Old House Museum, Bakewell

Historic Building and Museum in Bakewell

Old House Museum, Bakewell
CC BY-SA 4.0 / Elisa.rolle

Situated just a stone’s throw away from Bakewell’s medieval church, you’ll find the Old House Museum—an extraordinary testament to local heritage. Dating back to 1534, it holds the distinction of being the oldest house in Bakewell and has been meticulously preserved as a captivating museum.

Step inside and explore the ten rooms that are open to the public, each offering a glimpse into the past. The outdoor area features a collection of historic artifacts, including a stainless steel scale model of a mill wheel from Lumford Mill. Many of the rooms proudly display their original Tudor fireplaces, while the first-floor rooms showcase exposed timber beams. Notably, the solar, a private family room on the first floor, hosts a remarkable collection of historic costumes.

Immerse yourself in different time periods as you venture through themed rooms such as the Victorian kitchen and a 16th-century parlour. Discover an array of local toys, intricately crafted lace, exquisite china, and an extensive exhibition of old photographs and historic cameras.

Children are in for a treat as they have the opportunity to dress up in period costumes and embark on a Rat Trail, following clues that unveil fascinating historical facts about the Old House and Bakewell.

History of Old House Museum, Bakewell

The Old House, once under the ownership of the Dean and Chapter of Lichfield, exemplifies the architecture of a Tudor yeoman’s house. It was constructed for Ralph Gell of Hopton, a lawyer and collector of tithes—contributions of one-tenth of all produce given to the church. The house was intended for Gell’s steward, Christopher Plant, who supervised the collection and subsequent sale of goods like wool or oats, which were stored in an adjacent barn.

Originally, Plant’s dwelling comprised only the southernmost four rooms of the present-day house. During the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, the Gell family expanded the property, transforming it into a gentleman’s residence. They added a chamber above the porch for storing important documents and even installed a garderobe as a luxurious addition. The garderobe chamber on the first floor, along with the clean-out on the ground floor, were discovered during renovation work and are now accessible to visitors. The main room from the 16th century features an impressively large fireplace designed for both heating and cooking.

In the 1620s, an east wing was constructed perpendicular to the main structure, possibly by Sir John Gell.

The history of the Old House took a significant turn in 1777 when Richard Arkwright, a pioneering industrialist and engineer, established Lumford Mill in Bakewell. Lumford Mill was Arkwright’s third water mill and served as a model for more than 200 similar mills built during the 18th century.

Arkwright acquired the Old House and divided it into five separate cottages for his workers. He also extended the building to create an additional dwelling. The tenants, employed by Arkwright, worked from home and were involved in the cleaning of raw cotton. While some of Arkwright’s additions have since been removed, many of his contributions remain intact, including the internal staircase used by visitors to ascend to the first floor.

In the 1950s, the Old House faced the threat of demolition. However, the intervention of the Bakewell and District Historical Society saved the dilapidated structure and transformed it into a museum.

The Old House Museum, Bakewell appears in our Complete Guide to Visiting Bakewell!

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Visiting Old House Museum, Bakewell


25 March to 5 November 2023

Tuesday – Saturday, 11am – 4 pm


Adult £6.50

Address: Bakewell Old House Museum, Cunningham Place, Bakewell, UK
Duration: 20 minutes

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