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Heritage centres, history and museums

Swale heritage centres, museums and history groups

Faversham Natural History Group

This group holds regular indoor and outdoor meetings for those interested in all aspects of natural history.
Visit the Faversham Natural History Group website for more details.

Sittingbourne Family History Society

For further information, please contact Keith Lainton on 01795 423778 or write to Algarve House, 140 Borden House, Sittingbourne, ME9 8HR.

Kent Archaeological Field School

Based in Faversham, this school offers a range of courses in archaeological subjects. For further details, see the Kent Archaeological Field School Website, telephone Dr Paul Wilkinson on 01795 532548 or email the school.

Kent Family History Society

With six branches spread over Kent, this society helps members learn how to research their own family tree. For further details, see the society's Kent Family History Society website, telephone Alan Makey on 01795 537802 or email the society.

Sheppey Local History Society

This society manages the Minster Gatehouse Museum and works to preserve the local history and heritage of the Isle of Sheppey. For further details, please call Lena Crowder on 01795 875111 or Ken Ingleton on 01795 873709.

 

Sittingbourne Homefront Living History Society (SHLHS)

SHLHS are a 1930s/40s British civilian and Military re-enactment living history group, specialising in the year 1943. As a living history group we attend all the large re-enactment events in Kent and the southeast as well as local village fairs and fetes. We also hold thousands of vintage 30s and 40s memorabilia including furniture and clothes etc, which we also demonstrate for educational purposes.

For further details call Phil Thomas (Secretary) on 01795 439267 or email: philipthom@yahoo.com or write to SHLHS, 164 Park Road, Sittingbourne, Kent, ME101EW.

Family history - discover your past

If you want to research your family history, information on helpful contacts as a starting point can be found by visiting Visit Swale.

Applications for birth, death, marriage and civil partnership certificates can be found on the Kent County Council website.

Museums

Swale is host to a number of museums for you to visit, celebrating our rich and varied heritage and offering unique glimpses into our past. Click on the links below or scroll down to find out more.

Sittingbourne AreaFaversham AreaSheppey Area
Dolphin Yard Sailing Barge Museum Chart Gunpowder Mills Blue Town Heritage Centre
Historical Research Group of Sittingbourne Fleur de Lis Heritage Centre Minster Abbey Gatehouse Museum
Sittingbourne and Kemsley Light Railway Maison Dieu Queenborough Guildhall Museum
Sittingbourne Heritage Museum Oare Gunpowder Works Country Park Rose Street Cottage of Curiosities

Sittingbourne Area

Photo of the Melior at Kemsley during the 40th Anniversary Opening, October 2010

Sittingbourne and Kemsley Light Railway 

This heritage steam railway represents the preserved southern half of the Bowater Lloyd Railway, which served the paper industry in Sittingbourne. Take a ride on one of the trains, see an exhibition of rolling stock and discover evidence of how people lived and worked in the paper mills and on the railway in a small exhibits museum. The railway is also noted for its 'Steam and Beer Festival', 'Ivor the Engine and Jack the Station Cat' children's events and 'Santa Specials'.

The locomotives and rolling stock are owned by the Sittingbourne and Kemsley Light Railway, which is a registered charity, and the railway is operated entirely through voluntary effort. New working members are always welcome.

Wheelchair access: By prior arrangement
Refreshments: Yes
Admission / Fares: Adults £5, Child £2.50 (3 - 13 years), Concessions £3.50, Family £14 (2 +4)

Photo of troops marching through Sittingbourne during World War II

Sittingbourne Heritage Museum 

This museum, sited in an old shop, aims to preserve and promote local heritage and history, such as the growth of Sittingbourne, coaching inns, brick-making, paper-making, the creek and barge building. Explore a 1940s kitchen and 1940s shop and discover 'The Plough finds', a nationally significant find of artefacts that were purposefully hidden in an old pub which has now been demolished.

Wheelchair access: No
Refreshments: Not normally
Admission price: Free

The Court Hall, High Street, Milton Regis

Photo of the Milton Regis Court Hall

The Court Hall, Milton's one-time civic centre, is over 550 years old and is owned by Swale Borough Council. Following years of closure, 'The Friends of Milton Regis Court Hall' have entered into a long term agreement with the Council to bring the building back into use. Considerable work and time has been invested by a small core group of volunteers and after two successful open days and tireless fund raising the Court Hall is due to reopen later this year. Subject to completion of some further renovation work the Court Hall will be open to the public every Saturday from April to October. Visit Kent gives more information.

