The Salisbury Museum features exhibits on local history and archaeology including an extensive exhibit about Stonehenge.
Highlights of the museum include the 93kg (14 st 9 lb) Lake House meteorite and the New Wessex Gallery of Archaeology, which has exhibits chronicling local history from prehistoric times to the Norman Conquest. Exhibits in this gallery include artefacts from Stonehenge, the Pitt Rivers Wessex Collection and the Amesbury Archer.
The museum is housed in the King’s House, a Grade I-listed building that was visited by King James I of England in 1610 and 1613.
What to see at the Salisbury Museum
Wiltshire has a rich history that dates back to prehistoric times and local exhibits at the museum include artefacts from Neolithic and Bronze Age periods up to medieval times.
The Wessex Gallery
The museum’s highlight is the Wessex Gallery, which showcases the museum’s archaeology collection comprising local artefacts dating from the Neolithic era to the medieval period. This gallery includes artefacts from Old Sarum, Stonehenge and the Salisbury Plain.
Highlights of this gallery include Bronze Age burials such as the Boscombe Bowmen and the Amesbury and Stonehenge Archers
The Stonehenge Archer is a Bronze Age man whose body was discovered buried in the ditch that surrounds Stonehenge. The body was excavated in 1978 and radiocarbon dating indicates that he died around 2300 BC.
The Boscombe Bowmen is a group of early Bronze Age people discovered in 2003 in a shared burial site during roadworks near Boscombe Down airfield in Amesbury. There are seven people in the group and analysis suggests that two of the Bowmen were related to each other.
The Amesbury Archer is a more famous Bronze Age man that was discovered during excavations for a new housing development in Amesbury. His grave is notable for containing more artefacts than any other Bronze Age burial in Britain and it features the oldest gold artefacts ever found in England. The Amesbury Archer is the museum’s highlight and it is archaeologically significant as it shed light onto the way that people lived during the time that Stonehenge was being constructed.The museum is also home to two important Bronze Age hoards: the Wardour Hoard and the Wylye Hoard.
The Wardour Hoard discovered in 2011 in Wardour, 21km (13 miles) west of Salisbury. It contains over 100 objects, which makes it one of the country’s most important Bronze Age hoards.
A year later the Wylye Hoard was discovered in a field in Wylye, around 18km (11 miles) northwest of Salisbury. It contains 41 copper alloy items dating from the Bronze Age comprising mostly of jewellery.
History of Salisbury Gallery
This gallery has exhibits that showcase the city’s history including artefacts and displays relating to aspects of the city including Poultry Cross, St Ann Gate and Salisbury Cathedral.
The Salisbury Gallery’s exhibits include a scale model of Sir Walter Alcock’s engine and the 265cm (12ft)-tall Salisbury Giant and his companion, the Hob-Nob.
The museum’s Ceramics Gallery features a collection of ceramics, many of which originated in private collections from the Victorian era.
The Costume Gallery includes displays of women’s fashion from the 1750s onwards and also includes dolls and a collection of Downton Lace.
Rex Whistler Archive
The Rex Whistler Archive has over 1,000 items that comprise the most substantial collection of artefacts relating to the artist. Although much of the archive is in storage, the museum has five oil paintings by Whistler on display.
Lake House meteorite
The museum is also home to the Lake House meteorite, which is possibly the largest meteorite to land in Britain. The 30,000-year-old meteorite sat near the front door of the 16th-century Lake House at Wilsford-cum-Lake, around 11km (7 miles) north of Salisbury, for over 80 years. The 93kg (14 st 9 lb) meteorite was loaned to the Natural History Museum shortly before the house was sold to Sting (the musician) and it has been at the Salisbury Museum since 2012.
The museum also hosts a programme of temporary exhibitions. Current and planned exhibitions include:
Ann-Marie James – Alchemy: Artefacts Reimagined
For this exhibition (until 4 January 2020), Ann-Marie James was invited to create artworks based on objects from the Salisbury Museum and its partner museums (Dorset Museum, Poole Museum and Wiltshire Museum). The finished pieces on display all use a gold and white colour palette and comprise drawings, painting and printmaking embellished with 24ct gold leaf.
Wessex Women Objects on Tour: Preserving Special Skills in Wessex
The Wessex Women Objects on Tour exhibition (until 4 January 2020) tells the story of the women in the Wessex region. The Downton Lace Pillow from the museum’s collection is one of the items on display.
Trinity Buoy Wharf Drawing Prize 2019
The Trinity Buoy Prize exhibition (until 11 January 2020), formerly known as the Jerwood Drawing Prize, is the United Kingdom’s longest-running annual drawing exhibition.
Albert Goodwin: Visionary Landscapes
This exhibition (25 January–18 April 2020) showcases sketches and watercolour paintings from landscape artist Albert Goodwin (1845–1932).
Visiting the Salisbury Museum
The museum is located at the southern end of the city centre not far from Salisbury Cathedral.
Admission to the museum costs £8 for adults but it is free of charge if you have a National Art Pass and half-price for English Heritage and YHA members.
The ground floor is wheelchair accessible, however, there is no lift access to the first floor.
The museum has a nice cafe that serves coffee, cakes and cream teas and there is also a small gift shop.
There is quite a bit to see in this part of Salisbury and there are several other points of interest less than a four-minute walk from the museum, including Arundells, Mompesson House, the Rifles Berkshire and Wiltshire Museum and Salisbury Cathedral.
How long you spend in the museum will depend on how interested you are in the area’s local archaeology. You could spend half a day here if you’re interested in Stonehenge and the region’s Neolithic and Bronze Age history but otherwise, 1½ hours should be sufficient.