Like many of the country's museums, Bolton’s first museum building was created from an act of philanthropy.
Sir Benjamin Alfred Dobson
Samuel Taylor Chadwick
In 1876, Samuel Taylor Chadwick, a local medical doctor of some wealth, died. Chadwick had already gifted the Chadwick Orphanage to the town, and had done many other good works related to children’s health and welfare.
Chadwick left a bequest of £5000 to the Bolton Corporation for the ‘building, furnishing and maintenance of a Museum of Natural History in the Bolton Park’ (later renamed Queen’s Park).
The bequest came with the conditions that the museum had to be free entry and the museum building had to be erected in 4 years, or the fund would be lost.
The Corporation of course accepted the bequest and building began in 1878.
The sub-committee concerned with overseeing the building of the museum was chaired by Councilor B. A. Dobson from the family of cotton machine manufacturers that had founded the firm Dobson and Barlow.
Dobson provided a great deal of support to the fledgling museum donating and facilitating donations to the collections.
The Chadwick Museum was opened by Dobson on the 12th June 1884.
Today there are statues of both Dobson and Chadwick either side of the Town Hall in Victoria Square.
Displays at The Chadwick
The displays were arranged systematically within each collecting discipline, and hierarchically using the levels of the building.
The Chadwick Museum had three levels. The basement was organized with displays of minerals, rocks and fossils, stuff that had come from out of the ground.
The next level up, the ground floor, housed the zoology displays – taxidermied birds and animals, birds’ nests and eggs, shells, and insects.
The displays were therefore of what could be observed in the natural environment. Going up the stairs to the first floor was a metaphorical ascendance to the work of human hands.
The first floor was devoted anthropology, Egyptology and other antiquities. It also housed a room of curiosities.
The Museum thus combined systematically organized display with a bit of populism.
Field guide given to E. P. Holt by William Midgley and Midgley's inscription
Specimen of musk-mallow (malva moschata) collected by W. W. Midgely from Pwllhli, Carnarvon North Wales in August 1898