Britain’s 10 most bizarre museums

As Professor Hutton encounters some of the nation’s historic museums during his new UKTV show, we explore some of the most unusual ones – containing padded cells, body parts and vintage dog collars...

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Britain is no stranger to weird and wonderful museums, as the new factual 12-part series Professor Hutton’s Curiosities finds out. Starting this June (9pm, June 12, on UKTV’s Yesterday Channel)  Hutton enters the nation’s different historical museums from the Freud Museum to the Magic Circle Museum and reveals the strange secrets they hold. And if you think they’re weird, check out these oddities…

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10. Cumberland Pencil Museum, Cumbria

A serious case of out of control collecting can be witnessed at this museum dedicated to little wooden writing instruments. You’ll find the world’s largest collection of pencils here including the longest color pencil on the planet, a World War II Secret Pencil collection and other graphite goodies. As you would expect, there’s plenty of opportunities to draw stuff. pencilmuseum.co.uk


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9. Ragged School Museum, London

This is one to bring your kids to – at this Victorian school-themed museum they’ll show your children just how lucky they are to have interactive whiteboards and laptops in their classrooms, rather than ink pots and canes. Your little tykes can dress up in period clothes and learn in a classroom they way poor children would have in the 1870s. If that’s not frightening enough, they also do ghost tours here – some consider this site one of the most haunted in the UK. raggedschoolmuseum.org.uk 


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8. Cuckooland, Cheshire

Some would say that brothers Roman and Maz Piekarski are cuckoo for taking their clock obsession to such an extreme – they’ve been collecting these ticking timepieces for 40 years. Among more than 600 artifacts you’ll find cuckoo, quail and trumpeter clocks, which are set up to play at intervals throughout your visit. cuckoolanduk.net

7. Museum of Witchcraft, Cornwall

This creepy museum wasn’t an easy one to set up. Cecil Williamson, the museum’s previous owner, got deaththreats galore after opening this exhibition in Bourton on the Water. The building was apparently firebombed after the opening and Williamson found cats strung up in the trees in his garden. Sensibly, he packed up shop and moved. You’ll now find this mysterious collection in sleepy Boscastle, in South West England, complete with witchcraft imagery, used in the propaganda of witch-hunts throughout the ages and vats of interesting potions and spell ingredients. There are also voodoo dolls, Ouija boards, spell books and dead cats (not the  ones from the past owner’s garden, we hope). Apparently, dried cats were used by witches to fend off mice, rats and evil spirits – very odd indeed. museumofwitchcraft.com


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6. Lawnmower Museum, Merseyside

Horticulturists unite; those who meticulously trim their grass and can appreciate both a Black & Decker and a rusty vintage field mower need to see this collection of 300 restored beauties from the last 200 years. The collection includes one that Prince Charles and Princess Diana used to own. lawnmowerworld.co.uk


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5. Old Operating Theatre, London

In the roof of St Thomas’ church you’ll find this slap-dash operating theatre, dating back to 1821. The exhibition comes complete with a viewing gallery for trainee surgeons – who’d witness bloody scenes. No doubt there were horrendous screams as body parts were amputated and dissected, this was before the days of anesthetic. There’s also a range of surgical instruments, and specimens on display. Not for the faint-hearted! thegarret.org.uk


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4. Dog Collar Museum, Kent

Don’t bring Fido, he won’t be allowed in, but doggie enthusiasts will and they’ll find more than 100 dog collars designs here – from the past five centuries, no less. To add to the strangeness of it all, this barking mad exhibit is located in the grounds of the Leeds Castle, where they’ve congregated various kinds of historic hunting dog-style collars right up to Paris Hilton’s doggy styles of today. leeds-castle.com


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3. Stephen Beaumont Museum of Mental Health, Wakefield

This place reveals doctors’ attempts to treat the mind throughout history – and it’s shocking to say the least. Displays on show include an original padded cell from the West Riding Pauper Lunatic Asylum, built on this site in 1818, plus bizarre instruments used to restrain, treat and tend to patients – from chloroform bottles to straitjackets and bedpans. swyt.nhs.uk


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2. Teapot Island, Kent

This place was a café in the ‘50s, but over the last half a decade the space has evolved into an extended house filled to the brim with 6,700 teapots of all shapes, sizes and value. Here visitors can peruse the collection, which is worth more than £120,000, and will find a rare designs like Princess Diana, Doctor Who and Star Wars pots. Incredibly, potty owner Sue Blazye makes tea using a tea bag! teapotisland.com

1. Hunterian Museum, London

Not one for the squeamish, this place is filled with vats containing items like severed feet, hands, corpses, foetuses and brains. Attached to the Royal College of Surgeons, you’ll find lots of biology students taking notes and studying the 3,500 grisly body parts. There’s also a giant’s skeleton in here, which is 7ft 7in tall and belonged to an Irish chap named Charles Byrne, plus the preserved body of a cyclops pig! rcseng.ac.uk

Watch Professor Hutton’s Curiosities at 9pm, June 12, on UKTV’s Yesterday Channel


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Images courtesy of Dave Russ, Wiki Commons, David Anstiss, Alamy, Mike Peel, Iloveteaandcake.com, Maria Soleil