Come and discover the hidden gems at this exceptionally fine regional museum. The collections boast a rich and impressive variety of historical objects, fine art and natural history.
Established in 1858, the museum houses over 660,000 artefacts and specimens. It first opened as the Charles Museum, following the bequest of Dr Thomas Charles of Maidstone who left his library, art collection and antiques to the town. Maidstone Council set about establishing ‘a museum worthy of the county town of Kent’. The museum opened in Chillington Manor, the former home of Dr Charles, and over the next forty years the Tudor manor house was transformed as extensions were added to house the growing collections
The generosity of local key benefactors contributed much to the rapid growth of the Museum’s outstanding collections. Julius Brenchley bequeathed his extensive collections of ethnography, art and natural history in 1873 and left a legacy to build a new wing and to buy land to create the gardens which now bear his name. Samuel Bentlif funded the building of the Bentlif Art Gallery and a bequest of fine art in 1897 and Sir Henry Marsham and Lord Bearsted bequeathed and donated large collections of Japanese decorative wares in 1908 and 1923. Lord Bearsted also paid for the original extension to the east wing to house the Japanese collection.
In 2012, partially funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and other benefactors, the new east wing extensions opened, providing more education facilities, temporary exhibition spaces , public facilities and improved collections’stores.