New Walk Museum & Art Gallery

New Walk Museum and Art Gallery; the original school building was just the central part with the columns. The rest was added later.

New Walk Museum and Art Gallery; the original school building was just the central part with the columns. The rest was added later.

Designed by Joseph Hansom, New Walk Museum is one of the main landmarks of the delightful, traffic free promenade that is New Walk.  This classical building, which was erected in 1836, was originally the New Walk Proprietary School but when this came to an end in 1847 the building was bought by Leicester Corporation for £4,300 and transformed into a museum, thanks to the efforts of the Literary and Philosophical Society.

The 1845 Museum Act had authorised councils of towns with more than 10,000 people to provide museums and the creation of this Town Museum, which was officially opened on 19th July 1849, was seen as a considerable achievement.  The Literary and Philosophical Society now held their meetings in the Lecture Hall and included their own museum in the new setting. Most of the exhibits were concentrated on natural history with displays of stuffed birds and animals but later an art gallery was added.  In his report on Working Class Life in Victorian Leicester, Joseph Dare reports how the museum was opened with gaslight and “an excellent course of lectures, explanatory of the objects it contains, was delivered gratuitously by competent lecturers, which we know were highly appreciated by the numerous workers who attended.”

Early records of  Leicester’s Borough were also held at the new museum and in 1931 the first city archivist was appointed when a Muniment Room was added to the building.  All local records are now held at the Leicestershire Record Office in Wigston Magna.

Today this family friendly museum is one of the premier museums in the region with a variety of galleries featuring displays spanning both the natural and cultural world including the Picasso Ceramics exhibition, Ancient Egypt and Dinosaurs.

Reference

Boynton, H.E.2002 The History of New Walk, Leicester, Leicester: Dr Helen Boynton

Haynes, B. 1991 Working Class Life in Victorian Leicester: The Joseph Dare Reports. Leicester: Leicestershire Libraries and Information Service

Patterson, A. Temple 1954 Radical Leicester: A History of Leicester 1750-1850, Leicester, University College.

Stevenson, J. 1995 Leicester through the Ages.  Newtown Linford, Leicestershire: Kairo Press.

Taylor, M. 1997 The Quality Of Leicester , Leicester: Leicester City Council.