In pictures: How the Cromwell Museum are taking history to the streets

Published 6 July 2021

Paintings and people from the past have been popping up around the market town of Huntingdon, where the Cromwell Museum have created an outdoor art trail with replicas of works from their collection.

Until 25 July, locals and visitors to the Cambridgeshire town of Huntingdon can enjoy spotting works of art in unusual places, from shop windows to hotel gates.

Created by the Cromwell Museum with support from Art Fund, this outdoor exhibition explores the life of infamous 17th-century figure Oliver Cromwell, who was born in the town, and features a number of replicas of paintings from the museum’s collection, as well as reproductions of objects and artefacts as window graphics.

With 12 works of art to spot, including full-size replicas of paintings framed to look like the real thing, the trail is a unique and Covid-secure way to learn about Cromwell’s connection to the area and this period of local history. We went along to the launch of the trail to capture it coming to life, with the help of some costumed characters…

Art Fund was able to support the Cromwell Museum's town centre art trail thanks to the generosity of our members and donors. Thank you for making a difference.

On the day of the launch, costumed re-enactors appeared around the town to chat to visitors about life in the time of Oliver Cromwell.

Visitors can download a PDF of the trail map or pick up a print copy at the Cromwell Museum or Huntingdon Library, and set out in search of the 12 works of art positioned around the town. There's also an audio tour to guide you around the trail, available on the Smartify app or online at smartify.org.

The works can be found in locations related to Cromwell, or in places that share a theme – for example one of his books appears at the library. A replica of a portrait of Cromwell by famed portrait painter Peter Lely sits outside Cromwell Nursing Home, the site of his birth.

The museum itself is housed in the former Huntingdon Grammar School building where Cromwell went to school, and explores his early years before he became involved in national politics, as well as his military career and the impact of his life and legacy up to the modern day. While exploring his status as one of the most famous figures in British history it also acknowledges the complexities of Cromwell as a person and his actions.

Running alongside the outdoor art trail, the museum's current exhibition, Trial of the Huntingdon 9, looks back at a dark time in the area's local history, when the self-styled 'Witchfinder General' Matthew Hopkins visited the town and, in May 1646, several people from the county were accused, tried and found guilty of witchcraft. The display tells their story, and includes rarely seen documents relating to the accusations and a local clergyman's attempts to stop the persecution.


The Cromwell Museum's town centre art trail is on until 25 July 2021. Find out more at cromwellmuseum.org/events/town-centre-art-trail

This project is supported by a Respond and Reimagine grant from Art Fund, made possible by Art Fund's members and donors. Find out more about how you can help museums on the road to recovery.

All photos © My Linh Le / Art Fund 2021

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