6 of the best museums and galleries in Northants
Fancy a culture injection? Whether you're flying solo or desperate to keep the kids entertained this summer, check out these brilliant Northants museums for some highbrow entertainment.
Silverstone Interactive Museum knocked my socks off the first time I visited. Having expected something that would probably appeal mostly to petrol heads and F1 addicts I was blown away by how thoughtful, diverse and engaging this place is. The museum pays homage to Silverstone’s historic legacy, not just in terms of motor sports, but also further back (think medieval abbey, RAF base and rural farming). Obviously there is also loads of fabulous racing paraphernalia to gorge on too, if that’s your thing, with cars dating back through motorsport history right up to Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes (above), and plenty of adrenaline junkie fun to be had.
Recently re-opened after an impressive re-development project, Northampton Museum and Art Gallery is set to be one of our favourite hangouts from here on in. Shoes, peeps, shoes. The museum will house the largest collections of shoes and shoe heritage in the world, representing Northamptonshire’s historic shoe industry. There are more shoes here than in Carrie Bradshaw’s closet – a whopping 15,000 plus loads more historic collections, modern art and a fab new cafe and shop. The museum and gallery is open daily and is free to visit.
The site of Northampton High School until the mid ’90s, 78 Derngate is now stunning museum showcasing what is the only house in England to be designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh and is a fantastic example of Art Deco architecture. Step inside number 78 and you’ll be transported to an era of clean and harmonious design, panelled rooms and bold stained glass. Exhibitions in the galleries here place a strong emphasis on craft and design, often focusing on textile art. You can get a pretty mean afternoon tea in the Dining Room restaurant too.
Located canalside (obvs) in a historic corn mill, the Canal Museum explores waterways history and culture. You’ll learn about the engineering and construction of the Grand Union Canal, boatbuilding and the industrial and cultural history of the canals. You can even go on a boat trip into the Bilsworth tunnel, the longest navigable tunnel in Europe. Spoooky!
Exploring aviation history, this place really is the bomb. It’s located in a series of Nissen huts at Sywell Aerodrome housing planes and aircraft paraphernalia with an impressive collection of ordnance, uniforms and other fascinating items on display. Kids can even clamber in to the cockpit of a de Havilland Chipmunk and have a go at the controls. Chocs away!
The Roman town formerly known as Lactodorum, perched along the famous Watling Street, Towcester has thousands of years of history to discover. It’s all explored in this kid-friendly, interactive museum with dressing up, worksheets and quizzes to help the Mudlets learn all about the town’s history and evolution up to the present day.