WYCOMBE MUSEUM: THEN
Wycombe Museum has its origins in the charity of the local people, when James Olliff Griffits, a local lawyer, raised the funds to found a public library in the town. In 1875, he bought a house in Church Street and opened it as the Free Library, with a section devoted to a small collection of old artefacts. However, the building was far too small for the growing town. On June 25th 1932, the Council proudly opened its new library on Queen Victoria Road, with the upper floor housing the Museum. During its time within the Town Library, the Museum honed its focus on local craftsmanship, specifically the furniture and chair industry, alongside art and local history. Its collection grew, and by 1947 there was already talk of expanding the museum. In 1959 Castle Hill House came up for sale, and it was bought by the Council in 1962 for £60,000. Castle Hill House was opened as Wycombe Museum on July 7th 1962 on a temporary tenure, and we are still here over 50 years later!
The site is a scheduled Ancient Monument, and the House itself is a Grade II listed building, with its oldest parts dating from the late 1600s. Archaeological discoveries indicate that the site has been lived on since the early Middle Ages, originally as a Saxon Farm, with an Anglo-Saxon burial site was discovered in 1901 near the main entrance gate to the Museum. Castle Hill House is named for the motte – a castle mound, or Norman defensive earthwork – which sits beside the House, probably having been constructed between 1135 and 1154 during the Civil War following the death of Henry I. The site, now quiet and secluded by trees, would have once been an effective vantage point, offering views south over the Wye Valley and towards West Wycombe.
WYCOMBE MUSEUM: NOW
Having been closed for a period over 2015 for major refurbishments, the Museum reopened on 1st December with remodelled exhibition spaces, temporary galleries and a new cafe and shop in preparation for a new phase in its life. Exactly a year on, on the 1st December 2016, the Museum transferred to being a part of Wycombe Heritage & Arts Trust and an independent registered charity.