A former Georgian workhouse, the Red House is now a museum exploring the story of Christchurch from before the Ice Age to modern times.
Find out about the town’s ancient past with our displays about Saxon princes and Iron Age dwellers at Hengistbury Head, then take a glimpse at life in the 19th century in our Victorian bygone gallery. In our family area, you’ll find hands-on activities and dressing-up costumes, as well as quizzes and spotter trails.
There are plenty of corners to escape to at the museum, including our charming herb garden and south garden, which holds unexpected dinosaur surprises. The Red House has a charming shop with a wide selection of gifts to browse or buy and the café is the perfect setting for a bite to eat or something to drink, inside or out. Throughout the year, we also run a programme of fun, family-friendly events.
Things to do
The museum is a great place for the whole family to enjoy. Here are just a few of the things you can do during your visit:
- Visit the bygone galleries and learn about the social and industrial life of Christchurch
- Discover the local history resource area and browse through more than 50,000 photographs
- Explore the gardens and admire the view of Christchurch Priory
- Spot the objects around the museum with our fun activity sheets
- Browse the museum shop and visit our welcoming café.
The building dates from 1764 and was the parish workhouse for Christchurch and Bournemouth. In 1886, as a result of the increasing population, a new union workhouse was built in Fairmile and the old house was sold to the vicar of Christchurch Priory, the Reverend T. H. Bush. Reverend Bush named the building ‘The Red House’ after the colour of the bricks and he demolished the women’s wards in 1887 to construct the stables, now the temporary exhibition gallery. Later, the building became the private museum of Herbert Druitt, an avid local collector. It was his passion for textile and fashion, bygones and archaeological material that created the Red House Museum collections. In 1951, the Red House Museum became a charitable trust and our doors have been open to the public ever since.
Historic Christchurch galleries
The bygones galleries show the social and industrial life of Victorian and Edwardian Christchurch. Our kitchen fireplace dates back to the days of the workhouse. The museum also explores the town’s traditional trades and crafts including the manufacture of ‘fusee’ watch chains which employed many of the inmate children and women of the workhouse. More recent local innovations are also displayed including Christchurch’s aero industry and the world famous Bailey Bridge.
A million years of history
Upstairs our archaeological galleries uncover the stories of the lower Avon and Stour valleys from the Bronze Age to Iron Age Hengistbury Head. The display culminates with the princely Saxon burial goods from Bargates, marking the beginning of the establishment of Tweoxneam, now known as Christchurch.
Local history resource
Upstairs you will find our local history resource area where over 50,000 photographs and associated archives are stored. The images capture the Victorian period to the recent past, documenting life in Christchurch.
Throughout the year, the exhibition gallery showcases the best local art, family-friendly exhibitions and touring shows. This fantastic space is also used for workshops and special events and can be hired out for private functions.
Bring your own cup
Get 30p off your next hot drink in the museum café when you bring your own reusable cup! Simply present your cup to a member of café staff to claim your discount.
Hot and cold drinks, ice creams and snacks are available to buy at the museum. Visitors are welcome to bring a picnic which can be eaten in the museum grounds.
Bring your own cup!
Get 30p off your hot drink in the museum café when you bring your own reusable cup! Simply present your cup to a member of staff to claim your discount.
The museum has wheelchair access to the ground floor, café, exhibition space and garden areas. There are some small steps to negotiate while moving between these areas.
Assistance dogs are welcome, as long as they are clearly identifiable.
We welcome group visits to Red House Museum and Gardens. Please call us on 01202 482860 for more details and to book your group visit.
By car: the museum is beside Christchurch Priory. Follow brown signs which lead to nearby car parks.There is one hour free parking outside the museum and a pay and display car park at the end of Quay Road.
By public transport: Christchurch railway station is a 10 minute walk from the museum. Yellow Buses and red Wilts and Dorset buses pass through Christchurch High Street. Stops are less than a 5 minute walk away, follow tourist signs.
Red House Museum and Gardens is available for events, functions, meetings and wedding receptions. As well as an exclusive meeting room, events can be held in our stunning gardens.
To find out more and to book, please call 01202 482860.
The Friends of the Red House was established in 1951 by a group of people who wanted to play an active part in the life of their museum. Over the last few years, interest in the Friends has grown and it has become a vibrant organisation. The Friends also play an essential part in the Red House Museum by volunteering to work in the garden and in other areas of the museum, such as documentation, transcribing and oral history recording.
In becoming a Friend, you will be making an important contribution towards preserving the rich heritage of Christchurch and you will meet others who enjoy playing a part in the life of the museum and gardens.
Joining the Friends of Red House Museum is easy and costs very little. All monies raised help the Red House Museum and you have access to a number of opportunities and benefits:
- A regular newsletter that will keep you up to date with the latest news on activities the Friends are planning, together with all the latest from the museum
- Discounted entry to various activities, such as lectures, and invitations to previews throughout the year
- Various social and fundraising events are arranged for members and their friends. Full details are published in the newsletters
Annual subscription: £6
Joint subscription (two adults at the same address): £8
Family subscription (four people at the same address): £10