Orchardside – housing the Cowper & Newton Collection
Welcome to Orchardside, the home of William Cowper, renowned 18th century poet from 1768 to 1786. Walk back in time through rooms featuring numerous personal artefacts and belongings. Discover Cowper’s comic sense of humour, his poetry and writings, the highs and lows in his life and his love of gardening and animals – especially his pet hares.
Discover how his friend John Newton‘s life and personal experience inspired him to write the world’s most famous hymn ‘Amazing Grace’, here in Olney. Learn about his time as a slave trade captain, as a slave himself; how he became the curate of the parish church, his involvement in the abolition of slavery and his spiritual influence on William Wilberforce.
An overview of Orchardside house and gardens is displayed in the following hand drawn artwork. Simply click the image for an enlarged view.
See also our displays of Buckinghamshire and Bedfordshire lace, as well archaeological finds and local history from Olney.
.Visit the NEW EXHIBITION DISPLAY in Mr Cowper’s Bedroom.
The Bookcase of Instruction and Delight
Click the image for an enlarged view
This very rare miniature bookcase, dating from 1800 is on show for the very first time. It was made by London’s leading children’s bookseller John Marshall and has connections to Olney. In the 1840s its original owner presented it to Maria Wontner, a cloth merchant’s daughter from London who was sent to spend the summer with relatives here.
Alongside the bookcase are some of the original children’s books that would have been supplied with the bookcase. Maria Wontner, whose family were devout chapel-goers, added her own set of little Sunday school stories and miniature bibles. Many of the little books are inscribed with the owners’ names.
The bookcase was presented to the museum together with family letters and photographs. It was in poor condition but thanks to a grant from the William Delafield Trust we are now able to display this wonderful testament to a Georgian childhood.
Cabinet of Curiosity On line Gallery – some of our treasures from around the Museum