Most people may well think of London when they think of Museums in England – but the north has just as much to offer as the capital. With museums dedicated to so many periods of Britain’s history as well as galleries exhibiting both contemporary and classical art, historic houses and living museums – there is truly something for everybody. Read on for some of our favourite museums and galleries in the north of England.
This is strictly for fans of contemporary art and architecture. BALTIC is a centre for contemporary art which has no permanent collections, instead favouring changing exhibitions and events from local and international artists – including blockbuster exhibitions and innovative new works. It’s most striking feature though is perhaps the 1930’s industrial building in which it’s housed – right on the banks of the River Tyne in Gateshead – the building was first used as a flour mill until it closed in 1981 and was refurbished to become the BALTIC centre for contemporary art in 2002.
Beamish – The Living Museum of the North
This living, open air museum is huge. It’s a preserved village that seeks to show ordinary living life in 1913 northern England, complete with trams, trains and horse-drawn busses to get around the working farm, mines, schools and the reconstructed high street. As well as enjoying the ambience of a traditional Georgian village you can learn new, or rather traditional skills such as Georgian cooking, beamish baking and steam engine driving. There are events throughout the year too – most recently the Georgian Fair which includes traditional Georgian games and antique attractions.
Leeds Art Gallery
Located in a beautiful purpose built grade II listed building, the Leeds Art Gallery houses a large collection of 20th-century British Art, recognised by the British government as a collection “of national importance”. Some of the more famous works on display include Scotland Forever by Elizabeth Thompson (1881), The Shadow of Death by William Holman Hunt (1870-73) and the Leeds Brick Man sculpture by Anthony Gormley – the same artist responsible for the Angel of The North statue which stands atop Gateshead at some 20 metres in height.
The Manchester Museum is housed in an exceptional Victorian red-brick university building and houses a wonderfully eclectic collection of Ancient World galleries showcasing select pieces and stories from Egypt, Greece and Rome, the bones of Dinosaurs and other ancient creatures, a vivarium with live reptiles and amphibians and a lively series of provocative events throughout the year. The museum is quite typical of England’s larger university and local authority funded museums – so you’ll note the collections, though smaller, or often as good as those in the British Museum (though with slightly less headline grabbing artefacts on display), though unlike it’s southern counterparts – the museum is keen to show that it’s no ordinary museum and so encourages slightly off-kilter events and promotions – for example a museum hermit lived in the building’s Gothic tower for 40 days and nights in 2009. The quickest way to travel to the Manchester Museum from the South, East or West of England is hopping on a train to Manchester or by bus.
Yorkshire Sculpture Park
This incredible park houses hundreds of pieces of both permanent and touring sculpture from the likes of Henry Moore, Anthony Gormley and James Turrell. The works of art are placed in such a manner to create a dialogue between the natural and the man made – and it makes for an at time haunting and theatrical, beautiful and delicately playful experience. This is easily one of our favourite trips on the cultural calendar!
This is just a small, select collection of our favourite museums and galleries in the north of England so if you need a little more inspiration take a look at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool which has a fantastic collection of Victorian art, the scenic and endlessly pretty Chatsworth House in the wilds of Derbyshire and the very fitting National Football Museum in Manchester.