Braintree was the home town of two companies famous in the 19th and 20th centuries; Courtaulds and Crittalls Windows. The Museum is the focus for this distinguished industrial heritage in both textiles and engineering. With creativity and skill, the people of the Braintree area shared ideas which had a major influence on twentieth century life in England and the wider world.
Inspired exhibition galleries interpret the powerful local industrial heritage: the production of fabrics for State occasions during the past 200 years, as well as innovations in metal window design and man-made textiles. There were even Crittalls windows on the Titanic!
Just a 5 minutes walk from the Museum is the Warner Textile Archive, a new museum and a real success story, as well as being on the ERIH Regional Route.
Braintree District Museum is housed within the Victorian Manor Street Infant and Junior Schools in the centre of the market town of Braintree. Manor Street School was opened in 1862 on the site of the previous 1820 British School and Manor Farm, from a donation of £2,200 and an endowment of £1,000 by George Courtauld, the local textile manufacturer.
Later in 1897 the Infants School opened on the previous girl’s playground of the Junior School. The two schools continued until their closure in 1990. In 1993 Braintree District Museum opened on the site operated as a partnership by Braintree District Museum Trust and Braintree District Council. The two separate buildings were joined by an enclosed walkway in 2002 along with the refurbishment of the former Infants School to include a café, Learning for Life Centre and Museum store.
There is a changing temporary exhibition programme and displays on the history of Braintree District. The galleries focus on industrial heritage, with textile companies Warner & Sons and Courtaulds and the metal window manufacturer Crittalls. A further gallery is devoted to the natural scientist John Ray (1627 - 1705).
Research facilities exist with access to local archaeology, local history, photographic and textile archives. Educational services are provided for lifelong learning with a recreation of a Victorian classroom available for hire to groups including schools. The Museum shop sells a variety of local craft gifts and there is a cafe.