Wivenhoe Chapel Museum

The Smallest Museum in Essex

The waterside town of Wivenhoe dates back to before the Domesday Book, is prominent on many ancient maps of Essex, and was of great economic importance to the county during the heyday of shipbuilding. Even with all this history, we did not open our museum until a tiny, rarely used, cemetery chapel became available in 2015. Constrained by space but not ambition, the Wivenhoe Town Council museum working group – had the vision of a multi-media museum with flexible displays that could change from season to season (open Saturdays and Sundays from Spring to Summer, and can open by appointment). This informed the purchases made with the help of Essex Heritage Trust. 

A retail-style wall-grid allows easy changes to exhibits, and maximises the limited wall space. At the moment the focus is on photographs, but themes will change from time to time including many maps and historic documents. 

The screen enables looping presentations, and can also be used by guest speakers to show pre-prepared material, for example a slide show of education material for school visits, or a presentation accompanying a talk by the Wivenhoe History Group.  

The touch-screen PC is a welcome addition to the museum and completes the digital transformation. The museum has a long-held ambition for every school child in Wivenhoe to visit the museum and gain a lifelong sense of place and history. The touch-screen will allow adults and especially children to interact with the museum, exploring artefacts that are not displayed. 

The new display cabinets (shown in the photo) beautifully display the Wivenhoe Collection: hand-painted replicas of over 50 local buildings and landmarks that were created by Marjorie Barton over many years. They are an endless source of comment from visitors – especially those who recognise their own home in the collection. 

Wivenhoe Chapel Museum is owned by Wivenhoe Town Council and run in collaboration with members of Wivenhoe History Group – in particular, John and Sheila Foster.