Chard had its first ‘museum’ in 1880. Arthur Hull, a local man, had built up a collection of ‘curiosities’ while working as a surveyor in the area and left them to Chard Town Council when he died. The Town Council bought a derelict 16th century building in High Street, which had formerly been four cottages, and offered the restored building to a new 'Museum Council'. This building, now known as Godworthy House, was the first home of Chard Museum. The Museum has now expande and includes Godworthy House, New Inn, Skittle Alley, the Knights Barn and a field and patios. Godworthy House contains displays on the history of Chard from the time of its first charter in 1235 to its contribution to the two World Wars. A new display contains locally found items from the Stone Age to the Roman period showing people have lived in the Chard area for many thousands of years.
There is also a display, probably the best anywhere, on the work of John Stringfellow, a pioneer of powered flight. He and his friend, William Henson, designed a steam powered aircraft and introduced a Bill into Parliament to set up an ‘Aerial Steam Navigation Company’ to fly people around the world. When the Bill failed Henson emigrated to America but John Stringfellow carried on with experiments into flight. He finally built a ten-foot wingspan monoplane powered by a small steam engine which he managed to fly successfully in a disused lace mill in Chard in 1848. The New Inn Cider Room contains displays on dairying and cider-making including a horse-powered apple crusher. Nearby are displays of pottery made at Donyatt, brushes made at Nimmer and a collection of signs from former shops in the town. The main part of the ground floor of the New Inn is home to a display of domestic items including items which might have been found in a mid-20th century kitchen, washing machines, mangles, and irons. On the upper floor of the New Inn is an exhibition of 1960s costumes and accessories loaned by local members of the public alongside some early sewing machines. There are also displays connected with childhood, schools and a display of gramophones.
Skittle Alley contains tools and equipment from the former forge at Tintinhull, operated for many years by the Allen family. These items, shown in realistic settings, illustrate how wheelwrights, blacksmiths and carpenters worked until as recently as the middle of the 20th century. The Knight's Barn is home to a variety of exhibits including farm carts and examples of the products of local engineering firms such as Dening & Co who made many of the farm machines on display around the Museum. There is an important display on the Victorian pioneer of artificial limbs, James Gillingham, with examples of the artificial limbs he made together with a selection of his many photographs. A lace machine of the type once used in the town’s many lace mills is another exhibit. Alongside the machine you can listen to a 1 hour dramatisation of the 1842 Chard lace riot. The Field is a pleasant open area with picnic tables behind the Barn. It is also the setting for a number of agricultural machines including rollers, seed drills, ploughs and harrows. It is reached past attractive gardens along a lane with a street lamp, telephone kiosk and Victorian letter box.
Location : Godworthy House, High St, Chard, Somerset TA20 1QB
Transport: Axminster (National Rail) then bus. Bus Routes : 14, 30, 90 and 624 stop close by.
Opening Times : Monday to Friday 10:00 - 16:00; Saturday 13:00 - 16:00
Tickets : Adults £4.00; Children Free
Tel: 01460 65091