Our timeline provides everything you need to know about the museum throughout history


Looking for details on the history of Maidstone Museum? Our timeline provides everything you need to know about the museum throughout history.

– 1855 –

In April, Dr Thomas Charles died, leaving to the museum his collections which included the Egyptian mummy Ta-kesh.

– 1856 –

Chillington House was hired from Charles’s sister in-law, Susanna, to organise the collections. The central portion was purchased to house the museum.

– 1857 –

The old pavement in the hall was replaced by tiles.

– 1858 –

On January 20, the museum opened and Edward Pretty visited.

In April, the Kent Archaeological Society was founded.

In September, Edward Pretty was appointed the first curator and provided with living quarters in the museum.

– 1865 –

Edward Pretty fell ill and died in August 1865 in the west wing of Chillington House. He left his collections to the museum and Alexander Randall acted as executor of the will.

William J Lightfoot (1832-1875), formerly of the British Museum, was appointed the second museum curator.

– 1867 –

Kent Archaeological Society first rented rooms in the museum, and remain there to this day.

Dr Charles’ surgery was removed from the front of the museum.

– 1868 –

The east wing was purchased by Alexander Randall and Samuel Mercer.  A further £500 was given by Randall for rebuilding the wing.

Julius Brenchley visited the museum for the first time. Randall suggested to Lightfoot that he encourage Brenchley to bring his collections to the museum.

– 1869 –

In May, the east wing opened and Brenchley began to send collections back to the museum from his travels abroad.

– 1870 –

The west wing was purchased and £400 was provided by Julius Brenchley. The remaining £1,600 was provided by Alexander Randall’s nephews, Richard and Samuel Mercer, via gift, loan, and £300 from the executorship of Randall’s will.

– 1871 –

The west wing was rebuilt.

Land around Chillington House was purchased for £2,800 by Julius Brenchley to form Brenchley Gardens.

– 1873 –

Brenchley died in February and bequeathed his extensive collections to the museum.

Brenchley Gardens completed.

In September, the west wing opened. The stained glass was designed to document the families and people who lived in, or are connected with, the building.

–  1874 –

The south frontage was restored, with iron railings and gates fitted, paid for from funds given by William Laurence JP.  His initials appear above the front door in memory of this act of munificence.

The staircase at reception was erected.

– 1874-75 –

Court Lodge in East Farleigh was due to be demolished but Lightfoot and the local architect, Bensted, stepped in and agreed that it could be re-erected at the museum.

– 1875 –

Lightfoot died and Edward Bartlett, previously of London Zoo, was appointed the third curator.

– 1878 –

The practice of Sunday opening and staying open later began.

The observatory tower was built, paid for by public subscription.

– 1885 –

The Elizabethan chimneys were restored.

– 1890 –

The Bentlif Wing was erected in memory of George Amatt Bentlif by his brother Samuel Bentlif.  It consisted of four rooms, one of which was dedicated as the museum’s research library.  J H Allchin was appointed as the first curator of the Bentlif Art Gallery.

– 1891 –

Bartlett accepted a new appointment as curator of the Sarawak Museum and Frederick James was appointed as the fourth curator (1891-1902).

– 1893-94 –

The Technical Institute, now the Adult Education Centre, was built on the museum’s former gardens.

– 1897 –

The Bentlif collection was left in trust to the museum, together with a small endowment for the upkeep of the wing and the collection.

The foundation stone of the Victoria Library was laid as part of the west wing extension.

– 1899 –

The Victoria Library and the County Room above were completed as part of the west wing extension.

– 1902 –

J H Allchin was appointed curator and librarian of Maidstone Museum.  Allchin was instrumental in cataloguing, organising, and displaying the collections until his death in December 1923.

– 1908 –

The Honourable Henry Marsham’s collection of Japanese ceramics, previously on loan, was bequeathed to the museum.

– 1909 –

A large collection of material relating to William Hazlitt, the locally born satirist and critic, was donated to the museum by his descendants.

– 1923 –

An important collection of Japanese arts was donated to the museum by the Honourable Walter Samuel through the National Arts Collections Fund. The Lady Bearsted Wing, an extension to the Bentlif Art Gallery, was erected through funds provided by Lord Bearsted.

– 1940 –

A WWII bomb destroyed the gatehouse to Brenchley Gardens.

– 1944 –

A large collection of fine art material was donated by George Elgood.

– 1946 –

The Tyrwhitt-Drake Museum of Carriages was opened to the public.

– 1956 –

Eric Philp joined the museum as a Natural History Assistant, later promoted to Keeper of Natural History. Philp remained with the museum until his retirement in 1993 and continues to come into the museum as a volunteer.

– 1960 –

The Queen’s Own Royal West Kent Regimental collections and displays were housed at the museum.

– 1962 –

In 1962, a large donation of paintings and drawings by Maidstone artist Albert Goodwin was donated by two of his daughters.

– 1974 –

A purpose-built collections store was erected in Brenchley Gardens.

– 1977 –

A fire in the west wing resulted in the loss of a small section of the Natural History collections and in extensive damage to the building.

– 1978-80 –

The refurbishment of the fire-damaged rooms began with the Entrance Hall, Withdrawing Room, and Bird Room.

– 1981-84 –

The Great Hall and Elizabethan galleries were refurbished.

– 1985-86 –

The Bentlif and Bearsted wings were refurbished.

– 1998-2000 –

The west wing galleries were redeveloped as part of a Heritage Lottery funded project.

– 2009 –

In April, a new east wing development commenced, partially funded by a Heritage Lottery Grant.

– 2012 –

The new east wing opened to the public, providing new galleries and visitor facilities.

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