In 1964, a group of local engineers and Nottingham City Council set up an industrial heritage collection at Wollaton Hall and Deer Park.
The engineers became known as the Nottingham Arkwright Society. Their artefacts and items owned by the City Council formed a collection reflecting local industries. They covered textiles, coal mining and light metal trades, such as bicycle and motorcycle manufacturing. In 1971, the collection opened to the public. By 1975, the team had restored many of the engines to working order. The Basford Beam Engine steamed for the first time in public on Easter Monday 1977.
Over time, our collection expanded. It now includes:
- more steam and diesel engines
- textile and transport technologies
Many local families have generations of ancestors who worked for Boots, Players, Plessey, Raleigh, in lace factories or down their local pit. These associations drew in many visitors.
Despite the museum’s popularity, funding cutbacks drove its closure in 2009. However, the volunteers continued to welcome visitors into the Steam Hall to see and hear the Basford Beam Engine and other engines work.
The success of these ‘Steaming Days’ showed the museum could be a viable fee-charging attraction. In the winter of 2011, volunteers gave the galleries a major face-lift. And in March 2012 the museum reopened to the public. The Nottinghamshire Heritage Forum recognised the hard work of the volunteers by naming the museum ‘Heritage Site of the Year’. This accolade is part of the Nottinghamshire Heritage Awards.
Soon the museum was welcoming visitors from around the world. They come to see our rare and unique examples of industrial heritage. Indeed, in 2014, Arts Council England recognised Nottingham City Museums & Galleries’ Lace Collection and Lace Machinery (displayed at Nottingham Industrial Museum) as being of ‘Outstanding Value’. They identified both as ‘a pre-eminent collection of national and international importance, based on its quality and significance’.
Nottingham City Museums & Galleries continue to own and care for the collection. However, the Nottingham Industrial Museum Board of Directors and a team of regular volunteers manage the museum and plan its future. In 2016, the museum became both a Registered Charity (1167388) and Limited Company by Guarantee (09679802).