The Museum's History

Luton's First Museum - Wardown House

"An empty place itching for a museum to be started there."

In 1925 a committee was set up, with a view to creating a museum and art gallery in Wardown House. Initially, a room became available in the Carnegie Library, and Luton Museum was established there in 1927, with Thomas Wyatt Bagshawe as Honourary Curator. Bagshawe still looked forward to the day the museum could be housed at Wardown House. After strong campaigning led by Bagshawe and The Luton News, the museum was transferred to Wardown House on the 1st July 1931.

The Early Years 1930-1939

During this period, the museum occupied two rooms and the hall, and soon the rapidly increasing numbers of donated items and visitor overcrowding began to cause concern. Detailed plans for expansion were made in 1937, including the opening of the Rural Life Gallery and the setting up of a school loan service.

The Second World War 1939 - 1945

"To provide quiet enjoyment and restful relief from anxieties of the times"

The war was a difficult period for the museum. The decision was taken to keep the museum rooms open, whilst other parts of the building were requisitioned by the military authorities, including the basement rooms which were to be used as air raid shelters.
Local and evacuated schools used the museum regularly, whilst a series of lectures, demonstrations and programme of temporary exhibitions were held. Numbers of visitors continued to increase and the collection to expand.

Post War Development 1945 - Present

Various changes have taken place in the building throughout the years after the war. Bagshawe generously gave his previously loaned collections to the museum in 1955, The Luton Life galleries opened in 2003 and The Rural Life collections went to the Stockwood Craft Museum & Gallery, known as Stockwood Discovery Centre as of 2008. These developments in 2008 enabled more items from the museum's collections to be displayed. In 2016, the museum underwent a £3.5million redevelopment, reopening in April 2017.