The American Museum in Britain opened to the public in 1961 – the achievement of four colleagues: Dr. Dallas Pratt (an American psychiatrist and collector), John Judkyn (a British born antiques dealer, who had become a United States citizen), Nick Bell Knight (a furniture restorer employed at nearby Freshford Manor, Judkyn’s business base in Britain) and Ian McCallum, the Museum’s first Director. It was a transatlantic alliance. Dallas Pratt and John Judkyn considered establishing a Museum of Americana in Britain as early as 1956, after visiting several historic house and ‘living history’ museums in the United States. Collecting for the Museum began in earnest in 1958, facilitated by Judkyn’s business contacts – each piece testifying to the artistry of Americans and how these people had lived in the past. Panelling and floors were also shipped over to Britain, enabling period rooms from demolished buildings in America to be reconstructed within the spacious interiors of Claverton Manor.
The exhibits cover American history in form of period rooms from circa 1690 to 1860. Also a different exhibition is created every year to included more recent American history. Out of the whole collection of around 200, 50 quilts and coverlets are included in the newly refurbished textile room. In the Shaker room there are several pieces of their distinctive furniture. The 2016 exhibition is An American Toy Story. This exhibition explores the huge impact that movie-licensing had on toy production and the way we play. A collection of vintage treasures and modern classics, spanning over 100 years, is on display together for the very first time. Exhibition highlights include; Iconic early-twentieth-century celebrity dolls, including Charlie Chaplin and Shirley Temple, Classic movie posters, Early Disney toys, including a rare 1930s Donald Duck, A collection of vintage James Bond toys, Favourite toys from the Science-Fiction films of the 1980s, the Superman costume worn by Christopher Reeve, an interactive room with dressing up and photo zone. There is a temporary exhibition displaying Jeremiah Goodman painting of interior design.
The garden, part of which is preserved from the previous house, is set into the valley of the River Avon and has fine views over the valley and the Kennet and Avon Canal. The American Museum employed Lanning Roper to design a mixed border. There is a Colonial Herb Garden and a Mount Vernon Garden, which is a re-creation of George Washington's garden. The arboretum has a collection of American trees. All buildings are fully accessible via ramps and a lift is fitted within the main Museum building. Some internal doorways within Claverton Manor are narrow (70cm) and there are tight turns at some points in the visitor route. In order to ensure the safety of our visitors and collections, mobility scooters and very large electric wheelchairs are not allowed within the Manor. Manual wheelchairs are available to borrow at Reception. An accessible toilet is located in the Gallery Shop. There is also an accessible toilet in the Coach House which is open on event days. Assistance dogs are welcome throughout all public parts of the Museum.
Location : Claverton Manor, Bath BA2 7BD
Transport: Bath Spa (National Rail) then free shuttle bus. Bus Routes : U1, U18 and free Shuttle bus.
Opening Times : Tuesday to Sunday 12:00 - 17:00
Tickets : Adults £11.00; Seniors £9.50 Children £6.50
Tickets Gardens: Adults £7.00; Seniors £5.50 Children £4.50
Tel: 01225 460503