A look at the new look of the Sudbury Childhood Museum

The Sudbury Childhood Museum has had an exciting revamp and rebrand – Molly Scott sets off with the family to see the new developments

At the beginning of May, after a long period of closure to the public due to the pandemic, Sudbury, located about fifteen kilometers south of Ashbourne, reopened its doors – to the delight.

The popular and quirky childhood museum has since enjoyed an exciting revamp and was later renamed The Children’s Country House Museum and Gardens.

It is certainly a process that has seen the local community engaged, especially the children.

“An attraction for many families at Sudbury Hall has been the Museum of Childhood in the Victorian wing of the hall, which traces the history of work, rest and play for children through the ages,” John Orna-Ornstein, director of conservation and experience at the National Trust, remarked.

“We invited the children to take a look at the room itself and the historical pieces and decoration to develop an experience through their eyes.

“They worked with conservators, restorers and other experts and we hope the result will create a love of heritage in children.”

Described by the National Trust as ‘a place to have fun with history’, we went as a family to see what had changed…

The garden

Built in the second half of the 17th century, Sudbury Hall has always boasted beautiful formal gardens enjoying an enviable lakeside position.


Sack racing fun
– Credit: Molly Scott

But new spaces have been created and there is now so much more to see, do and explore, which makes the day even more enjoyable.

Thanks to the National Trust, who have managed to create a truly playful country house garden for the whole family.

We loved the traditional sack race and the cute maze created with colorful streamers. Our four year old daughter especially loved the very engaging grasshopper trail.

There are eight colorful grasshopper sculptures in total, hidden in the vast and beautiful gardens. Spotting them turned out to be a fun goal to explore the locations and something we could all get involved in.

There is also much more emphasis on conservation gardening which, as we know, is extremely important. For example, there is now a more relaxed approach to mowing in order to help and support the abundant wildlife.

I was particularly impressed with the many picnic facilities available on site.

There are several different picnic areas dotted around the grounds – and literally hundreds of benches for those wishing to relieve themselves and take in the surroundings.


There are plenty of places to rest and enjoy a picnic

There are plenty of places to rest and enjoy a picnic
– Credit: Molly Scott

I’d go so far as to say it’s the absolute best place for a family picnic in all of Derbyshire – and there are plenty of outstanding examples to choose from.

There were also a few shaded options, both in the stable yard and under the trees just outside for those wishing to shade from the sun as we head into the summer months.

There’s also a cafe, which has an impressive amount of outdoor seating. For those who don’t want to picnic or want to supplement a picnic, there is a decent range of hot and cold drinks, sandwiches, cakes, sausage rolls etc., while the ultimate refreshment can be found in the form of locally made ice cream from Bluebells Dairy; a prerequisite for hot days!

Inside the museum

The old Childhood Museum has been updated and expanded, with several new spaces and experiences to experience and enjoy.

For those who enjoyed what Sudbury had to offer before, fret not – the old favorites are still here, as are Sudbury’s abundant and much-loved features.

Playful and interactive exhibits shed light on the harsh realities of childhoods past, while plenty of hands-on activities are on offer, including the chance to dress up in period overalls to attend a lesson in a Victorian-style classroom. Make sure you sit up straight and pay attention!


There's plenty to keep kids engaged and entertained indoors

There’s plenty to keep kids engaged and entertained indoors
– Credit: Molly Scott

Brave young ‘chimney sweeps’ can crawl through the darkness to experience first-hand what it would have been like for real chimney sweeps of the day, and venturing into a Victorian mining tunnel is another option.

New for 2022 is a giant 3D puzzle; a space station, with a range of space-themed toys and games; and a digital play area where children can scan their coloring pages to project them (as if by magic!) on the wall. There is also a dynamic floor – jump and jump to see how it reacts.

Older visitors might prefer a softer, nostalgic trip down memory lane and this can be found through a fascinating display of toys through the ages.

Visitors of all generations can roam freely around the museum in a relaxed way, while, most importantly, accessibility is improved, making for a fascinating, truly family-friendly and educational day out that has something for everyone.

If you’ve never been to The Children’s Country House in Sudbury, I recommend putting it right at the top of your list of things to do.


There is a lot to discover in the area

There is a lot to discover in the area
– Credit: Molly Scott

Those familiar with the old museum might not necessarily be impressed with the changes inside (given how long the place was closed), but visit it on a nice sunny day this summer and you have a wonderful time exploring the enhanced gardens.

Details

The Children’s Country House Museum and Gardens are only open on weekends (and most school holidays).

Booking is compulsory, even if you are a member of the National Trust.

National Trust members are free, otherwise adults are £11, children £5.50 (under 5s are free).

A family ticket costs £27.50, or one adult and two children can be purchased for £16.50.

Ample free parking is available, including plenty of disabled spaces.

On-site facilities include restrooms, a cafe and a fundraising shop. All of these are located in the stable yard near the entrance.

Well-behaved dogs on a short leash are welcome in all outdoor areas. Only assistance dogs are allowed inside the buildings.

The hall itself remains closed – but is expected to open later this year.

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