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Social History Collections

Our wide and varied social history collection offers a glimpse, and a better understanding, of everyday life for people at different times in history.

Collections cover everything from costumes from 1600 onwards, coins and medals, military equipment, Victorian household items, folk life, ceramics and glass, and photographs of the area as well as children’s toys, tobacco pipes , farming tools, Staffordshire pottery and English drinking vessels.


The Museum has significant holdings of local militaria, consisting of uniforms, medals and other decorations, sidearms and firearms, equipment (both personal and general), documents, commemorative material and photographs.

The collection also contains a commemorative plaque to Sgt. Thomas Hunter, 'The lonely Anzac' who died in the Museum when it was Peterborough infirmary during World War 1.


The collection is particularly strong in Victorian and early 20th Century female costume. There is also an important collection of rare 17th and 18th century corsets and stays and some fine examples of middle class male Georgian attire.

Coins & Medals

The museum has a sizeable collection of coins, medals and tokens covering most periods of British history including a collection of Romano-British coinage. Important items include examples of coins and bank notes produced and used locally, examples of forgeries and examples of ‘burnt’ coinage. The medal and token collections cover items relating to many organisations and enterprises from throughout Great Britain and relating to many national events including Royal celebrations, the openings of important buildings and various exhibitions. There is also a collection of gaming counters and theatre passes.


The museum has a sizeable collection of ceramics and glass from the Georgian period onwards. Items include tableware, dinner services and ornaments. There is material from many of the significant British manufacturers including a  collection of Goss crested china.


The museum has a large collection of local photographic prints and glass plate negatives relating to most of the fields of collecting within the social history collection including a collection of early collotype photographs.


The museum has an extensive collection of books and archive material mostly acquired during the early years of the museum’s existence. The collection contains scientific books relating to the collection in addition to some medieval manuscripts.

John Clare

The highlight of the library and archive collections is the collection of original manuscripts produced by the local born poet John Clare (1793-1894). This includes first edition copies of his published work and research and reference materials. This collection is currently on loan to, and administered by, Peterborough Local Studies and Archives Service.