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Panacea Museum, Bedford

#2 of 8 in Museums in Bedford
This museum tells the story of the Panacea Society – a remarkable religious community formed in the early twentieth century.

The Society was founded in 1919 by Mabel Barltrop, a 53-year-old widow who lived in Bedford.

For 90 years, members of the society quietly lived, worked and worshipped God in their community.

Although they took care to reveal little about themselves to outsiders, the society’s name became familiar to many people beyond Bedford through their national advertising campaign to open ‘Joanna Southcott’s Box’ a curious cultural icon of inter-war Britain.

During the 1920s and 1930s the community grew to more than 70 resident members living in and around Albany Road in Bedford, with about 2,000 members living elsewhere across the world. Over 130,000 people applied to receive the Society’s method of healing through water – its ‘panacea’ to cure all illnesses

The Panacea Museum is in ‘Castleside’, a beautiful Victorian house that was part of the community’s headquarters. It tells the story of the Panacea Society and other similar religious groups.

The museum also incorporates several other buildings, set within the gardens, that formed the original community’s ‘campus’.
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Panacea Museum Reviews
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TripAdvisor Traveler Rating 4.5
90 reviews
  • This is a really excellent museum. It has a fascinating story to tell, and tells it very effectively. The staff are friendly and welcoming, and the introductory video sets the scene very well.  more »
  • Well organised, very interesting, friendly staff. Lovely place to relax and have a cup of tea and a slice of cake in the garden. Enjoyed some badminton on the lawn. The museum was very interesting and...  more »
  • Finally got to look round this place last week. The main problem is it's not open a lot. I concur with most of what the 4 or 5 star reviewers have already written. Fascinating and even the 10 year old...  more »
  • Outstanding and fascinating small museum. Very well curated with modern informative display. Super little tea room and lovely garden. A hidden gem well worth searching out.
  • Amazing museum. A hidden gem.
  • Very interesting place to visit. Interesting and historical. Much too see.
  • You wouldn't really expect a museum like that hidden away close to Bedford river, gets its three, and shows a twist to Bedford history which I didn't really expect :)
  • Interesting and different. Shows the rise and decline of a religious group.
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