Our permanent displays cover two floors within the listed building which was once the Radstock Market Hall.
Around the ground floor we tell the story of the coalmines, the mining communities of Radstock and the local trades and industries which supported that community.
The Somerset coalfield had 75 coal mines covering an area of 240 square miles.
Explore our reconstructed coalmine and through the candlelit darkness you will see for yourself how dangerous and difficult it was for men and boys as young as five years old working in Somerset’s famously narrow coal seams, sometimes just two feet high.
Hear the sounds of their picks and shovels; see the carting boy crawling through the tunnel dragging his put of coal.
Why is he wearing only trousers and no boots?
Are you interested in the sounds of coalmining? Follow this link to the British Library Sound Archive
Villages and towns grew to accommodate the miners and their families plus all the people needed to support the collieries and the transportation of coal to places such as Bath and London.
In our miner’s cottage you will see how the miner’s wife managed daily life, with as many as fourteen children to raise, and only a tin bath in front of the coal range for her husband and sons to wash in after a day down the mine.
Go into her laundry room and outside privy, where a bucket under a wooden shelf with a hole in it provided the only toilet for several families to share!
Where was the bucket emptied?
Radstock Co-operative Society was founded in 1868: our old Co-op shop is set out as it would have been circa 1930.
Learn how the co-operative society was set up by the people of Radstock to provide them with affordable food. Gaze upon our array of old packaging – can you see any recognisable brands still with us today?
Local trades and industry displays:
•The breweries at Oakhill, Holcombe and Radstock.
•The making and mending of boots and shoes.
•The Brass and Iron foundry at Paulton.
•The Blacksmith’s forge.
•The Victorian Printing Office.
The forge in our blacksmith’s shop glows red hot; the blacksmith would heat his metal to make tools for the local farmers, repair the miners’ picks and shovels, shoe horses and repair colliery machinery.
Printers came to prominence in Victorian times.
Purnell’s’ in Paulton and Butler & Tanner in Frome were notable; growing from a single small shop to becoming national companies.
The print workshop includes an Albion printing press. Our model was made by Henry Watts after the original which was invented by Richard Cope in the 1820s.
Beside the Victorian Classroom you will have the opportunity to dress up as a pupil (or a teacher!!).
Walk through the Victorian schoolroom; compare it with today’s classrooms. Imagine having only a slate to write on or worse, being caned! Why did Victorian girls wear aprons to school?
Also on the ground floor:
Get a bird’s eye view of central Radstock in the days of steam; our model shows where the Somerset and Dorset and Great Western Railways converged and where coal was loaded into wagons and taken by steam locomotives far and wide.
See our collection of railway exhibits.
We have displays of local geology and rare fossils in our Geological Section.
How old is Boltonites radstockensis (aka the Radstock dragonfly)?
Why does it fascinate today’s youngster?
Read about the connections to William (Strata) Smith, the father of English Geology.
On the mezzanine floor we display:
Our collections of Agricultural Implements, Chapel and Commemorative China and Memories of Wartime.
Our Special Exhibitions and travelling Exhibitions are also staged in the upper gallery area.
In the Research Room on the mezzanine floor :
The Museum has a large collection of photographs and some of these images are on display around the Museum; but most are held in the Museum archives. We have recently been able to make some archive material available for Museum visitors to browse during their visit.
As part of their Museum experience our visitors can now use a dedicated computer terminal, in the Research Room upstairs under the clock tower, to sit and browse through around 800 lovely and fascinating old images of our local area dating from 1870-1939. There is a guide on the desk in the research room on how to use the system, but it is really easy to use so you will very quickly be finding all kinds of photographic treasures.
Follow this LINK to read more about the Research room and how to gain full access to the Museum archive.
Throughout the Museum:
We tell you of the Radstock areas’ CONNECTIONS to people of national importance.