History of Fleetwood Museum

History of Fleetwood Museum

It’s the only officially accredited museum on the Fylde Coast and is unique within local heritage tourism. Explore the history of Fleetwood Museum, originally built as the towns Custom House. It became the council office and later the town hall, when Fleetwood became a borough.

More than 60 volunteers bring the past to life at Fleetwood Museum. It’s real history with real people!

History of Fleetwood Museum on Queen's Terrace
Fleetwood Museum on Queen’s Terrace
  • You can use the excellent Coffee House and Museum Shop without paying for Museum entry.
  • Why don’t you take a group trip or hold an event there? You can visit during the day or in the evenings, with or without catering.

Why don’t you Visit Fleetwood Museum and take a look for yourself?

Restoring Fleetwood Museum

A ‘simple’ project began at the end of summer 2018 to redecorate the front of Fleetwood Museum. However it rapidly became a much bigger job! It’s one which will result in the transformation and restoration of its appearance.

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The original splendor of Fleetwood’s former Custom House is being revealed as layers of paintwork and waterproof coatings have been stripped from the facade. As the coating started to come off, it became apparent that it covered extensive cracking and water trapped behind it over the years.

Renovation of the exterior of Fleetwood Museum gets underway. Feb 2019
Renovation of the exterior of Fleetwood Museum gets underway. Feb 2019

It could have been a nightmare but became a remarkable opportunity. The building is being returned to its original Georgian era appearance now the original historic render, first applied in 1837, has been exposed.

Good progress being made with the renovation of the exterior of Fleetwood Museum. July 2019
Good progress being made with the renovation of the exterior of Fleetwood Museum. July 2019

Plus, all the window surrounds, entrance columns and high-level parapets are built in the familiar stone of the nearby North Euston Hotel.

Discoveries have also been made during the redecoration to reveal that the old Customs House is one of the most important coastal buildings in the country.

Watch this space – but the Museum is very much open for business meanwhile!

Fleetwood Grammar School Stained Glass Memorial Window

Why don’t you pop into the Museum for a coffee and a piece of cake, and have a browse in the shop? You can use both without paying admission fees.

In the cafe you’ll find great cakes and a full range of drinks. The shop stocks all kinds of nice gifts, local history books and unusual things that you won’t find anywhere else.

Alongside the delicious cakes, you can’t miss the huge stained glass window on the back wall of the cafe.

Stained Glass window - explore the history of Fleetwood Museum
Stained Glass window at Fleetwood Museum

This beautiful piece of stained glass was once in the sixth form study at Fleetwood Grammar School. When the school closed in 1977, Lancashire County Council Museums Service took it into storage in Preston.

The coffee shop in the Museum opened in May 2010 and provided an opportunity to re-site this beautiful window. Fleetwood Museum Trust made an appeal for funding. The newly formed Fleetwood Town Council generously contributed, along with local groups and ex grammar school students.

History of the Fleetwood Grammar School Stained Glass Memorial Window

This beautiful window is a tribute to 25 former pupils who lost their lives in the Second World War (1939-45).

It was commissioned and paid for (by subscription) by the Old Scholars Union for Fleetwood Grammar School. It depicts the horrors of war and the motto “Cogitate Altiora” (Think on higher things). In its original setting at the school, it was unveiled on Sunday 31 May 1964, dedicated to those Old Scholars who lost their lives.

The window was specially designed by Mrs A Howarth, the senior art mistress (and a former pupil) at Fleetwood Grammar School. Some of the pupils helped to enlarge her original design to its full size of 10ft x 6ft. The vivid stained glass window itself was made by Blackpool firm Beaumont and Parkinson.

Why don’t you call into the Museum and have a look at it?

History of Fleetwood Museum

The museum is located in the heart of the Victorian new town of Fleetwood. It’s easy to find on the promenade at Queen’s Terrace, with plenty of free parking outside. Inside the museum you can find out all kinds of fascinating things about the past of Fleetwood, the fishing industry, and surrounding area.

History of Fleetwood Museum

Fleetwood Museum was financed by the town’s founder Sir Peter Hesketh Fleetwood and designed by the eminent architect, Decimus Burton. In 2018 a statue was erected to Sir Peter, the town’s Founding Father, in Euston Gardens.

The museum occupies Fleetwood’s oldest complete building. It was originally the Custom House. Opened in 1838 it’s one of the oldest buildings still in use today. It retains many of the original features, including this impressive original tiled floor which greets you in the entrance.

Entrance of Fleetwood Museum, find out about the history of Fleetwood Museum
Entrance of Fleetwood Museum

The Custom House originally stood in its own gardens to the sides and rear of the building. ‘Wyre Holm’ guest house was first added, then in the 1890’s it became the local Urban District Council Offices.

When Fleetwood became a Municipal Borough in 1933 it became the Town Hall. Upon local Government reorganisation in 1974, it became the Finance Department for Wyre Borough Council. Then later served for a short while as Emmanuel Christian School.

