Wollaton Hall & Workhouse in Southwell

Well today is the day I have to bite the bullet and write my first negative review. I really don’t want to because I like to think that every museum has something to offer – something positive to write about. Wollaton Hall, however, has been the exception. It is a Hall but it also claims to be a Natural History Museum. Let’s start at the beginning.

To enter into the property is near impossible. There are no signs indicating the location of the car park, Hall and cafe/gift shop. So we arrived in a pretty bad mood to begin with. To be fair, the gentleman on front of house was pleasant and tried to help us as much as possible.

The bottom story of the Hall is meant to be a recreation of the Hall from the Elizabethan and Georgian periods. It kind of resembles that but it’s mostly just “hey let’s throw some stuff together and say Batman was filmed here”. Upstairs is the natural history section. You cannot throw a whole bunch of stuffed animals into a room and go “hey now we have a natural history section we can say was not in Batman”. My sarcasm is helping me to not cry at how this whole experience went.


So we left pretty disheartened. Alas the one good thing that came out of it was we found a brochure to an old Victorian Workhouse. I’ve learnt a bit about them so I was quite eager to see one.


Front of the Southwell Workhouse in Nottinghamshire.
Front of the Southwell Workhouse in Nottinghamshire.


Thank whoever is up there for that brochure. We turned a horrible day right around before lunchtime visiting the Workhouse in Southwell, Nottinghamshire. This was such an awesome museum. A free audio guide that explained every room of the workhouse was a bonus. The building itself is great to just walk around and get a feel for how these famous workhouses would have functioned. It’s one of the largest intact remaining workhouses in England. What I like most about them is that they counteract this romanticism people seem to have developed about the Victorian era. For the most, life was tough. Very, very tough. This workhouse was a reminder of this history and it was presented very well.


Childrens' slates hanging in the classroom of the workhouse.
Childrens’ slates hanging in the classroom of the workhouse.


Almost none of the furniture from the workhouse has survived so most of what you see are replicas. I understood their justification – if you put replicas in it might take away from the place. It really didn’t need bits and pieces thrown in. The building told the story all by itself.

Don’t miss the garden out the front where you can find plants that would have been harvested in the nineteenth and early twentieth-centuries. You can even buy fresh herbs or berries from the reception.

So on the balance scale today was more on the good side than bad with regards to the museums visited. It could have gone horribly, horribly wrong.

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