The Cromwell Museum is home to the best collection of items relating to the life and times of Oliver Cromwell on public display anywhere in the world. The collection comprises over 800 items, including portraits, clothing, miniatures, arms and armour, historical documents written by or about Cromwell, and displays as diverse items as copies of his death masks and even his hat!
The Museum is located in the former Huntingdon Grammar School building, which was where Oliver Cromwell was educated as a schoolboy. The building itself is all that remains of a medieval hospital, built to provide hospitality for travellers and pilgrims in the 12th century. It was also where the young Samuel Pepys was educated in the 1640s.
The Museum tells the story of Cromwell’s life, from his time at the school and his early years in Huntingdon and St Ives, before he became involved in national politics. On display you can see the vestry book of the parish of St Ives, which includes his signature, and some of his possessions, including his hat. By contrast, the Museum’s exhibits include luxurious items given to Cromwell later in life, including a magnificent Florentine perfume cabinet, which was a gift from the Grand Duke of Tuscany; and a 17th century medicine chest still with its surgical instruments and tools, which Cromwell is said to have taken on campaign with him.
We also tell the story of Cromwell’s military career, and have several of his swords displayed alongside other weapons, arms and armour of the English Civil War. Displays also include many original and iconic paintings of Cromwell, his family, his political and military contemporaries and of events relating to the Civil War, by the great artists of the period including Robert Walker, Sir Peter Lely, William Dobson and Samuel Cooper.
Our displays look at more than simply Cromwell himself; they also examine his impact and legacy right through to our own times. The Museum cares for an impressive collection of drawings and cartoons including works by Gerald Scarfe and Quentin Blake. It is impossible to show everything in the Museum so exhibits are regularly changed.
Our role is not to praise or condemn Cromwell. He is a controversial figure to many; our role is simply to present the facts and various interpretations of his life, telling his story 'warts and all' and allow visitors to make their own minds up about him.
The Museum is operated by an independent charity, the Cromwell Museum Trust.
You can get a flavour of the Museum through this short video tour with our Curator:
Portrait of Oliver Cromwell, Studio of Sir Peter Lely
Gold ‘half broad’ Commonwealth coin, 1650