Greater Manchester Police Museum and Archives

They might be small in stature, but Greater Manchester’s small and speciality museums pack a mighty punch with their wealth of opportunities afforded to visitors to interact, learn, and play. Rich in historical and educational value, these unique museums offer manageable, easy-to-navigate ways to discover the unknown, alongside brushing up on local and regional knowledge.

Covering areas from aviation heritage to recreated ‘life as it was’ northern streets, check out our (in-exhaustive!) list of museums to visit on those days when you’re looking for an experience a little more bitesize, but no less impacting:

Saddleworth Museum and Gallery

A small community museum located in the beautiful Oldham village of Uppermill, Saddleworth Museum and Gallery tells the story of the people who created Saddleworth’s landscape and character. Housed in the only surviving area of the old Victoria Mill, the museum runs a varied programme of activities for families and school visitors throughout the year, community events including pop-ups, as well as playing host to permanent exhibitions in the community gallery showcasing Saddleworth life, and offering guests ways to interact (including a dress-up area for the kids!).

Admission: Small charge
Opening times: Monday - Sunday 13:00-16:00

Greater Manchester’s Museum of Transport

With a collection that spans 100 years of transport history housed within one of Greater Manchester’s earliest bus garages, the Museum of Transport is a working museum with a collection of vehicles restored to full working order, creating a realistic atmosphere of a ‘years gone by’ bus garage. Displaying pieces from a late-19th century Victorian horse drawn bus, to a full-sized prototype Metrolink tram, wares include vehicle collections and document displays, with the museum additionally playing host to large-scale events, car shows, and markets!

Admission: varies, check site for details
Opening times: Wednesday, Saturday, Sunday 10:00 - 16:30

Greater Manchester Police Museum and Archives

Founded in 1981, the Police Museum and Archives unveils Manchester’s hidden past through a variety of rooms, across courtyards, and over several floors of this original,  Northern-Quarter-situated police station. Lovingly restored to reflect the reality of policing in the late 1800s/early 1900s, visitors can go behind the scenes and witness the charge office, prison cells, and even a Magistrates Court! Hear first-hand stories from retired Police Officers and Staff, browse traditional displays and galleries, and discover the history of policing, from Robert Peel’s time up until modern day.

Admission: free 
Opening times: Tuesdays 10:30 - 15:30

Portland Basin Museum

Situated within the restored nineteenth century Ashton Canal Warehouse, this family-friendly museum offers visitors the chance to explore Tameside’s industrial heritage. With an educational play area, and temporary recreated 1920s street, the sights and sounds of the bygone era are brought to life canalside at Portland Basin.

Admission: free
Opening times: closed Monday, Tuesday-Sunday 10am-4pm

Bury Art Museum

Showcasing a mixture of work by local artists and those from further afield, Bury Art Museum displays exhibitions and collections as well as running a programme of events and activities to enhance the visitor experience. Built especially for the Wrigley Collection, with 200+ oil paintings, prints and ceramics by local paper manufacturer Thomas Wrigley, the Art Gallery sits alongside a Museum collection that features a diverse range of local artefacts, plus thematic displays covering topics that focus on local and social history.

Admission: Free
Opening times: Tuesday - Friday 10:00 - 17:00, Saturday 10:00 - 16:30

Salford Museum and Art Gallery

Welcoming visitors since 1850 when it opened as the UK’s first free public library, Salford Museum and Art Gallery combines permanent attractions (including Lark Hill Place, which this year hosts a temporary re-creation of a typical northern street from 1918 a part of the museum’s programme of WWI commemorations), and Local History Library with changing exhibits and displays guaranteed to inspire visitors of all ages. 

Admission: free
Opening times: Tuesday - Friday 9:30-16:30, Saturday - Sunday 11:30-16:00

Museum of Wigan Life

Don’t know why Wigan is famous for pies? Then a visit to the Museum of Wigan Life is for you! Designed by notable architect Alfred Waterhouse, and opened in the late 1800s as the town’s first Public Library (where George Orwell later researched for his The Road to Wigan Pier), the Museum of Wigan Life is a museum and local history resource centre, with a Local Studies area, and gallery that's home to special exhibitions (with children’s activities), as well as events and experiences that help you explore and find out more about local history. 

Admission: Free
Opening times:Monday - Tuesday, Thursday - Friday 10:00-17:00, Saturday 11:00-15:00

Ellenroad Engine House

Listed as a National Historic Monument, Ellenroad Mill was constructed in the late 1880s for the Ellenroad spinning Company, accommodating over 99,000 mule spindles with drawing frames and carding machines to produce fine cotton yarn. A visit to the Engine House offers guests the chance to check out the boilers, pump room, and other exhibits, as well as Victoria and Alexandra - the world’s largest twin steam mill engines of 3000 horsepower, and two of the only remaining artefacts in the surviving boiler house.

Admission: varies, check site
Opening times: Tuesday and Sundays 11:00 - 15:00, Saturdays 12:00 - 15:00 (steaming days, with charge - first Sunday of each month)

Avro Heritage Museum

Located on the former site of the Woodford Aerodrome, the museum boasts an exhibition hall featuring an Avro Vulcan B2 bomber XM603 built in Woodford, and used by the RAF, on permanent display, alongside an on-site cafe and shop. Host to the yearly Air Show, the museum holds the Avro Heritage Trust’s collection of 30,000+ aircraft development artefacts, and currently houses a replica of Avro Lancaster Bomber S for Sugar.

Admission: from £4pp
Opening times: varies depending on season, check website

Have your own small/speciality museum favourites? Be sure to recommend to other visitors below!