England Travel Advice!

If you were planning a trip to England in summer 2009, and you wanted to go to some out of the way costume museums (and/or out of London costume museums — I’ve been to the V&A, Museum of London, and Bath multiple times), where would you go? I’m particularly interested in any museums with strong 18th century collections. Any advice would be appreciated!

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  • Reply J August 22, 2008 at 1:52 am

    Platt Hall… Snowshill… Museum of Worthing might let you make an appointment to view the collection…

  • Reply harmanhay August 22, 2008 at 2:49 am

    The Snowshill Collection is not at Snowshill Manor any longer, it’s at Berrington Hall ( in Herefordshire by appointment.

    Also, Killerton ( has a good collection, in Devon.

    The Bowes Museum ( looks like it’s mostly being refurbished this year, but may be re-opened next year for textiles including some dress.

    My birthplace Northampton has a great shoe museum (, plus you can see 78 Derngate (, one of the only houses designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh. It used to be part of my school.

  • Reply Kate in England August 22, 2008 at 10:50 am

    Waddesdon Manor is very strong on 18th-c decorative art, although I’m not sure what their costume collection is like (if any), but it might be worth dropping them a line. Worthing reckons it’s got one of the biggest costume collections in the country, and is not far from London. I’m trying to organise some research there at the moment and I have to say, the response I received was astonishingly rude, plus I think you need letters of recommendation for research viewings, but you’ve got plenty of time, so if you start the process now you should get them to co-operate!

    Funnily enough, I’m pretty sure the curator at the museum in my town said they had a very strong collection of 18th-century dresses, because they’re so relevant to the history of the town. They also reckon they have one of the largest costume collections in the South East and it’s only 50 mins on the train from London. The curator is very nice and helpful, her e-mail address is Jo{dot}wiltcher {at} if you want to contact her and check what they’ve got. Plus added bonus – I get to buy you lunch!

    I know Chertsey (also close to London) has some good 18th-c items as I went to a Costume Society day there a couple of years ago on that very subject (there’s an article by the curator, Grace Evans, on an 18th-c wedding dress from the collection in the latest issue of Costume, if you have it?).

    The Fan Museum might be a fun 18th-c relevant trip, too!

  • Reply brocadegoddess August 24, 2008 at 4:44 pm

    This is a link to a list of costume collections in England. Since you are planning well ahead you ought to have time to contact them regarding what they have in the way of 18th century stuff.

    I am going to Berrington Hall on Tuesday to look at 18th century garments, I'll post a comment on it after I get back to London. The woman who looks after that collection also looks after one for the Hereford museum. I went there a few weeks ago, her name is Althea MacKenzie and she is super super nice. The collection at the Hereford museum is small, but there are a few interesting pieces like a full riding habit and another riding jacket, as well as riding shirts.

    The Manchester art gallery supposedly has one of the best collections in the country. It's closed to both the public and appointments right now (D'oh!), but may be open for next summer so check it out.

    Do you have any plans to visit Scotland at all? There is a pretty good collection of the Scottish National Museums in Leith, a suburb of Edinburgh. I was there earlier this week and the staff were very helpful. They had a lady's hat made of paper that was cut and worked as if it were straw!

    If you are just interested in seeing formal/fashionable dresses you can easily get your fill (as I'm sure you've already discovered). If you want to see other kinds of items I've found it's best to be specific about that when contacting institutions for appointments, otherwise you'll get the silk brocade dresses by default.

    You may want to check out the Museum of London again, I've been doing some pretty detailed cataloguing for them over the last couple months and have found a few dresses that have not been altered (a serious rarity). I have also drafted patterns from a couple of jackets there, of which I will be leaving copies for the museum to keep. If I'm very lucky you may find me there continuing my work next summer!

  • Reply Kendra August 25, 2008 at 10:18 pm

    Wow, thanks for all the FABULOUS advice, everyone! Emails have been sent off to a number of different collections. I’ll let you know what pans out.

  • Reply brocadegoddess August 28, 2008 at 7:27 pm

    Berrington Hall is lovely, and so is the woman who looks after the collection. I saw several garments that are featured in both Patterns of Fahsion and Costume in Detail. I kind of felt like I was meeting celebrities! The Hall itself, and the grounds are really lovely. You do need to drive there from Hereford, no transit goes out there.

  • Reply MaidM September 6, 2008 at 3:14 pm

    My favourite collection I saw in England was at the Salisbury Museum. It is a small collection, but beautifully arranged with stories behind all the dresses and tons of accessories, dolls, gloves, and bonnets. There’s a gorgeous purple robe a la francaise and some beautiful Edwardian things.

  • Reply Kayla September 7, 2008 at 2:25 am

    I went to both the V&A and the Museum of Costume in Bath, but I was very dissapointed with their collections. I don't know if it was the time of year or what, but they had so much modern clothes. I was hoping for period clothing, not polyester from the 70's. I hope you have better luck in 2009 than I did in 2008.

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