Wisbech & Fenland Museum, opened in 1847, has the distinction of being one of the very first purpose-built museums in the country. It is a grand building on a small scale, the steps leading up to the entrance columns helping to create the effect of a miniature Greek Temple to Learning.
The museum grew out of the town’s Literary and Museum societies and helped to provide an intellectual and cultural focus for Wisbech’s substantial middle class population. It was largely funded by Quakers, in particular the Peckovers - the leading Quaker family in Wisbech.
Inside, you’ll find a fully preserved Victorian interior with original display cases still in use. Their contents reflect the founders’ fascination with geology, archaeology, natural history and travel. The museum’s first curator was also a taxidermist – a useful skill as the early collection included many stuffed birds and animals. There are also several newer displays on social and local history, including one about the abolitionist, Thomas Clarkson, who was born here in Wisbech.
In the vast museum library you can see the original manuscript of Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. It is just one of many diverse objects donated to this extraordinary museum by Reverend Chauncy Hare Townshend, who was a close friend of Dickens. Others include Napoleon’s breakfast service captured at the field of Waterloo, and a crystal ball Dickens is said to have used with Townshend in their joint 'experiments with occultism'.
Note - Wheelchair route from Museum to Church: Please be aware it is not possible for a person in a wheelchair to get from the Museum to the Church because of the steps to the church yard. Return to the Market Place by the route that you came and at the end of Market Street turn right and follow the footpath along Church Terrace, past Westgate on your right until you reach the Lavender edged walk that will take you to the church.