UK Literary Museums

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5 of the Best Literary Museums in the UK

The UK boasts thousands of museums where millions of visitors from both home and abroad like to spend time learning about bygone eras. There are many museums dedicated specifically to some of our literary greats. Here we take a look at five of the best.

Bronte Parsonage Museum Haworth Bronte Parsonage Museum

The Bronte Parsonage Museum is located in Haworth West Yorkshire and is dedicated to the lives of the famous Bronte family who lived in the parsonage in the early 1800's with their father Reverend Patrick Bronte. Nestled in the wild moorland of West Yorkshire the museum is the family's former home that overlooks the church where the family attended services and ultimately were laid to rest following their untimely deaths. The famous Bronte sisters wrote many classic novels and poems during their short lives as well as drawing many sketches and paintings.

The Bronte Sisters

The sisters' most famous novels included Charlotte Bronte's Jayne Eyre, Emily's Wuthering Heights, while Anne wrote Agnes Grey. Their brother Branwell Bronte was also a talented artist and painter, while much of their work has been the phrase of fantastic movies plays and theatre productions. Those of us who are into the classics relish the thought of standing in the very rooms where these literary greats once worked and played together.

What Can We See at the Museum?

Bronte Parsonage Haworth

The Bronte Parsonage Museum is run by the Bronte Society who hold many fund raising events to ensure the upkeep of the museum can continue. Standing on the lawn in front of the parsonage we can imagine the sisters sitting in the summer months sketching or reading to one another. Once we enter the parsonage it dawns on us how small the rooms are with the entrance hall leading ahead to the stairs and Reverend Bronte's study and the dining room being located on the ground floor.

It was in the dining room that the sisters created most of their successful novels as they paced around the central dining table, which is still there, discussing their ideas. The kitchen has a black range where a roaring fire would have been lit on cold days plus where all the sisters' meals would have been prepared and cooked.

Other rooms of interest throughout the house include Charlotte's bedroom, the children's room and Mr Bronte's bedroom. At the rear of the museum there is a newly built area that houses an exhibition room and Branwell's studio. There are plenty of artefacts relating to the family housed in the Bronte Parsonage Museum along with works of art and original hand written letters written by Charlotte. The museum welcomes educational groups, individuals and parties with visitors travelling to Haworth from all over the world.

Location and Opening Times

Haworth is a small village located a couple of miles from Keighley. There is a bus service from Keighley bus station calling at the village along with the Worth Valley Steam Railway that also runs regular trips. Car park facilities are also located close to the centre of the village. The parsonage sits behind the parish church at the top of Main Street on Church Street.

The museum and shop opens every day April to October from 10a.m. to 5.30pm. November to March 10a.m. to 5pm. The museum closes 24th to 27th December inclusive but opens New Year's Day 12 to 5pm. Entry to the museum is priced as follows

  • Family Ticket for 2 adults and 2 children £18.00
  • Individual entry £7.50
  • Senior citizens £6.25
  • Children £3.75

Advance bookings are taken and special tours can be arranged ahead too. Once visitors have exhausted the village and parsonage the beautiful moorland and countryside of Haworth is on the doorstep and will make a fitting end to a perfect day as the rolling moors played such an integral part of all the Bronte Novels and art work.

  • The Bronte Parsonage and Museum
  • Church Street
  • Haworth
  • West Yorkshire
  • BD22 8DR
  • Tele + 44 0 1535 642 323

Beatrix Potter's Hilltop Museum Beatrix Potter's Hill Top Museum

This beautiful cottage was once the home of Beatrix Potter the author of so many children's books including the famous Peter Rabbit. Beatrix bought the cottage in the Lake District area of Ambleside Cumbria in 1905 and settled down to writing the amazing animal stories we all know and love being influenced by the surrounding countryside. Hill Top is an amazing cottage that children will love to visit. The gardens are lovely and visitors can imagine Beatrix seated in these beautiful surroundings writing her wonderful stories about Jeremy Fisher Frog, Peter Rabbit, Mrs Tiggy Winkle and Squirrel Nutkin.

What Can We See at the Museum?

