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The Higgins Bedford

Castle Lane
MK40 3XD

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The Higgins Bedford has been refitted throughout. Visitors can enjoy watercolour, print and decorative art collections of international significance, including major collections of works by William Burges and Edward Bawden. Local collections tell the story of Bedford and its people through archaeological finds, natural history, geology and social history. Important too are small but significant world archaeology and ethnography collections.


William Burges William Burges Zodiac SettleThe

William Burges Collection’s new home is the high-ceilinged hexagonal gallery. Burges, one of the most imaginative architects of the 19th Century, filled his buildings with richly-painted furniture, metalwork, ceramics and stained glass, all with his unique take on medieval style. One of the showpieces of the redevelopment, the William Burges Gallery will feature the art gallery and museum's world-renowned collection of painted furniture designed by Burges for his own use, including his Sleeping Beauty Bed and the newly acquired Zodiac Settle, a detail of which is pictured above.



Edward Bawden Gallery

The artist designer Edward Bawden was one of the most influential artists of his generation. For the first time the Higgins’ collection of murals, prints, illustrations, wallpapers, textiles and watercolours which made up the contents of Bawden’s studio will be housed together in this new gallery. With regular changing exhibitions and study days the gallery will provide an excellent resource and a fascinating insight into this great artist’s work.Edward Bawden Liverpool Street Station

Edward Bawden (1903 - 1989) Liverpool Street Station 1960, linocut

© The Edward Bawden Estate


Design George Ravenscroft jug 1670 - 75

The Design gallery will feature some of the greatest designers of the past 500 years from the decorative art collections of Cecil Higgins and Charles and Lavinia Handley-Read. Highlighting some of Britain’s most important stylistic movements from Rococo to Gothic Revival and Neo-Classical to Arts and Crafts the focus will be on manufacturing techniques and influences. This completely refurbished gallery will be able to show more of The Higgins’ fantastic collections than ever before. Notable exhibits in the Design gallery include: Morris & Co textiles, Voysey furniture, William de Morgan ceramics and the metalwork of W.A.S. Benson, Liberty & Co furniture and dresses, enamels by Alexander Fisher, metalwork by John Paul Cooper and glass from Whitefriars. George Ravenscroft’s lead glass, wine glasses for and against the Jacobite cause, Irish cut glass and European and English porcelain including Johann Joachim Kändler for Meissen, Franz Anton Bustelli for Nymphenburg, and early Chelsea, Derby and Bow.

(pictured) Glass jug made by George Ravenscroft, 1670 - 75



The Higgins House

Meissen teapot from 1716 - 27The Higgins’ home remained in the family for almost a hundred years. The new displays introduce the family and explore Cecil Higgins’ collection in terms of how the objects might have originally been used and what they said about the people that owned them. Downstairs, star items from the porcelain collection such as the Chelsea Swan Tureen will be displayed on the dining table illustrating the Georgian’s elaborate dining rituals and dozens of teapots and teacups will be on display in the morning room looking at the traditions of tea drinking. Upstairs the lives of women like those of the Higgins’s family are shown through the collections of jewellery, scent bottles and costume.

(pictured) Teapot in form of a Roman soldier, Meissen 1716 - 27




Saxon Window Urn

This gallery highlights the human journey through time. Objects, collections and people tell their own exciting story about Bedford, its rivers and its countryside. Our incredible journey begins millions of years ago when the land was covered by ancient seas, inhabited by strange life forms including sea monsters, and reveals the forces of nature that have shaped our landscape. With the emergence of solid land new creatures including early humans began to inhabit our region.


Through the objects on display we can begin to understand how people worked, lived, played and worshipped from the earliest times up to the Middle Ages. Intertwined within this thread are invaders from now lost empires, seafarers who came to raid and trade, powerful religious houses and vanishing castles. The gallery focuses on some of the most important stories drawn from our archaeological collections.

(pictured) Saxon Window Urn, 400 - 500 AD, found in Kempston


Somewhere in England

Model plough made by Britannia Iron and Steel Works

Place Gallery 2 continues the story of Bedfordshire and its people's history. It explores Bedford and its growth from a small but busy medieval market town to a centre of industry and business today. Bedfordshire's agricultural and engineering heritage is celebrated with a focus on J. & F. Howard's Britannia Ironworks, W. H. Allen's Queen's Engineering Works, and the brickworks. The town and countryside and the people who live here in Bedfordshire have changed significantly over the centuries. The new displays will feature local people and show how they have responded to events, including the Agricultural Revolution, the coming of the railways, the growth of Victorian Bedford, the Second World War, newcomers looking for work and modern commercial and technology industries.

(pictured) Model Plough made by Britannia Iron and Steel Works, Bedford


great Bedfordians

Portrait of Colonel Frederick Burnaby by David LitchfieldThe People Gallery will celebrate the achievements of a wide range of individuals who have a connection with Bedford and the surrounding area. Well-known people include the preacher and author John Bunyan, the prison reformer John Howard, and Margaret Beaufort, the mother of King Henry VII. Lesser-known Bedfordians will also feature, such as military man and hot-air balloonist Frederick Burnaby, schoolmistress and Suffragist Amy Walmsley, and the scientist and Antarctic explorer Apsley Cherry-Garrard. More recent Bedfordians, people who have lived and worked in our area during the 20th century, will also be recognised for their valuable contribution to how Bedford is thought about today.

Portrait of Colonel Frederick Burnaby (1842-1885) by David Litchfield, 2012



This new gallery explores the origins of our collections and reveals how museums collect. Displays will compare methods of collecting from the latest archaeological research in Bedford, including a recreated excavation of a Bronze Age burial, to the work of the extraordinary amateur Victorian collectors to whom modern methodology owes so much. By displaying previously unseen ethnographic collections, The Higgins will also reveal long-lost stories from Bedford's past.


We also have new spaces for temporary exhibitions. Read more about our exhibitions programme here.