The Museum is situated in a remarkable timber framed building, possibly dating back to the twelfth century. It houses an extensive social history collection covering many aspects of community life and agriculture in Bishop's Castle and South West Shropshire from the 18th century onwards. The Museum has four rooms covering domestic life, town businesses and politics, agriculture, and leisure and childhood. Incorporating another small room, a fascinating new display tells the story of the unique Bishop’s Castle Railway, which ran from 1865 to 1935, despite being in receivership from 1867.
The story of this tiny town, whose population is still below 2000, begins with the Normans who built a stone castle here in 1127 to defend the Bishop of Hereford's productive lands around Lydbury North. By 1285 they had persuaded 46 strong-minded burgesses to occupy dwellings south of the castle in this wild borderland. Granted self-governing status by Elizabeth I, these burgesses were disinclined to support either side in the Civil War, though they were willing to take advantage of their right to send 2 MPs to Parliament to milk ambitious and wealthy men during the 18th and early 19th century. Bishop's Castle was one of the notorious 'Rotten Boroughs' disenfranchised by the Electoral Reform Act of 1832.
The House on Crutches may have started life as a simple single dwelling in the 12th century which was developedover the years. Like many medieval houses, it was altered extensively to meet changing needs and fortunes. The ‘crutches’ in the name refer to the posts supporting a 17th century upstairs extension, giving more space without encroaching on the cobbled street which still passes underneath. There is very little known about the early owners of the house. Whoever they were and whatever they did, they had become quite affluent by the 1600s as many of the architectural features reveal.
Our displays of local artefacts and memorabilia show that agriculture was the base of the local economy and that the town was an important economic centre, supporting many thriving businesses such as brewing, clockmaking, tanning, saddle and shoemaking, metal and wood workingand even peruke (wig) making.We also provide a glimpse into domestic life at a time when industrial innovations began to find their way into rural homes across the country.
We have a small Museum shop which sells informative books about the town, some of which we have published, covering a Tudor Home, a Jacobean Market Hall, local Clocks and Clock makers, the 18th century Town Hall, Bishop’s Castle Railway and the town’s ‘lost’ pubs. Recent research shows that over the last 300 years there were a total of 46 alehouses, pubs, inns and hotels which served the thirsty traders of Bishop’s Castle and their customers. (There are still 2 breweries, 4 pubs and 2 hotels in the town, making and serving excellent beer and food).
Open Easter to September Saturday & Sunday 2-5pm
Admission is FREE. Note there are steps and stairs throughout this ancient building.
GUIDED TOURS: If you can't make our set opening hours, we offer guided tours at a time to suit you. Please email us, leave your contact and request details and we will get back to you to make arrangements. Alternatively,the information staff at the nearby Town Hall can provide details. A small charge is made for such tours. Groups of more than 10 are offered simultaneous access to other venues to avoid overcrowding in the museum. Tours which take in other venues/activities will be charged for pro-rata.
At the nearby Bishop’s Castle Heritage Resource Centre (BCHRC), we are open on Saturday mornings 10.30am -1.00pmas a Local History Centre, when volunteers are on hand to help with local and family history research. In our museum standard store we hold heritage items belonging to individuals and organisations who want to preserve their archives. We also hold the reserve collection from the House on Crutches Museum Collection Trust, much of which can be viewed online.
Admission is FREE, as at the museum, though donations are VITAL to these independent and volunteer run facilities.