Beatrix Potter donated her cottage and belongings to The National Trust in the event of her death and also left strict instructions as to how she wanted the museum to look. The museum is a must visit for anyone who has read a Potter book or seen a film based on one of her many novels. Many of Potters inspirations can be seen inside the cottage including her writing desk where she must have sat for hours writing her stories.

Hill Top

Those of us who have read the Tale of Samuel Whiskers will at once recognise the story when visiting Hill Top as the story is indeed set within the house. Hill Top is also a working farm today just as it was when Beatrix bought the property, while she owned fifteen more farms that surround Hill Top and they too were bequeathed to the National Trust. Visitors can read the ladies letters, view lots of her personal artefacts and really get a feel for what life was like while living in this fabulous country idyll.

Location and Opening Times

Due to the nature of Hill Top's build the trust run a timed ticket system in order to avoid queues and overcrowding. This ensures that the building will not be damaged by too many visitors at any one time. There are no advanced bookings therefore entry is on a first come first served basis. The house closes for cleaning during the winter months and reopens on Friday 14th February 2015. A more detailed list of opening times  and entry costs is available at the website.

There is a train service to Hill Top from Windermere, while there is a small car park for those who choose to drive via the B5286 from Ambleside. Ferry services along with bus services are also available, while walkers can take the route from the ferry which is approximately two miles from Hill Top.

  • Hill Top
  • Near Sawrey
  • Hawkshead
  • Ambleside
  • Cumbria
  • LA22 0LF
  • Tele 015394 36269

Charles Dickens Museum London Charles Dickens Museum

Charles Dickens has to be one of the most famous writers in the world with many of his wonderful novels made into movies, plays and stage productions. The late writer is responsible for such works as Oliver Twist, David Copperfield, A Tale of Two Cities and the world renowned A Christmas Carol the story of the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge. His complete portfolio can be purchased in Kindle version from Amazon, while many of his most popular novels are available to buy on DVD too.

Charles Dickens was a Victorian author whose novels depicted how life was for ordinary folk who lived in this era. Born in 1812 his literary career began in journalism and progressed onto writing novels that proved a success in Dickens's lifetime. Dickens was married and had ten children. He left his wife following their birth to live with his mistress and died in 1870. He is buried in Westminster Abbey in London.

What Can We See at the Museum?

The House on Doughty Street in London, where the Charles Dickens Museum is located, is where Dickens lived plus where two of his children were born. Many of Dickens novel were written while living here with titles such as Nicholas Nickleby and Oliver Twist being just two. The museum was established in 1925 and is certainly the place to visit if you are a Dickens fan, while the place has been refurbished recently making for an even more pleasurable experience.

The museum boasts some one hundred thousand items and artefacts relating to Dickens that include

  • Manuscripts
  • Paintings
  • Personal belongings
  • Research library
  • Rare book editions
  • Image library

The image library holds unique photographs portraits and paintings of the great man and his family along with illustrations, advertisements and all manner of imagery concerning Dickens. The museum holds events all year round with some regular fixtures and some one off experiences. Some of these events are particularly aimed at families with children welcomed by story tellers who give amazing tours around the house that children will love. The museum also offers an on site cafe

Location and Opening Times

The museum opens seven days a week from 10am to 5pm, while occasionally the museum closes early. Groups are welcome but if the group is larger than ten then advanced booking is required. Entry Gift Vouchers can be bought at the website, while admission costs start at £4.00 with children under the age of six welcomed free of charge.

Visitors will find it easy to locate the Charles Dickens Museum as regular tube services and buses run nearby and it's but a stone's throw away from the British Museum. Further details regarding opening times and charges can be found at the museum website.

  • Charles Dickens Museum
  • 48 Doughty Street
  • London
  • WC1N 2LX
  • Tele 020 7405 2127

Shakespeare Birth Place Trust Shakespeare Birthplace Trust

William Shakespeare is number one for many when it comes to writing poetry, plays and amazing stories. Shakespeare was baptised in 1564 in the Holy Trinity Church Stratford upon Avon. He is responsible for such literary works as Romeo and Juliette, A Midsummer Night's Dream and Hamlet all of which have been made into stage productions for centuries followed by movies and dramas in the twentieth century.

