Our wonderful collections reflect the natural, social, industrial and cultural histories of Sherborne and the surrounding villages.

Geology and Natural History

The key to understanding Sherborne’s uniqueness lies in the landscape. Our geology represents the mixed strata of the scarps and valleys, principally the Forest Marble, Yeovil sands, sandstone and also the limestone that provided the town with material for its historic buildings. The museum holds over 155 examples of local fossils mainly from the Middle Jurassic, with several good examples of polished ammonites and the rare Marston Marble.

The highlight of our small natural history gallery is undoubtedly the Botanical Art collection; the early work of Diana Ruth Fyson (nee Wilson 1886-1969) who was born and raised in the town, later becoming a pioneering contributor to the understanding of botany in the Southern Indian Hill Stations and the surrounding shola forests.  Despite her wide travels, Sherborne remained close to Diana’s heart and her daughter Ruth donated nearly 200 watercolours of local wild flowers in her memory. There is an associated archive relating to her life and work, contributed by her descendants.


Our archaeology collection relates to the long period of human habitation in the area, stretching back millennia before any ecclesiastical foundation.  Flints, sherds, cooking assemblages, shale bracelets, bronze pins, tesserae and roof tiles are associated with these early settlement patterns from the Paleolithic through the Bronze Age, when a significant pottery site was established, to the development of Romano-British villas along the fertile valley floor of the river Yeo. Major contributions were made from local historians Joseph Fowler and Charles Bean; also from the Sherborne School digs led by James Gibb and John Leach in the late 1960s. Finds from more recent excavations include those from Fosters Field, Nether Compton and Paddock Garden sites.

The dominant presence of the glorious honey-coloured Abbey is represented by fragments of carved architectural detail, stiff-leaf foliage, wide-mouthed gargoyles and glazed floor-tiles; melted lead and fire-reddened stone bear witness to its sometimes turbulent past.

“Turning the Pages”, a virtual copy of the lavishly decorated Sherborne Missal, the C15th mass-book created for the former Benedictine monastery, enables the visitor to appreciate the early spiritual pre-eminence of Sherborne throughout Wessex. Our intriguing wall-painting, c. 1480, one of several uncovered in Tudor Rose Cottage, Long Street, harbours different layers of meaning, at the heart of which lies the story of “the devil in the boot”.

Artefacts originating from the Castle Estate, including those relating to the two sieges of the Old Castle during the C17th English Revolution and traces of troop encampments in the area, signify a violent episode in Sherborne’s history when the world was “turned upside down”, neighbour pitted against neighbour and families torn apart in the midst of political, ideological and religious turmoil.


The coin collection, which ranges from Roman times to the modern period, includes a comprehensive set of C17th tokens, produced in the town by local merchants, whose emblems give a nuanced insight into Sherborne as a burgeoning trade centre. We are proud to hold 14 examples of the Sherborne Halfpenny, the only coin series issued by a bank, Simon Pretor’s “banking-shop” in Long Street, itself believed to be the first of its kind in Dorset.

We have nearly 200 medals including awards for unbroken school attendance, First World War service and achievement in nursing standards; Freemasonry “jewels”; sweetheart brooches and lapel and pin badges representing local organisations. Of particular interest are the plaques known as “Dead Man’s Pennies”, the Lusitania medallion used for British propaganda, an Askari helmet plate and a Holocaust Badge from The Netherlands.


The museum holds over 1000 items of dress and accessories, mainly from 1820 to 1940. The collection includes some exquisite lace, waistcoats and silks from the “Gorgeous Georgian” period as well as brocades made to designs by Anna Maria Garthwaite which were shown at the V&A. There are fine samples of white work and Dorset feather stitching amongst the extensive range of Victorian and Edwardian children’s clothing. Many items were hand-made locally by farming families or produced by local dressmakers and tailors. There are also items of school, nursing and Civil Defence uniforms and a collection of labourers’ smocks as well as examples of the working women’s sun bonnets that Thomas Hardy found so alluring.

We are fortunate to have some surviving costumes from the famous Sherborne Pageant of 1905, the first of its kind, which inspired this type of folk revival throughout the rest of the country.

