Essex CO1 1UG
Hollytrees Museum and the Visitor Centre, in the heart of Colchester, occupy an historic house. The beautiful Georgian building in Castle Park was once the home of Attorney, Justice of the Peace; Antiquarian and Member of Parliament, Charles Gray.
The museum is free to visit and houses displays on the themes of domestic life and childhood in Colchester over the last 300 years.
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History of the Building
The house was built in 1718 on the site of an Elizabethan house for Elizabeth Cornelisen of Camberwell, London
. The new house was square in plan with three storeys of four rooms and a basement containing the kitchen and store rooms. The west elevation included a small projecting bay containing the staircase, half landings and closets.
The building was completed by March 1719 but sadly Elizabeth Cornelisen died before she could live in it. The house passed to Sarah Creffeild who later married Charles Gray (1696 - 1782) in 1727, when the house passed to him and he lived there until his death.
Charles Gray was a Trustee of the British Museum
and very interested in history. These interests may have stimulated his mother-in-law, Mary Webster, to buy him Colchester Castle
as a wedding present, adding it to Hollytrees estate which already included the eastern half of what has become Castle Park. Much of Gray's energies went into the improvement of his house and estate. He restored the Castle, landscaped the grounds, built the arcade at the north east corner of Hollytrees and planted the trees which give the house its name.
In 1748 Gray commissioned a local architect to add an extension to the west side of Hollytrees. It made use of the existing staircase so that the rooms in the extension are at mezzanine levels opening onto the half landings. The extension contained a basement scullery, servants' room and arcade to the garden on the ground floor, a library and two attic rooms. A large fragment of the original wallpaper in one of the attic rooms was rediscovered in 1928 and is preserved in the museum store.
In 1920 Hollytrees was sold to Colchester Corporation who had already bought the western half of the grounds in 1892 to create Castle Park. It first opened as a museum in 1929.
In the 21st century the building has undergone major redevelopment. This has seen the installation of a lift, the re-orientation of the museum entrance and new visitor facilities.
Using Hollytrees House as a living example, displays demonstrate what family life was like for rich and poor people in Georgian and Victorian Colchester. You can listen to the stories of those who lived and worked in Hollytrees. Experience the miniature world of the Hollytrees dolls house –a magnificent model replica of the house peopled with family and servants.
Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
Admire the superb collections of clocks and watches, ranging in period from the mid 17th century through to the mid 19th century, and find out about the origin of the famous nursery rhyme Twinkle Twinkle Little Star which was written in Colchester
’s Dutch Quarter by Jane Taylor and published in 1806 with the title ‘The Star’.
Events Programmes are run throughout the year, bringing art and history to life in a fun way. Meet many different characters from the past and experience Colchester
's fascinating history. Then be transported back to the days before washing machines to try out a dolly peg and dress up as a servant. Enjoy craft and art workshops, tours, talks and quizzes. Exhibits change regularly so there is always something new to see.
Plan Your Visit
Accommodation - Search & Book through Booking.com here:
Monday - Saturday: 10:00 – 17:00 hours.
Closed on Sundays
The Museum attempts to open all galleries at all times. Occasionally, galleries need to be closed at short notice due to conservation, maintenance works or events. If you are coming to the Museum to see something in a specific gallery, please telephone in advance.
Lift; Toilets; Gift Shop; Visitor Information Centre.
Refreshments available in Castle Park.
Contact & Further Information
+44 (0)1206 282 940
- By Road
Exit the A12 at Junction 27 and follow the signs to the town centre. There is no parking at the museum but it is located in the town centre. There are a number of car parks which you can use, the closest being Britannia and Priory Street.
- By Rail
Hollytrees Museum is a 10 minute walk from Colchester Town railway, up Queens Street and St Botolph's Street.
- By Bus
The museum is a 10 minute walk from the main bus station on Osborne Street.
Google Maps - Hollytrees Museum