Dolphin Yard Sailing Barge Museum

Unfortunately the museum was destroyed by fire but a recovery has been formulated, and the trustees would be interested to hear from anyone who can offer help to turn this disaster into an opportunity. Contacts: Clive Reader Chairman of Trustees 01795 520491, or John Hull Yard Officer 01795 471725

Faversham Area

Chart Gunpowder Mills

This is the oldest gunpowder mill in the world, part of a complex which includes the remains of three others. Powder was first made in Faversham in the 16th Century and during World War I the town was the main centre of the UK explosives industry with six factories, one of which occupied an area as large as the City of London. As well as seeing the surviving mill, which is a scheduled Ancient Monument, visitors can view displays that explain how powder was made. The Mills are managed entirely by voluntary effort.

Admission price: Free but donations are appreciated
Wheelchair access: Yes
Refreshments: No

Fleur de Lis Heritage Centre 

Comprised of three adjoining 16th Century buildings, "The Fleur" was the first heritage centre in the south of England when it opened in 1977. Run by volunteers from the Faversham Society, it includes the only Accredited Museum in Swale, a Kentish bookshop, hall for hire and an exhibition gallery. The museum holds artefacts tracing the eventful history of the Faversham area, from Iron Age times through to the present day.

Admission price: Free - £5
Wheelchair access: None to the upper floor but a DVD is instead provided
Refreshments: No

Maison Dieu

The Maison Dieu is a medieval building that once formed part of a complex including a Royal lodge, pilgrims' hostel and hospital. Originally founded by Henry III around 1230, it was secured by local residents in 1923 and has been open as a museum ever since, housing Roman and medieval finds that have been excavated from nearby sites. The museum is owned by the residents of Ospringe but is in the care of English Heritage.

Admission price: Free - £2
Wheelchair access: None officially due to the antiquity of the building - please contact the museum to discuss
Refreshments: No

Oare Gunpowder Works Country Park

This nationally important archaeological site and valuable wildlife habitat is home to the remains of Oare Works, where gunpowder was manufactured for more than 300 years until 1934. The park can be explored via well-marked trails, with interpretation panels at key points which include old photographs of the buildings.

Admission price: Free
Wheelchair access: Toilet suitable for wheelchair users located inside the visitor centre
Refreshments: Small picnic area with tables

Sheppey Area

Blue Town Heritage Centre (Featuring The Criterion Music Hall and Cinema) 

Originally a Music Hall and Hotel, this building now preserves and promotes the heritage and culture of the Isle of Sheppey, including the maritime legacy of the Sheerness Dockyard and the development of aviation on the island. There are figureheads, models, photographs and music hall restoration project art to see and a film about Sheppey to watch. There is currently an exhibition entitled 'Barbed Wire Island' telling the story of Sheppey during WW1.

There are monthly history talks, as well as heritage tours and walks between May and October. The museum is managed by Jenny Hurkett and a group of trustees and volunteers, with the building leased by the charity 'Blue Town Remembered'. The Criterion Music Hall & Cinema as an entertainment venue has been recreated within the Blue Town Heritage Centre and along with the tea room provide additional experiences for the visitors to the Heritage Centre. The main hall and a small meeting room is also available for hire.

Admission price: £1.00
Wheelchair access: Yes
Refreshments: Tea room specialising in cream teas

Queenborough Guildhall Museum 

Housed in a building dating from circa 1794, which replaced an old courthouse, this museum tells the fascinating story of the historic town of Queenborough and is an absorbing visit for children and adults alike. Queenborough grew from a small Saxon settlement into a wealthy borough with a Royal Castle built by Edward III and is full of both Victorian industrial heritage, still evolving today, and maritime heritage - the town was home to hundreds of minesweeping vessels during World War II. There are changing exhibitions and so one visit may not be enough!

Admission price: Free - 50p
Wheelchair access: Yes to the museum but not to the Guildhall itself

Minster Abbey Gatehouse Museum 

As part of Minster's stunning Royal Saxon Abbey, the Gatehouse museum boasts three floors of exhibits including Victorian costumes, wartime ephemera, paintings and photographs, fossils, Roman coins, early newspapers, radio and communication devices, cannonballs and many other fascinating Sheppey artefacts. There are incredible panoramic views of Kent and Essex from the rooftop battlements, an impressive 200 feet above sea level.

Wheelchair access: No

Photo of the wooden construction of the heritage centre and its two neighbours.

Rose Street Cottage of Curiosities

Rose St Cottage of Curiosities (formerly known as Sheerness Heritage Centre) was built as a Dock workers cottage in 18 Century A white weatherboarded cottage it housed families, was a bakers, a furniture shop and oft remembered as 'Curds Fish and Chip Shop'.

Now an Arts and Heritage Cottage managed by the Sheppey Promenade Charity. Visitors can explore the scullery, parlour, nursery & gallery upstairs and down.

Frequent evening events with costumed characters telling tales of Olde Sheppey. “Bringing History to Life”

Entry is free to all, however donations to the Sheppey Promenade Charity are always welcomed.

Go to the Visit Swale website.

Wheelchair access: None to the upper level
Refreshments: No

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