The Best Museum in the World? - The Land of Lost Content, Craven Arms.

Headed down to Craven Arms with friends over the weekend to take them to the fantastic Land of Lost Content – the “National Museum of British Popular Culture”. This is one of the most fantastic places in Shropshire, and pretty much my favourite museum in the world. It is, as it’s byline suggests, a museum of British Popular Culture – all the stuff over the past hundred years that makes us who we are. Not our politicians and our generals, not the wars that have been fought or the cathedrals that have been built, not the guns and the tanks, the motorways and the skyscrapers, the Kings and the Bishops – but the small things, the everyday things. This is a museum dedicated to our food and our clothes, the things we used day in and day out, our toys and our games, our books and our magazines, our hobbies and our past-times. It’s a outsider museum dedicated to the everyday ephemera of life, from the First World War until the 1990s. It is an astonishing collection: three floors of a converted market hall, packed to the ceilings, every room stuffed with objects. It’s full of things that you’ll recognise – things you once owned and threw away. The museum is a reminder of all the little bits and bobs that fill our world – from lamps to lineoleum, lawn chairs to lingerie, lightbulbs to lunch-boxes. It’s a museum not of our “history” or our “heritage” – but of our lives.

I cannot recommend this place enough. I’ve been twice, and seen new things every time. It’s a fiver to get in – possibly the best fiver you’ll ever spend on a museum ticket. The owner, Stella Mitchell, is incredibly knowledgable about everything in her collection, and is more than happy to stop and chat with you about anything that catches your eye or that sparks your interest. There’s even a great little cafe up in the eaves of the Museum where you can get a cup of tea if you need a halftime break.

The Land of Lost Content is located in the grandly-named “Vintage Quarter” of Craven Arms. This quarter seemed to consist primarily of a charity shop and an antique shop that was closing down, but tucked in between them was another jewel: an Edwardian – 1930s fashion shop called Bertie’s. The shop is exquisite, absolutely exquisite.  The furnishings, the trompe-l’oeil wallpaper, the lighting – even the faint lavender-musk perfume in the air: it’s outfitted much as, I imagine, a genuine fashion shop would have appeared between 1900-odd and the early 1930s. The clothing (all women’s, unfortunately for me) was the genuine article and in excellent condition. How this place manages to survive in Craven Arms I have no idea, but the owner – an enthusiastic and chatty man who’s name is Robert, I think – told us that he is open three days a week (Thursday, Friday, Saturday 10-4:30), and has a number of dedicated clients. On his website I notice that he also manages an archive collection available to professional stylists.

So, if you’re heading down to Craven Arms for any reason, or are looking for an excuse to see something unique, I can thoroughly recommend both The Land of Lost Content and Bertie’s.

(Note to self: I wonder if Stella would allow us to do a sketching day in the Land of Lost Content…?)