Five unmissable small museums

Good things can come in small packages – we choose our five of our favourite intimate museums and galleries across the UK.


Ditchling Museum of Art + Craft

If a museum's staff is a measure of its size, then Ditchling Museum is as small as they come. Before its £2.3m renovation, the museum was run by two full-time staff members, although a period of expansion has seen that figure grow to five. Founded in 1985 by sisters Hilary and Joanna Bourne, Ditchling has been transformed into a cutting-edge museum dedicated to presenting the creations of local artists and craftspeople in the 20th century, in the environment that inspired them. Ditchling was a finalist for the Art Fund Prize for Museum of the Year in 2014.


Fan Museum

Housed in two beautiful early Georgian townhouses in the heart of Greenwich, this is the only UK museum devoted to the art and history of fans. And once you've sampled the extensive collections that cover 3,000 years and many world cultures, the muraled Orangery overlooking the secret Japanese-style garden is the perfect place for a leisurely afternoon tea.

Sir John Soane's Museum

Sir John Soane's Museum

John Soane was one of the greatest British architects of the late 18th and early 19th centuries – his top-lit design for Dulwich Picture Gallery was a key influence on modern museum and gallery planning. He amassed an eclectic collection of art and objects, from Egyptian sarcophagi to Peruvian pottery. While some of his collection ended up in the British Museum, much of it remains on display in his former home at 12 Lincoln's Inn Fields.


Penlee House Gallery and Museum

This Italianate villa near the coast was built in 1865 for JR Branwell, a wealthy merchant related to the Brontë family. It was taken over in the mid 20th century and transformed into a district museum. The main focus of the Penlee collection is on works by painters from the Newlyn School – a colony of artists who worked in Cornwall from the 1880s to the 1930s, including Laura Knight and Walter Langley. The gallery doesn't have a fixed art display, instead hosting a rotating programme of exhibitions featuring works from its permanent collection.


Stanley Spencer Gallery

Three years after Stanley Spencer's death, this gallery opened in the village where he was born – a lasting memorial to one of Britan's greatest 20th-century artists. It occupies the former Victorian Methodist Chapel where Spencer worshipped as a child, which would come to have a huge influence on his religious paintings. The collection includes Spencer's religious paintings and portraits, along with drawings, letters and other personal items.

"Art Fund" is the operating name of the National Art Collections Fund, a charity registered in England and Wales (209174) and Scotland (SC038331)