Shakespeare is widely regarded as the greatest dramatist of all time with people from all over the world flocking to Stratford upon Avon to drink in the atmosphere of the birth place of the famous literary genius. Married to Anne Hathaway Shakespeare had three children and gave the world some of the best loved comedies and dramas that have certainly stood the test of time.

What Can We See in the Museum?

Shakespeare's Birthplace is popular with visitors from all over the world as it is the house where the bard was born and lived. Shakespeare even lived in the house following his marriage therefore it is no wonder that fans have been visiting the place for the past two hundred and fifty years! Visitors will see how Shakespeare lived and how he grew into the writer he did along with interesting facts about other famous writers that have visited the house such as the poet Thomas Hardy and Walter Scott;

Visitors can see the "Famous Beyond Words Exhibition" that was recently created at the museum and takes us through the bards life, while the Giant Wall Book displayed in the garden is a sight to behold as the pages open up to show thirty eight of the bards plays. There are many artefacts and items of interest all related to the life of Shakespeare, while the Treasures Exhibition changes on a six monthly basis.

Live performances are also put on every day by actors who wish to bring Shakespeare's plays to life, while visitors can even request that the actors perform favourite sections of preferred plays which is great!

Location and Opening Times

The Shakespeare Birthplace Cottage is located on Henley Street in the very centre of picturesque Stratford upon Avon and is a ten minute walk from the train station making it easily accessible. The town centre is a short drive from junction 15 of the M40 motorway therefore travelling by car is also no problem.

Those wishing to visit all five of Shakespeare's houses can buy a Five House Pass which saves quite a bit on costs, while all the individual house visit prices are available at the website with online purchases saving 10%.

Opening times vary. January 2nd to March 16th 2015 the cottage opens 10am to 4pm with further opening time updates posted on the website as spring approaches. The museum has a fabulous café that overlooks the cottage gardens where a variety of snacks and meals can be enjoyed.

  • Shakespeare Birthplace Trust
  • Henley Street
  • Stratford upon Avon
  • Warwickshire
  • CV37 6QW
  • Tele +44 (0) 1789 204016

Robert Burns Birthplace Museum Alloway Robert Burns Birthplace Museum

Robert Burns was born in 1759 in Alloway near Ayr in Scotland. Famous for his poetry, Burns lead a colourful life. He had many relationships, mistresses and illegitimate children but his poetry lives on and is as well-loved now as it was hundreds of years ago. Burns has become a real Scottish hero and wrote such classic poems as A Red Red Rose, Address to the Devil and his most famous offering Auld Lang Syne that is sung every New Year's Eve at midnight the world over! Burns lived a short life dying at the tender age of twenty seven.

What Can We See at the Museum?

The famous Robert Burns Cottage sits at the heart of this museum along with a monument and gardens. It also houses am amazing collection of Robert Burns' life and works making it a must visit place for those who are interested in Burns himself.

Showing just now at the Robert Burns Museum are a number of exhibitions including

  • The Literary Landscape in Russian Art by the Russian poet Pushkin an admirer of Burns
  • The Big Haggis Feast and Ceilidh
  • The Burns Heid Inn, a night of drinking and entertainment in the museum
  • Highlight talks 3pm every Wednesday

The Burns Museum houses over five and a half thousand manuscripts, books and personal items all relating to Burns and his life. Burns suppers and weddings are also catered for at the museum, while the last Tuesday of the month sees the Burns Book Club meeting held from 2.30pm to 3. 30pm. Guided tours of the museum are also available and there is an onsite restaurant for those visitors who wish to eat and drink during their visit. Children will love it here as there are many interactive displays to keep them entertained along with an outdoor play area where they can let off a little steam.

Robert Burns

Location and Opening Times

The Robert Burns Museum consists of two sites joined by a pedestrian footpath known as Poet's Pathway. Trains, buses and travelling by car are all easy to do in order to get to the museum, while the museum is open daily closing only two days at Christmas and the 1st and 2nd of January.

Admission prices cover both the cottage site and entry to all exhibitions with fees starting from as little as £6.50 for concessions and £21.00 for a family with two adults. A full price list and list of opening times is available at the website.

  • Robert Burns Birthplace Museum
  • Murdoch's Lane
  • Alloway
  • KA7 4PQ
  • Tele 0844 493 2601