Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery

Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery

Edwardian Baroque architecture of the museum
Location within Devon and England
Established 1910
Location Plymouth, Devon, England
Coordinates 50°22′28″N 4°08′15″W / 50.37445°N 4.13762°W / 50.37445; -4.13762
Type Art museum and history museum

Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery in the Drake Circus area of Plymouth, Devon, England is the largest museum and art gallery in the city. It was built in 1907–10 by Thornely and Rooke in Edwardian Baroque style.[1] The Museum and Art Gallery is currently closed for major redevelopment and is set to re-open as part of the Plymouth History Centre (working title) in spring 2020.


The Museum has collections of fine and decorative arts, natural history and human history. The natural history collection consists of over 150,000 specimens and an historic natural history library and archive. Many prehistoric artefacts from Dartmoor, important Bronze Age and Iron Age material from Mount Batten and medieval and post-medieval finds from Plymouth are found in the human history collection alongside artifacts from ancient Egypt and other ancient cultures of Europe and the Middle East.

The art collections include 750 easel paintings, over 3,000 watercolours and drawings, at least 5,000 prints and a sizeable collection of sculptures. A large proportion of the art was donated to the people of Plymouth in 1852 by William Cotton (1794–1863) and is known as the Cottonian Collection. It had been put together principally by the collector Charles Rogers (1711–1784), and includes works by Sir Joshua Reynolds who was born locally.[2]

The collections also include work by artists of the 19th-century Newlyn School, the influential 20th-century St. Ives group of painters, and the Camden Town Group. Other artists represented are Edgar Degas, Edward Burne-Jones, Paul Nash, Stanley Spencer, John William Waterhouse, Claude Lorrain, Terry Frost, J M W Turner, John Brett, John Everett Millais, Ambrose Bowden Johns, Benjamin Robert Haydon, James Northcote and Samuel Prout. The latter four painters were born locally.


The Museum and Art Gallery is owned and operated by Plymouth City Council. It also receives operational funding from Arts Council England through its Major Partner Museums scheme.

Additional grants are also received for specific projects, acquisitions and conservation duties from funding bodies such as the Heritage Lottery Fund, The Art Fund, the Wolfson Foundation and the V&A Purchase Grant Fund.


In early 2009, four new galleries showcasing the Museum's world cultures, Ancient Egypt, archaeology and local/maritime history collections were opened as part of a refurbishment project.[3] The renovated ground floor galleries were formally opened by HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh on 25 May 2009.[4] He was Patron of the Friends of Plymouth City Museums & Gallery, which was founded in 1951, at the time.

Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery closed its building at the start of September 2016 for major redevelopment.[5] It is planned to re-open in spring 2020 as the Plymouth History Centre (working title) which will encompass the present buildings of the Museum and Art Gallery, Central Library and St Luke's Church buildings with a major new extension designed by Atkins. It will bring collections from the museum, Plymouth and West Devon Record Office, South West Film and Television Archive, South West Image Bank and the Local Studies and Reference collection from the Central Library onto one site. There will be permanent galleries, research facilities and a series of spaces for changing exhibitions and artistic commissions. The projected cost of £34 million includes a successful bid of £14.8 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund plus major support from Plymouth City Council. The project hopes to secure a further £4.2 million from Arts Council England.[6][7]


  1. Pevsner, Nikolaus; Cherry, Bridget (1989). The Buildings of England: Devon. London: Penguin. p. 657. ISBN 0-14-071050-7.
  2. "The Cottonian Collection". Plymouth City Museum & Art Gallery. Retrieved 2008-11-11.
  3. "HRH Duke of Edinburgh to visit City Museum and Art Gallery". Plymouth City Council. Retrieved 2009-06-29.
  4. "The Duke of Edinburgh, Patron, Friends of Plymouth City Museums and Art Gallery, this afternoon visited the newly refurbished Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery, Drake Circus." Court Circular for 25 May 2009.
  5. "History Centre". Plymouth City Council. Retrieved 30 June 2016.
  6. "The story so far...". Plymouth City Council. June 2016. Retrieved 1 July 2016.
  7. "Spectacular plans for the History Centre unanimously approved". Plymouth City Council. 10 June 2016. Retrieved 1 July 2016.
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