- Your visit
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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
- Visit our welcoming café and browse the museum shop
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.