal, Cumbria

Kendal Museum, Kendal,  Cumbria

Kendal is a small town located in the Lakes District of Cumbria with a rich history that attracts tourists.  Located on the River Kent, it was once known as Kirkby in Kendal, but now is referred to as simply Kendal.  It’s historically been a popular spot for visitors in the Lakes District, both because of its setting and its history.  If you’re planning a visit you can book Cumbrian cottages and settle in just like you were a local, then spend your days setting out exploring the area.

One popular spot to visit in Kendal is the Kendal Museum.  Founded in 1796, the Kendal Museum features collections covering a variety of topics with a focus on history, archaeology, geology, and nature.  The museum is divided into galleries, each featuring impressive exhibitions.

  • The Wainwright Gallery – Named after a former honorary curator of the museum, this gallery traces the history of man in Cumbria, spanning from Prehistoric to present day.  In this gallery you’ll see a variety of Mesolithic tools and a large collection of Neolithic axe heads and stone tools from the surrounding Cumbria area.  The Gallery features a nice display about the 13th century Kendal Castle, explaining the story of the castle and its integration into the town life.  There’s an original key from the castle on display, along with drinking jugs, and weaponry.  (The Kendal Castle ruins are a short walk away, so after looking at the exhibits, go take a look at the real thing.)  The Wainwright Gallery also contains a nice collection of funerary artifacts. Kids will enjoy the Wainwright Gallery with age appropriate activities including making a medieval tiled floor, coin rubbings, and playing a slate xylophone.
  • World Wildlife Gallery – Divided into geographic areas, this galley is an introduction ot the animals, birds, and insects of the world.  The gallery has a display on evolution and ecology, which seems at odds with the collection on animals head mounted on the wall, but wandering through the sections will give visitors a look at a lion, a great flamingo (that was donated over 150 years ago), a polar bear, three-toed sloth, armadillo, duck-billed platypus, and more.  Kids will enjoy meeting the museum’s famous polar bear and following the creepy crawly trail of insects.
  • Lake District Natural History Gallery – Volcanic activity is responsible for the great mountain ranges of the Lake District, and you can follow the area’s geological history dating back back a mere 520 million years ago.  Artifacts on display include fossils, local shales, and a variety of mineral and rock types.  The gallery features a diorama in the form of a nature trail that you walk through to look at various Kendal habitats.  The animals found in this gallery were victims of accidents or died a natural death, and are preserved here for educational purposes.  Kids will enjoy fossil rubbings and the opportunity to explore and identify a variety of common place objects.
  • The Hamer Collection – This collection features over 2,000 specimens of minerals, including beautiful ruby crystals from Myanmar and spectacular tourmaline crystals embedded in quartz from Brazil.  There are many specimens from the mines from the Lake District, where mineral collecting is now banned.  These specimens are not only beautiful, but provide an invaluable reference guide to scientists.

After viewing the various museum collections, you may want to enjoy some quiet time in the museum’s small wildlife garden.  Complete with a pond, marsh, and heather beds, the garden is home to a variety of fish, frogs, birds, plants, and insects.  Typically the wildlife garden is viewed from a corridor in the museum, and access is restricted in order to protect the wildlife.  However, if you’d like to visit the garden just ask at the reception desk; they’re usually happy to oblige your request.

Kendal Museum is managed by Kendal College as part of the community’s commitment to the arts.  You can find a nearby Kendal accommodation that will allow you to stay in the heart of the Lakes District and enjoy all that the community has to offer.

LocationKendal, Station Rd, LA9 6BT

Hours:  Wednesday – Saturday, 10:30 am-5 pm.  Closed for Christmas week.

Admission:  FREE

Photo credit:  Jerry1250 via wikimedia commons




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Mary Jo Manzanares is a traveler, travel blogger, and podcaster. In addition to her blog, Traveling with MJ, she hosts the Where Else to Go podcast, and is the founder and the editor-in-chief of The Traveler’s Way, an online travel magazine. Her travel ethos is value luxury - luxury for real people - and her goal is to help travelers know when to splurge and when to save. Mary Jo has been a speaker at various industry events around the world. When she’s not traveling, Mary Jo likes lingering over a cup of coffee, wandering in a museum, sipping wine at a cafe, and sharing it all with friends and readers. Her most recent travels were to Stockholm, a Baltic cruise, and Universal Orlando Resort.

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