Arundel Museum is opposite the public entrance to the castle, next to both the river and the car park. And like so many of our Sussex museums, it’s an absolute treasure trove. The museum is not big, but it is well laid out and packed to the rafters, so that whatever your interest, you’re likely to find something here for you.
It’s tempting to assume that Arundel’s history is all about the castle but of course, it isn’t. And you start at the museum with pre-historic flint tools and a reminder that you’re not far from Boxgrove here, where in 1993 they found a human shin, teeth and flint tools estimated to be 500,000 years old!
A town through the ages
From here you make your way around the museum through the eras from Roman to Saxon and on, of course, to the Norman and Medieval periods. And your journey is peppered with interesting information and artefacts. Like the little bone spoon believed to be Medieval and to have come all the way from northern Norway with a trader. And the rather racy stories about the canons who lived at the Medieval priory at Tortington or the folklore that surrounds mullets and a Knucker hole!
Arundel was a busy port and stopping off point until the late 19th and early 20th century with a variety of bustling trades including beer, timber and fishing. And so, Arundel Museum leads you through the town’s social past with the likes of milk churns, an anvil, farm equipment, and an old printing press, part of the town’s long history with the West Sussex Gazette. Oh, and there are beautiful model boats too!
The Liberator exhibition
The museum also hosts regular exhibitions and events and when we visited it was the turn of the Liberator. Strategically positioned, it’s no surprise that Arundel played its part in WWII and you can see a WWII air raid siren from the town. This exhibition was about two WWII planes that crashed on the outskirts of town. One was an American B-24H Liberator bomber. Having been hit and badly damaged whilst flying near St. Cyr to the southwest of Paris, incredibly, the pilots managed to fly it back across the English Channel where they had to bail out before the aircraft crashed at Park Farm, Arundel. Three of the ten crew died but two of the bodies were never recovered. In 2017, the United States Defence POW/ MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) and the American Veterans Archaeological Recovery (AVAR) excavated the site in order to repatriate the remaining missing airmen. The exhibition also told the story of the German Junkers 88 that crashed at Swanbourne Lake during the Battle of Britain. Two of its four-man crew survived to be taken as prisoners of war and two died. Parts of the plane’s wreckage could be seen when the lake dried out in 1989. The next event at the museum for adults (there is a calendar of children’s activities) is a talk about Cardinal de Richelieu later in April, but for now, I’m off to see if I can find the site of the Liberator crash.
The museum also runs guided town walks and has a children’s quiz trail. If you’re visiting the castle or town, a visit to the museum is a great way to learn a bit more about the town. It is open 7 days a week from 10.00 am to 4.00 pm, including Bank Holidays. It also has a shop which you can visit without paying to visit the museum and serves tea, coffee and biscuits.
Adults – £4.00. Children under 6 years – free. Children (6-16 years) – £3.00. There are family and concession tickets too.
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