Our History


North Lincolnshire Museum originally opened as Scunthorpe Museum in 1909. The Museum was established by a group of enthusiasts. The group were concerned about the loss of important archaeological and geological material from the area and the disappearance of natural habitats due to ironstone mining. Leading the group were two men from Sheffield, Archibald Dalton and Harold Dudley. Dalton became the Museums first honorary curator, and Dudley his successor.

With the support of local worthies, Dalton and Dudley formed the Scunthorpe Naturalist and Antiquarian Society. The society convinced the Library Committee to provide a room in the town’s Carnegie Free Library for museum use. On 31 August 1909 the single room of exhibits opened to the public. Most of the objects on display had been donated by the founders and remain in the collection today. A small collection of antiquities were also displayed in Ashby Free Library.

The first years were a struggle. It soon became clear that without regular funding the Museum would close. In 1911 Scunthorpe Urban District Council adopted the relevant section of the Museums and Gymnasium Act. The Museum became a Council run venue.

The Dudley Years

In 1913, Dalton resigned and was replaced by Harold Dudley, who held the post until his retirement in 1956. Dudley was a respected archaeologist and geologist, as well as a gifted musician. He dedicated his life to transforming Scunthorpe Museum from a one-room exhibition in the library to the nationally important collections filling the present building. He added to the collection, particularly archaeology and geology, by recovering finds from ironstone mining and the local area. As well as creating displays, Dudley spread knowledge through academic books, public lectures and by talking to schoolchildren.

Harold Dudley was the Museum’s curator from 1919 until he retired aged 75 in 1956.

By 1937 the collections had outgrown the single room in the Carnegie Free Library. The Museum was moved to a disused maternity home on Cottage Beck Road, Scunthorpe. Before being a maternity home, the building had been the Brumby and Frodingham District Council Offices. As well as more display and storage room, Dudley now had the space to found a museum education service.

The inside of Scunthorpe Museum when it was housed on Cottage Beck Road.

Although running the Museum was his full-time job, until 1939 Dudley was paid no salary. He supported his family by teaching music in the evenings. He also provided piano accompaniment to silent movies in local cinemas. In 1961 he was made a Freeman of the Borough. But, it was the success of the Museum and the spread of knowledge about the importance of North Lincolnshire’s heritage, especially to the younger generation, which he regarded as his greatest reward.

The Move to Frodingham Vicarage

By the early 1950s Scunthorpe Museum had again outgrown its home. As well as extensive collections of local Prehistoric and Roman objects, the collection now included the Canon Cross geological collection, the beginnings of the Fowler Collection of engravings and artefacts, and the Bronze Age Appleby Log Boat. In 1953 the Museum moved into its current home, the old Frodingham Vicarage.

Scunthorpe Museum in the former Frodingham Vicarage during the 1950s. This photograph shows the Museum before the Ironstone Cottage was added in 1963.

In 1959 Michael Kirkby became curator. His interest in the fine and decorative arts saw a focus on developing the art collections. The Museum was renamed Scunthorpe Museum and Art Gallery. The original Vicarage was extended to create an exhibition space for use by local artists and societies. Further extensions created more display galleries, as well as offices and learning rooms. In 1963 an ironstone cottage was removed from Church Street, Scunthorpe ahead of demolition and rebuilt within the Museum. The programme of development was rewarded in 1982 when Scunthorpe Museum and Art Gallery won the Small Museum of the Year Award.

The south front of the Museum in 1967. The Ironstone Cottage and new art gallery extension can be seen to the right.

In 1990, Scunthorpe and Glanford Borough Councils adopted a Joint Archaeological Collecting Policy. This relationship was formalised in 1996, when county borders were revised. North Lincolnshire was carved out of Humberside and part of northern Lincolnshire. Scunthorpe Museum and Art Gallery was renamed North Lincolnshire Museum. The name more accurately reflecting the scope and range of the collections. The reorganisation saw the Scunthorpe and Glanford Borough collections and museums, including Baysgarth House Museum and Normanby Hall Country Park, merged into one North Lincolnshire wide museum service.

Today the Museum displays tell North Lincolnshire’s story from its geological origins to the modern day. Jurassic Sea features key fossils from the Frodingham Ironstone. These include rare ammonites, starfish, ichthyosaur and plesiosaur specimens. The Steel Gallery tells the story of the development of the Iron and Steel industry. Objects include a tobacco box made from the first iron made at the first iron works in North Lincolnshire.

Local history displays in the Museum.

The Local History displays include the Ironstone Cottage. Its ground floor set out as a typical working class living space. The parlour of the original Frodingham Vicarage is laid out as a typical Victorian parlour. It features a chimneypiece from Bottesford Manor with the crest of the Peacock family. The Archaeology Gallery tells the story of North Lincolnshire from the Palaeolithic to the early Post Medieval period. The displays feature objects from important excavations, including the earliest human worked flints from North Lincolnshire and the Romanesque Barnetby Font.

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