A Brief History of Erith Museum

Erith had a Museum as long ago as 1931, when a local resident, Mr E. Bridgstock Choat, offered his services as honorary curator. He was an historian and naturalist, who had already made some donations to the Library. The Council accepted his offer, and had part of the basement of the Library building adapted for his use as a Museum. It was formally opened in 1934.

During the 1939-45 War the museum's collections were put into store, but in 1947 Mr Choat set the Museum up again. Later in that year Mr Arthur Hudd, F.Z.S, succeeded him as hon. curator. Twelve years later, in 1959, the Museum was provided with a larger and brighter setting when the Carnegie Trust and the Erith Borough Council jointly financed structural alterations to the first floor of the Library building and re-established the Museum there. It drew many more visitors in its new position, and quickly became a popular and much appreciated feature of the Library service. After Erith became part of the new Bexley London Borough in 1965, attention had to be focussed on re-organising the museum collections of the various constituent authorities of the new borough on a new basis. The local Studies Section was set up in 1972, and in 1974 Erith Museum was turned into a Museum Study Centre for schools. Unfortunately schools soon found it difficult to get transport for visits. Eventually the Museum was closed, partly for this reason, but partly also through staffing problems and because structural work became necessary.

After extensive repairs, re-wiring and redecoration, the Museum was newly designed and laid out. The displays were all fresh, though naturally some of the finest of the old exhibits were on show again. In May 1983 the Mayor of Bexley, Cllr D.H.A. Todd-Dunning formally re-opened the Museum. The Museum contained a series of cases showing a general conspectus of Erith's history, including Romans, Ecclesiastical (Church and Abbey), Maritime (including Henry VIII's Great Harry).

The late 80s early 90s saw construction by volunteers of new cases to display aspects of Erith's Industry and Social History.

Following closure of the Museum for fire prevention works the popular Edwardian Kitchen display was much improved. This period saw popular exhibitions such as ERITH in WWII, including a real Anderson Shelter.

Sadly, due to limited resources, exhibitions and display changes could not continue, leading to a decline in the number of visitors.

Following a percieved threat of closure in 1998 and a successful public campaign by the local community over the following two years the museum management passed, on 1st September 2000, to the present volunteer group.

After a slow start the policy of regularly changing displays and exhibitions has resulted in increased numbers and favourable comments, both personal and local press.

With the continued support of the local residential and business community, and renewed support of the Local Council, the future looks bright.