History of the museum

The museum celebrates Market Harborough’s long history as a centre of trade and industry in the heart of the Welland Valley at the crossroads between Leicestershire and Northamptonshire.

Sitting at a crossroads at the edge of Leicestershire and Northamptonshire, the Harborough Museum collects material relating to the landscape and communities of Market Harborough and its surrounding area as defined by the 18th and 19th century carrier routes.

The museum grew out of the collection of the Market Harborough Historical and Archaeological Society, which held its first meeting in 1931. The following year several historic objects were displayed at a talk by H G Coales on the ‘history of Market Harborough’. The first recorded object given to the Society was an engraving of the town, presented by Mr Harris in 1932.

The Society’s growing collection was displayed in Welland House in The Square where it remained until 1939, when the ‘Museum Room’ was opened in the County Library on The Square. In 1981 a partnership between Harborough District Council, Leicestershire County Council and the Historical Society was formed to open a new museum. On the 28th June 1983 the Harborough Museum opened in the Symington Building.

The Society’s collection was the foundation of the museum and from the 1980s the County Council Museum Service developed and managed the museum collection with the continuing support of the Society. For the next 30 years displays, exhibitions, talks, events and publications celebrated the history and culture of the Harborough area and many objects were accessioned into the Market Harborough collection.

The creation of the Hallaton Treasure gallery in 2009 transformed the museum with major grants from a series of funders. The museum was refurbished as part of the transformation of the Symington Building in 2014 and was made possible by the support of the Market Harborough and the Bowdens Charity.