A look at the new-look Sudbury's Museum of Childhood

The exterior of Sudbury Hall

The exterior of Sudbury Hall - Credit: Molly Scott

Sudbury's Museum of Childhood has undergone an exciting revamp and rebrand - Molly Scott heads out with the family to check out the new developments

At the beginning of May, after a lengthy period closed to the public due to the pandemic, Sudbury, situated around ten miles south of Ashbourne, reopened its doors – to the delight of many. 

The popular and quirky Museum of Childhood has since benefited from an exciting revamp and subsequently rebranded as The Children’s Country House Museum and Gardens.  

It’s certainly been a process that has seen the local community engaged, not least children. 

‘An attraction for many families at Sudbury Hall has been the Museum of Childhood in the Victorian wing of the hall, which charts the story of work, rest and play for children through the ages,’ John Orna-Ornstein, director of curation and experience at the National Trust, has remarked. 

‘We invited children to take a look at the hall itself and the historic rooms and decoration in order to develop an experience through their eyes.  

‘They worked with curators, conservators and other experts and we hope the result will create a lifelong love of heritage in children.’ 

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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 lake side position.  

Sack racing fun

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 for an even more enjoyable day out.  

Credit to the National Trust, who have successfully created a really playful country house garden for all the family to enjoy.  

We loved the traditional sack racing, and the pretty maze created with colourful bunting. Our four-year-old daughter particularly adored the highly engaging grasshopper trail.  

There are eight colourful grasshopper sculptures in total, hidden throughout the expansive and beautiful gardens. Spotting them proved a fun focus to exploring the grounds and something we could all get involved in. 

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

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

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

There are plenty of places to take a rest and enjoy a picnic

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

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

There were also some shaded options, both in the stable yard and under the trees just outside for those wishing to keep out of the sun as we head into the summer months.  

There’s also a café, which boasts an impressive number of outdoor seating options. For those not wanting to picnic, or wanting to supplement a picnic, there’s a decent range of hot and cold drinks, sandwiches, cakes, sausage rolls and the like, whilst ultimate refreshment can be found in the form of locally-made ice cream from Bluebells Dairy; a prerequisite for hot days out! 

Inside the museum  

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

For those who enjoyed what Sudbury previously had to offer, don’t worry - the old favourites are still very much there, as are Sudbury’s plentiful and much-loved features.  

Playful, interactive exhibits highlight the hard realities of childhoods past whist there are plenty of interactive activities, including the opportunity to dress up in period overalls to experience a lesson in a Victorian-style classroom. Be sure to sit up straight and pay attention!  

There's much to keep children engaged and entertained inside

There's much to keep children engaged and entertained inside - Credit: Molly Scott

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

New for 2022 is a giant 3D jigsaw; a space station, with a range of space-themed toys and games; and a digital play zone where children can scan their colouring sheets to be projected (like magic!) on to the wall. There’s also a dynamic floor - leap and jump about to see how it reacts.  

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

Visitors of all generations are able to wander freely through the museum in a relaxed manner, whilst, importantly, there’s also improved accessibility, making this a fascinating and truly family-friendly and educational day out that has something for everyone. 

If you’ve never been to The Children’s Country House at Sudbury, I would recommend putting it straight to the top of your list of days out.  

There's much to be discovered in the grounds

There's much to be discovered in the grounds - Credit: Molly Scott

Those familiar with the old museum might not necessarily be wowed by changes to the interior (given how long the place was closed for) but visit on a nice sunny day this summer and you’ll have a wonderful time experiencing the improved garden areas. 


Details 

The Children's Country House Museum and Gardens is only open at weekends (and most school holidays).  

Booking is required, even if you're a National Trust member.  

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

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

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

Facilities on-site include toilets, café and a fundraising shop. All of these are located in the stable yard near the entrance.  

Well-behaved dogs on short leads are welcome in all areas outdoors. Only assistance dogs are allowed inside the buildings.  

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