Panacea Museum

Panacea Museum, Bedford: Hours, Address, Panacea Museum Reviews: 4.5/5

Panacea Museum
4.5
11:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Thursday
11:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Friday
11:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Saturday
11:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Sunday
11:00 AM - 5:00 PM
About
Discover the amazing story of the unique religious community who created their own Garden of Eden in the centre of Bedford. The Panacea Museum is in ‘Castleside’, a beautiful Victorian house that was part of the community’s headquarters. It tells the story of the Panacea Society and other similar religious groups. The museum also incorporates several other buildings, set within the gardens, that formed the original community’s campus.
Suggested duration
1-2 hours
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Address
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4.5
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Ortrud
Beckenham58 contributions
The Victorian rooms are worth seeing in their own right
Aug 2021
I echo the comments of most other reviewers. I will add that the museum is very well laid out; a route is marked clearly, and there is a good mix of "words to read" and objects to look at - whichever you prefer. A forgotten cult now, but in the 1920s it was a household name. Amazingly it was mentioned in a Monty Python sketch decades later. Most striking for me is the fitting-out of many of the rooms in the solid late-Victorian style that appealed to comfortably-off middle-class people, which are tremendously evocative. The museum is worth going to just for them.
Written 8 August 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Travel Frog
48 contributions
If you have any interest in cults you must visit this museum
May 2021 • Solo
A genuine one of a kind museum in Bedford, of all places. I can't think of another place in Britain that preserves the legacy of such a small religious movement so lovingly. I'd really recommend visiting this cool place if you have any interest in cults, although the Panacea Society was a very benign example of one.

The museum is made up of two houses - each with rooms (including toilets) preserved as they were in the 1930s. There's a beautiful little garden between the two, and a really pretty chapel where Octavia's followers worshipped. The museum, which is ran by a charity that is descended from the Panacea Society, presents a pretty fair, occasionally critical view of the belief system of Octavia and her followers.

I'd advise reading up on Octavia and the Panacea Society before coming - the first section of the museum is very text heavy. The Panacea Society is just one of many movements based on the writings of Joanna Southcott, and the museum covers the (many, many) other prophets and splinter groups associated with "Southcottism". It's interesting stuff but I did spend a lot of time reading text on billboards.

The museum includes accessible toilets, a lift and large text booklets for those with visibility issues. Entry is free and the staff are very helpful. There's a small gift shop selling books and a few souvenirs - currently they only take cash for these.
Written 23 May 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

RabbitRoamer
Bucks, England224 contributions
“ A Terribly English Cult” … and a fascinating visit ...
Mar 2020
If you are of a certain age you may recall the curious newspaper advertisements regarding Joanna Southcott’s Box and a form of spiritual healing ... this peculiar offshoot of Anglicanism and middle-class eccentricity was the source of these ...

The Panacea Society itself existed as a religious organisation for nearly a hundred years until the last members died in 2012 ... but in its last years arrangements were made to transfer its work and assets to a charitable trust that became the Panacea Trust of today ...

This is their Museum ...

A fascinating place that strikes a neutral tone (it does not proselytise) as it guides you on a journey through social, political and religious thought of the 18th, 19th and 20th Centuries (via Southcott, Wroe, Jezreel et al.) to arrive at the origins of the Panacea Society, and their surprisingly Feminist flavour of Anglicanism ...

… and then there is THE BOX …

All of this is excellently presented in various buildings around the Campus, which is a lawn area that the Society considered to be on the site of the Garden of Eden … you are most welcome to rest here in pleasant surroundings. There is a small but peaceful Chapel and a tea shop in the Founder’s House.

Recommended for those with an interest in social history … and Edwardian interior design …

An excellent visit, allow a couple of hours, there’s more than you expect, and could also be combined with a visit to the Bedford Museum and Art Gallery opposite …

An unexpected Gem that is highly recommended ..!
Written 8 March 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Maggie S
1 contribution
Fantastic group visit
Mar 2020
Absolute gem of a museum.....thought provoking, whacky, beautiful setting, historic time capsule.....but, best of all, our guide Adrian Bean who was full of knowledge and brought the whole experience to life.
Written 7 March 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

AlexClare
Birmingham, UK289 contributions
Interesting visit
Mar 2020
Entry to this museum is free. The only lift is in the main building. There are loos. There's lots to look at. There are information panels explaining the history. As well as learning more about the society, it was also interesting to see how rooms would have been in Edwardian era.
Written 6 March 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Steve1024012
Irthlingborough, UK30 contributions
Mad but interesting
Oct 2019
We called in this Museum on our way to the better known Cecil Higgins Museum. We enjoyed our visit so much that we stayed until closing time, (about 2 hours). The whole belief of the Panacea Society is totally bonkers but is completely absorbing. A great visit on a summer day. There is even a small tea room to sit and relax in.
Written 23 January 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

LoveourholsBristol
Bristol149 contributions
Totally fascinating
Sep 2019
Visited this museum whilst staying with relatives in Bedford.
We found the whole history totally absorbing. A wonderful place to visit, with lots of interesting and fascinating displays, which left me wanting to find out even more about the Panacea Society and their way of life.
Written 18 January 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Richard_RDJ
Bedford, England33 contributions
Quite unique
Oct 2019
A totally unique museum, we have taken people there on 5 or 6 occasions, and always find more to interest us
Written 29 November 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

John F
Hitchin, UK612 contributions
A baffling and bonkers religious dead end, but a fascinating way to spend a couple of hours
Oct 2019
I thought I knew a fair bit about the mysterious Panacea Society in Bedford before finally getting a chance to visit the free museum when a trip to the town coincided with the limited opening hours, and it proved a real eye-opener.
It quickly transpired that my knowledge only scratched the surface of this barmy band, but the whole story is told with respectful neutrality and the visitor is left to make up their own mind about the undoubted devotion of the community to such a questionable cause.
There is a dry 21st century wit to some of the explanatory boards but generally it's a dispassionate explanation of a frankly incredible story and I particularly appreciated the section on other millenarian cults, which reminded me of a trip to New Lanark which also took pains to explain that comparable ventures sprang up in other parts of the world.
A fascinating way to spend a couple of hours.
Written 28 November 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Jenny H
England, UK124 contributions
Fascinating museum
Jun 2019
A quirky and fascinating museum spread out over a number of buildings. The introduction video is worth watching as it really does help explain all about the site and the history. I had a warm welcome from the volunteer at the front desk.
Written 20 October 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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Frequently Asked Questions about Panacea Museum

Panacea Museum is open:
  • Thu - Sun 11:00 - 17:00