Museum History

Source: A History of Datchworth by Wendy Prowle & Jane Walker

Museum - skeletonDatchworth Museum was instigated by local resident, Doreen Hodson-Smith.  For many years Doreen had been collecting artefacts and other historical items relating to Datchworth and in 1984 the parish council officially appointed her ‘Village Recorder and Archivist’.  Initially the material was stored at her house but eventually the collection was so vast that this became impractical.  An added complication was that the items were not readily available for the public to view.

A suggestion was made that the disused blacksmith’s forge at Datchworth Green might provide an ideal location for a museum.  The blacksmith’s had ceased trading in 1953 and the building had remained unused ever since.  Doreen approached John Wallace, of Broomhall Farm, and asked him if he would be willing to rent it for the use of a museum.  John agreed provided that the old forge and its bellows were kept undisturbed, to which Doreen readily agreed, as she recognised that together these would be a focal point in the museum.

In 1990 Doreen’s husband Clive, took on the challenge of converting the building into suitable premises to house Doreen’s collection.  With help from Howard Carrick and Frank Pearman, the old clay floor was removed.  It was then paved with bricks donated by Frank from the old eighteenth century barn in School Lane that had blown down in the same year.  Donations of money, fixtures and fittings and glass display cabinets were forthcoming from local residents and traders.

The museum was officially opened in January 1991 by John Wallace and was dedicated to the memory of his late wife, Hetty.  A committee was formed to become trustees of the museum.  Having applied for charitable status, it was formally granted in January 1992.  The museum subsists on the proceeds of a donation box at the museum and regular contributions from ‘Friends of Datchworth Museum’.

When the museum first openeMuseum - Stephen McPartlandd there were about 200 artefacts on display, now there are over 900.  The museum spans Datchworth’s history, from locally found fossils, including a 10,000 year old Stone Age axe, to files of old newspaper cuttings and photographs.  One recent addition to the museum, which is already an historical item, is the telephone kiosk that is situated outside 1 Datchworth Green.  This was sold by British Telecom to the parish council for the sum of £1 in 2009, who subsequently gave it to the museum.  It is now used for the display of the local Parish Footpaths Map and other local information notices.