Many thanks to Museum Trustee Dick Gillingham for providing this photo of Fleetwood Museum in its Fleetwood Urban District Council days.

History of Fleetwood Museum
Fleetwood Museum in its Fleetwood Urban District Council days

The Museum we know today

In 1991 the old Town Hall building became the Fleetwood Museum we know today. Take a little look inside…

Inside Fleetwood Museum

The buildings designed by Decimus Burton around and near to the museum form the most impressive collection of heritage buildings in the Borough of Wyre. Fleetwood’s image as a working seaport has detracted from these architectural gems, which in a more ‘genteel’ location would have won far greater acclaim.

History of the Fleetwood Museum Collection

Fleetwood Museum itself began in the early 1970’s as a local history collection in the Dock Street Library (Fielden Institute). The Margaret Rowntree Room was first established as a permanent showcase. (Margaret Rowntree was Fleetwood’s first female Mayor).

Originally the Dock Street Library (Fielden Institute). History of Fleetwood Museum collection began
Originally the Dock Street Library (Fielden Institute), where the Fleetwood Museum collection began

By 1981 when Fleetwood Museum was founded, it was becoming apparent that the deep sea fishing industry in Fleetwood was in sharp decline. Items relating to the town’s staple industry for close to a hundred years had to be collected and preserved. During 1981 Lancashire County Council engaged deep sea fishing enthusiast David Buckley. His task was to look for and collect suitable items for display.

Then advertised as Fleetwood Maritime Museum, the collection opened in May 1982 in the basement and ground floor of Dock Street Library. 1982 was also Maritime England Year, and it was mostly a maritime history collection.

Then in 1992-3 the collection moved to the present site at Queen’s Terrace, enabling additional displays to be added.

The Museum Friends have been operating since 1991, meeting at first in the old Dock Street premises. By 2018 they had a membership of over 300 and an extensive social programme.

Knowledge of local History at Fleetwood Museum

One of the outstanding features of Fleetwood Museum, frequently remarked upon by visitors, is the huge volume of knowledge that the volunteer guides have.

There’s a rota of around 50 volunteer staff. Most are proud Fleetwood residents but there are also volunteers from Thornton, Cleveleys and Poulton. Their joint knowledge relating to Fleetwood and its history is immense.

Fishing History at Fleetwood Museum

In addition to the main collections in the museum buildings, the museum has two historic vessels.

Sailing smack Harriet was built in the town in 1893 and prawner, Judy in 1904-5. Plans are developing to enhance the display of these vessels. Harriet is on the select, Historic Ships Fleet and Judy on the Historic Ships Register. These are the lists of major historic vessels in the UK.

Harriet (below) is the last surviving fishing smack to be built and registered at Fleetwood, and is being preserved for future generations. Former deep sea fishermen bring real life experience to gallery visitors.

Harriet Fishing Smack - history of Fleetwood Museum
Harriet Fishing Smack at Fleetwood Museum

Saving Fleetwood Museum

Another important incident in the history of Fleetwood Museum happened more recently, when it was threatened with closure.

In November 2015, Lancashire County Council (LCC) announced that funding would be withdrawn for the Museum from April 2016. Despite the museum being staffed and run by volunteers for the previous eleven years, LCC still needed to cut its costs.

The people of Fleetwood weren’t having any of that! Their public campaign, spearheaded by Fleetwood Town Council, ensured that the Museum lived to see another day.

A new era for Fleetwood Museum

In April 2018, Fleetwood Museum Trust took over the operation of the museum from Lancashire County Council. With the withdrawal of Lancashire County funding, Fleetwood Town Council agreed to provide the required core funding. During the winter of 2018-19 an extensive programme of renovation began and will continue in future years.

Two large collections of artefacts now have a new home at the museum. Plus, many more items donated by the public have also entered the collections.

More about Fleetwood Museum

Learn about Fleetwood’s heyday as a Victorian seaside resort. Its cargo trade and ferry services. The lifeboats and brave lifeboat men. About the docks, the invaluable and heroic role which trawlermen played during the wars. The chemical giant ICI at nearby Thornton and much more.

Two galleries tell the fascinating story of Fleetwood’s hugely successful endeavours at deep and inshore fishing.

Fishing displays - history of Fleetwood Museum
Fishing displays at Fleetwood Museum

The exhibitions tell the story of Fleetwood’s unique and fascinating history. Find out about Lancashire’s first planned Victorian seaside town and its development throughout the two last centuries.

It’s an amazing collection of images and objects, all related to Fleetwood. Explore local entertainment, recreation, shops, business, sport, streets, buildings, railway, fishing, docks and more.

Links to External Websites

Join Fleetwood Museum Trust and Friends on Facebook

Fleetwood Museum website

While you’re here…

Have a look at the homepage of the Visit Fleetwood website for more of the latest updates.

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