The History of the Museum - The Founding Years

The History of the Museum

The first museum in Britain was the Ashmolean, founded in 1683. During the 19th century, as towns and cities grew, so did the numbers of museums. Local Authorities were granted permissive powers to start museums in their areas from 1847 onwards, but Stroud did not, believing that funding such an enterprise would be an undue burden on the tax payer. In 1881 the prominent local geologist Edwin Witchell complained about the lack of a museum in Stroud, and this began a gradual campaign led by local collectors and philanthropists to found a museum. 

In 1887 provision was made for a museum within the proposal for a School of Science and Art in Lansdown (pictured above) - subject to sufficient funds being raised.

In 1897 a local businessman and landowner, William Cowle, included a bequest of £4000 in his will to provide a museum for the town. Shortly after his death in 1899 the Cowle Museum Trust was established to provide a museum for the people of Stroud and the surrounding district.

Click here for the History of the Museum 1900 - 1983 and 1983 - Present

Did you know?

The Museum was not the only beneficiary of William Cowle's hard work and generosity - the hospital, the free-masons and indeed the general population of Stroud all benefitted either financially or through his tireless work with the Board of Health


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