Our treasure trove museum

Chertsey museum

Chertsey Museum first began telling the town's story when it opened in 1965. Now it welcomes more than 25,000 visitors through its doors each year, including 10,000 school children.

This fantastic figure is hardly surprising given the wealth of treasures contained within its Regency town house walls, the Cedars.

The museum is home to tens of thousands of historic artefacts including the only Bronze Age socket axe of its kind in Europe, medieval tiles and stone work from Chertsey Abbey as well as a geology collection of prehistoric animal bones and antlers from the Thames Valley.

It also contains approximately 14,000 items in the Runnymede Borough Council local history collection, consisting mostly of material evidence related to the area's history.

Perhaps even more impressive is its nationally important 8,000 strong, and growing, Olive Matthews collection of highly decorative Victorian clothing, accessories, lace and embroideries dating from 1740 to 1850.

Emma Warren is the Chertsey Museum Curator.

She said: "A few years after the museum opened local resident, Olive Matthews, approached Chertsey Urban District Council with an interesting proposition.

"Olive moved to the borough at the start of the Second World War and she lived in Virginia Water, until her death in 1979.

"As a child she had inherited a collection of Victorian costumes, and this sparked Olive's interest in historic costume. 

"She developed this collection using the small monthly allowance given by her father and accumulated an outstanding collection."

The museum was originally housed in the site of the old Chertsey town hall, a building that itself was built in 1851 and originally used as a corn market, court house and public reading room.

For years Chertsey, and in particular members of The Chertsey Society, had been keen to create a museum in recognition of the history and relics of the area.

However, it was not until 1963 that Chertsey Urban District Council, a forerunner to Runnymede Borough Council, agreed to give the building over to be a museum.

So in December 1963 the Museum Committee of The Chertsey Society was founded to catalogue and research the available collections. It did not move into its current home until 20 May, 1972.

The Museum was opened to the public for the first time on 27  November 1965 after years of campaigning and hard work by Ray Lowther, Chairman of the Council, and the Museum Committee of The Chertsey Society.

Chertsey residents were very proud of their museum and the local and national press turned out in force for the opening ceremony.

When Runnymede Borough Council came into existence in 1974 the partnership with the Olive Matthews Collection Trust continued, as it still does.

The trust contributes £86,000 a year towards the upkeep of the museum and as a contribution towards the salary of the Costume Curator, who is responsible for the care of their collection, and a part time costume assistant.

In addition it also pays £40,500 for all exhibitions relating to its collection, the conservation of their objects, and numerous fashion related events held at the museum.

In recent years the trust has helped fund the museum website, the computerised documentation system and the majority of the £600,000 refurbishment and building programme.

Mrs Warren added: "It is a unique partnership in the museum world, one that has seen the museum flourish and grow in support over the last 50 years."

Visit Chertsey Museum at The Cedars, 33 Windsor Street, Chertsey, KT16 8AT

Open Tuesdays to Fridays: 12.30pm-4.30pm and Saturday 11am-4pm.