The Rotunda Museum, Scarborough

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The Rotunda Museum is one of the oldest purpose-built museums still in use in the United Kingdom. The curved grade II* listed building was constructed in 1829 as one of the country's first purpose-built museums. Situated in the English coastal resort of Scarborough, North Yorkshire, it houses one of the foremost collections of Jurassic geology on the Yorkshire Coast.FoundingThe Rotunda Museum, described as the finest surviving purpose-built museum of its age in the country, was built in 1829 to a design suggested by William Smith, 'Father of English Geology'. Smith's pioneering work established that geological strata could be identified and correlated using the fossils they contain. Smith came to Scarborough after his release from debtors' prison. The dramatic Jurassic coastline of Yorkshire offered him an area of geological richness.Sir John Johnstone became Smith’s patron and employed him as his Land Steward at Hackness. Johnstone was President of the Scarborough Philosophical Society which raised the money to build the Rotunda and consulted Smith as to the Museum’s design. Still in his twenties, Sir John was an intellectual leader in Scarborough in the 1820s and a staunch supporter of Smith and his ideas. He donated the Hackness stone of which the Rotunda Museum is built. Smith had seen a rotunda in London and instructed the architect, Richard Sharp of York, to follow that design. The Rotunda Museum was built to Smith’s design suggestion and the original display of fossils illustrated his ideas. The fossils and rocks were arranged in the order in which they occurred, with the youngest in the cases at the top and the oldest at the bottom. The order around the walls reflected the order of rocks on the Yorkshire coast. A section of the rocks on the coast was drawn around the inside of the dome of the building by Smiths nephew, another geologist, John Phillips.The two wings were added to the building in 1860.
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The Rotunda Museum Reviews
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  • Lovely little museum children free and £3 for adults to get in - good value for money. Quirky building with interesting artefacts. Certainly enjoyed by all the family. Lady on the desk couldn't have b...  more »
  • As it always seems to be, the smaller local museums always seem to surprise us. This museum is no exception. Killed a few hours, and found some very on interesting pieces... The Grimsthorpe man to a b...  more »
  • This delightful round building houses an amazing collection of artifacts of all kinds, with the main subject of geology and palaeontology. The upstairs gallery is kept exactly as it was when it was de...  more »
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  • Very interesting and informative display. Wonderful building. Great wheelchair access to all floors.
  • Opened in 1829, this unique circular building is one of the world's first purpose-built museums. The design of the building was suggested by William Smith, known as the father of English Geology. The building is an exhibit in itself - the interior, with its stunning trompe I'oeil ceiling and fascinating gallery, featuring a frieze showing the geology of the local coastline designed by Smith's nephew, John Phillips, is remarkable.
  • Great Scarborough museum. Rich for geology addicts.
  • Kept me and my partner entertained, great little museum.
  • Lovely building with a short but sweet dinosaur exhibition.

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Where to stay in Scarborough

The resort town of Scarborough offers a diverse range of accommodations, including luxury hotels, cozy cottages, quiet B&Bs, and family-owned guesthouses. Take advantage of everything this popular resort has to offer by booking your stay at a seaside hotel, offering easy access to the best beaches and coastal paths. To get away from the tourist crowds, venture deeper inland, where you can relax at a private cottage or traditional inn. Many of Scarborough's self-catering cottages are located in converted barns, now equipped with modern conveniences.
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