The British in India Museum

Sign for British in India Museum
Entrance to British in India Museum
Spot the museum

The British in India Museum is hidden away in a warehouse in Nelson (Lancashire). It’s not signposted and is difficult to spot. We drove past it several times before we spotted the sign over a side door to the warehouse reception area. As it’s closed at the weekend I’d already waited a long time for the chance to see it and so was determined not to let its camouflaged location beat me. Hardly surprising really that it ranks at one of the top five least visited museums in Britain.

inside the British in India Museum

The museum started life as the private collection of Henry Nelson who had served in India in the 1940s. He came home with a suitcase of souvenirs and continued to develop his collection and his interest. By 1972 he had enough to open a museum.

Tiger skin

The museum is as museums used to be. It smells musty and is crammed with artifacts and memorabilia; everything from a tiger (complete with black and white photo taken of the party who shot it) to medals, newspaper cuttings to weapons and clothes to model soldiers. There’s a lot of information to read and even more to see. We walked round several times, each time seeing things we hadn’t noticed first time round.

soldiers on stilts
The Indian Princely States could not afford war elephants, so they trained infantry on stilts to combat the elephants of their wealthy neighbours. The officer is on foot.

Originally the museum was housed in a building in Colne and it moved to its present location a few years ago after the death of its founder. His son now runs the museum, but it is a sideline to the warehouse. The entrance is shared with the warehouse reception. The man on reception walked us through to the museum and from then on we were left to our own devices. He told us that there are a lot more artifacts in storage, but it’s a massive job searching through everything and getting it all catalogued.

collapsible camping chair
A rather ornate, but completely collapsible camping chair. It puts my canvas camping chair to shame.

Although it seemed obvious that the museum could do with a full-time curator and a new roof, as well as a bigger space, part of me hopes it will never change. There aren’t many museums left like this and visiting it is an experience in itself. And I like that I’ve been to one of the least visited museums in the country.

ornate chair
Detail from the top of a carved chair

detail from ornate chair

I wonder what the number one least visited museum is? Maybe I could go there next?

Sambo books
I’m sure I had some of these as a child. They seem so politically incorrect now.

Here’s a short clip of the museum I found online.

Can you recommend any unusual or little-visited museums?

Author: Anne

Join me in my journey to live a life less boring, one challenge at a time.
Author of the forthcoming book ‘Walking the Kungsleden: One Woman’s Solo Wander Through the Swedish Arctic’.

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