The Rotunda Museum, Scarborough

(3.8/5 based on 200+ reviews on the web)
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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Reviews
TripAdvisor
  • This building is situated just off the seafront below the Spa Bridge and what a fantastic looking building it is. Although we had seen it the previous day we did not realise what it was at first so gl...  more »
  • The building that this museum is housed in beautiful, and has been renovated very sympathetically. The dinosaur and fossil area on the first floor are well presented (the dinosaur terrified our 3 year...  more »
  • Just popped in to get out of the cold. What a lovely, interesting hour or so we spent looking at the lovely personal collections of fossils and reading about the finders. Wonderful for finding out abo...  more »
Google
  • 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.
  • Small museum, but well worth the visit. £3 for yearly pass.
  • great little museum, nice location and a good collection. worth a visit. say hello to Mike
  • Small museum with some nice exhibits. A bargain at £3.
  • Great local museum, especially if you like geology and dinosaurs!