Other highlights include silk banners from Sherborne Old Friendly Society; a unique 1940s wedding dress created by internationally acclaimed embroiderer Beryl Dean; the uniform worn by 11 year old Charles McCreery as page to Viscount Alanbrooke at Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation in 1953 and an early C18th stained linen wall hanging of a hunting scene which is a rare survival.

Industrial and Social History

Despite its current peaceful atmosphere, Sherborne was always a thriving market town and a hub of industry – its streets once resounded with the clatter of silk workers’ clogs.

The museum holds a wide range of artefacts associated with working life and rural crafts, from thatching and willow working to silversmithing and gloving. Local shops and businesses, organisations, schools and societies are also well represented. An evocative collection from the two world wars includes the story of the bombing raid on Sherborne in September 1940.

Domestic items encompass kitchen ware, household goods, china, Bakelite and a large selection of toys and games. Our Victorian dolls’ house, which has featured widely in the media, is a great favourite with visitors and is exquisitely furnished, with a cat and even a tiny mouse to be spotted on its kitchen floor.


We hold a large number of reproduction prints and engravings, mainly late C19th, relevant to all aspects of the town’s architecture, internal and external, generously donated by Gerald Pitman, a local teacher and town guide. The collection also includes several of the “characteristically gentle light-filled landscapes” in oils painted by local artist William Anstice Brown, and watercolours by the British artist and landscape painter Mabel Frances Wickham; both of whom were art teachers at Sherborne School and Lord Digby’s School respectively.

Intangible Heritage

“Intangible” refers to memories, folklore, customs and ways of being which can be recorded but not so easily stored in physical form. These are truly “of the people” and give the locality its identity, something that makes it different, both from its surroundings and from official tourist interpretations. They challenge and subvert established thought, while often alluding to fragments of a less reputable past.

Discover Sherborne’s unique local customs and festivals such as Pack Monday Fair, Teddy Roe’s Band, the Bonfire Boys and the Sherborne Carnival. Take a glimpse into the superstitions and rituals of our ancestors through artefacts once concealed in the fabric of local buildings but which are now revealed: a dried cat, a boot, a pair of well-worn shoes, a worker’s hat and an almanac that records the Duke of Monmouth’s execution.

An extensive oral history originally created by Christine Stones in the 1970s, captures poignant first-hand accounts of domestic service, working life, schooldays, the First and Second World Wars, the bombing of Sherborne, The Pageant, Pack Monday and other significant events and local places.

Archives and Local Studies

The museum holds extensive archives relating to Sherborne and the surrounding villages, together with a local studies section and a small reference library. The archives are wide-ranging and consist of school records, personal and family papers, maps, architectural drawings, posters and some local newspapers. Principal holdings include records from Foster’s Grammar School, a collection of forty prescription books from the Abbey Pharmacy and bundles of client papers from Ffooks, Bartlett & Co., solicitors, of Sherborne. The local studies section contains items relating to life in and around the town in the 19th and 20th centuries, including pamphlets, souvenir programmes, flyers, postcards and other printed material.

The museum’s photographic archives are mainly composed of two large donations by former Sherborne residents, Gerald Harold David Pitman (1930-2002) and David Joseph Hunt (1821-1995). These not only include photographic prints but a large number of glass plate negatives produced locally by Adam Gosney (1844-1921) and a collection of transparencies which form an important record of Sherborne from the 1950s onwards.

Visit the

Whether you’re staying in Sherborne for a week or simply exploring for the day, the museum is key to the visitor experience. Here’s how you’ll find us.

Exhibitions & Events

Learn more about our latest temporary exhibitions, family-friendly events and popular winter talks programme. These are a great way to engage with and be inspired by our collections.

Visit the

Whether you’re staying in Sherborne for a week or simply exploring for the day, the museum is key to the visitor experience. Here’s how you’ll find us.

Exhibitions & Events

Learn more about our latest temporary exhibitions, family-friendly events and popular winter talks programme. These are a great way to engage with and be inspired by our collections.