The final post in my series on vintage York is a review of the marvellous York Castle Museum (for previous York guides see Vintage Shopping in York, Eating and Drinking in York, and Barley Hall in York).
A very short review of the museum: It is wonderful. Utterly wonderful. It is worth going to York JUST to visit this museum.
A slightly longer review: It is still wonderful. The Castle Museum covers a vast amount of social history with a particular focus on the 20th century. For vintage enthusiasts it is heaven. For a start, they have a whole 60s street which is set up with various displays about 60s pop culture, a clothing ‘shop’ showing fashion of the period, a 60s pub, and even a jukebox which you can use for 20p (we chose ‘I Feel Fine’ by The Beatles).
By contrast, on the other side of the museum there is a Victorian street which is in artificial sunlight half of the time, and dark night with flickering gas lamps the other half of the time. The bowed shop windows display hats, umbrellas, haberdashery, oil lamps, stationery, and all manner of goods. They even have a traditional sweet shop which you can go into and make purchases (I bought a sugar mouse), and a horse and cart. I have never been anywhere else that has so quickly transported me back in time.
The rest of the museum has a vast amount of fascinating displays showing, for instance, the laundry washing techniques used through the ages, or how a wedding gift list looked in the 1940s, or the tools used to crimp and polish complicated Victorian bonnets and cravats. Every single cabinet contains something of interest, and I truly wish I’d had more time to see everything. They also have recreated rooms from various periods – a Victorian Yorkshire one room farm cottage, a Tudor dining room, a 50s kitchen and a Georgian music room. Down below in what used to be the cells, there is a display with projected ‘ghosts’ telling how they came to be incarcerated – though to be honest, this was the least interesting part of the museum.
The museum is set to get even better (if that is possible), with a new gallery opening in 2014. This will show what was happening in the world in the years 1914-1918 – not only the events of the war, but also the social, cultural and scientific achievements of the age. In particular I am looking forward to the displays about the suffragettes, it will really be something to look forward to.
York Castle Museum is open daily from 9.30am until 5pm. Entry is £8.50 (valid for 12 months so you can come back as often as you like), or you can buy a one day York Pass for £34 (£48 for two days) which will also give you entry to 30 other York attractions.
More photographs of the museum can be seen in an album on the Penny Dreadful Vintage Facebook page.