The Cromwell Museum
The Cromwell Museum holds the best collection of objects relating to the life and times of the 17the century soldier and statesman Oliver Cromwell (1599 – 1658) on public display in the world. The collection comprises nearly 1000 items, including portraits, clothing, miniatures, arms and armour, and historical documents written by or about Cromwell. The Museum is located in the former Huntingdon Grammar School building, which was where both Oliver Cromwell and Samuel Pepys went to school.
The Museum was last refurbished in 1989; thanks to funding from the AIM/BIFFA ‘History Makers’ scheme (along with other funders) we were able to completely refurbish and redisplay the interior of the building. This has made it much more welcoming to visitors; allowed us to display more of the collection (some 15% more than before) in more interesting and engaging ways that also enhance their security and conservation; introduce more interactive displays including specially commissioned films and animations to engage a wider range of visitors. It has allowed us to tell the story of Cromwell – one of the most fascinating and controversial figures in British history – in a much more accessible and engaging way. Our job is to tell that story honestly, ‘warts and all’, with the support of a number of the country’s leading academic experts on this period who advised us throughout, but then to allow visitors to make their own minds up about this controversial figure.
As a result of this project we have redecorated the interior of our historic building in a way that is much more in sympathy with its fabric and interpreted its story more effectively.
Did you know?
- Oliver Cromwell was born only a few hundred metres from our museum in 1599, and went to school on the building which is now the museum.
- Oliver Cromwell is famous to many people as the man who banned Christmas. In reality he didn’t – Parliament did during the Civil War, but as Cromwell is most famous he ends up getting the blame!
- Films and television programmes always portray Oliver Cromwell as a bit of a killjoy, always dressed in black. In fact there are no portraits from Cromwell’s time of him wearing black (which was an expensive dye) and people who met him said he was a very emotional man who liked music, dancing, horse racing and practical jokes!
- We tend to think of mental health issues as a modern phenomenon, but Oliver Cromwell suffered from depression. He was diagnosed with melancholia (as it was called then) in 1628 and had occasional bouts throughout his life. We have a letter on display written by him in 1652 when he write to a friend to describe his feelings whilst in one of these periods.
- Oliver Cromwell was the first person in England to try eating a pineapple. The diarist John Evelyn records that Cromwell was presented with one as a gift in 1657… although it’s not recorded what he thought of it!