Free Museums in Kent

For free things to do in Kent the county’s varied and fascinating museums are full of great collections for all ages and interests. There are family collections, local artefacts and displays, maritime, police history and lots more to enjoy – all for free.
For a full round-up of all Museums in Kent click here, they are also broken down into the four main areas of the county- Museums in Kent – West Kent, Museums in Kent – South KentMuseums in Kent – North Kent and Museums in Kent – East Kent.

Free Museums in Kent

Covering Sevenoaks, Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells

Tunbridge Wells
Founded by the Tunbridge Wells Natural History and Philosophical Society in 1885, and the Council later adopted the collection in 1918. Amelia Scott was a social reformer and campaigner for women’s suffrage and the new building is named after her. She was a supporter of municipal museums and libraries and believed it was ‘a necessity that cannot be postponed indefinitely. They have a long history of collecting and engaging with the local community, and new home for the collection, The Amelia, reflects many aspects of the story of Tunbridge Wells and the High Weald. Overall, they care for around 60,000 objects covering local history, natural history, archaeology, fine and decorative arts, and social history. They host a  range of events including workshops, talks, festival events and lots more. Open daily – see our listing for more details. Price: Free entry – though some events may incur a charge.

Tunbridge Wells
Part of the Salomons Estate the museum is formed from two ground-floor rooms and packed with fascinating exhibits that chart the history of three remarkable generations of the Salomons family, with collections of paintings, photographs and mementoes documenting the history of the family. Time: Daily
9am-5pm. Price: Free. Read More

Tunbridge Wells
The collection showcases the history of the village and its inhabitants, covering family history, business and building heritages and with collections constantly being updated is Grade II listed. The three-floor museum, housed in a 15th Century timber-framed building has a mix of exhibitions and displays featuring boot making, millinery, military memorabilia, and lots more. Time: April to October, Tuesday to Saturday & Summer Bank Holidays, Sunday in August: 2pm-4.30pm. Price: Free – donations welcome. Read More

highlight key events and people that have shaped the local area, such as the town’s first fire brigade in the 1800s and the Women’s Land Army in WW2. There are over 4,000 objects held in the museum’s collection, including a mammoth tooth, Roman jewellery, medieval floor tiles, an early cricket bat, a printing press, and an embroidery made by WW2 evacuees. Children can dress up and play games. The museum is part of Kaleidoscope, which incorporates the library, museum and contemporary art gallery. Opening hours: Monday- except Bank Holidays 10am-6pm, Tuesday to Friday 10am-5pm, Saturday 10am-4pm. Price: Free. Read More

Edenbridge, Sevenoaks
Collection of local artefacts from residents past and present that represent the various trades and crafts practised in Eden Valley. With more than 4,000 photographs, paintings and drawings that also tell the stories of local communities born and raised in Eden Valley. Time: Wednesday & Friday: 2pm–4.30pm, Thursday & Saturday: 10am–4.30pm. Price: Free. Read More

Covering Deal, Dover, Folkestone and Hythe

This maritime and land-based craft living museum is based at the wooden boatyard building on the slipway by the Quay in the town. It is a base for educating and mentoring in medieval crafts and skills to ensure that the rich history of Sandwich in this period is not lost to future generations. With regular workshops and events including reenactments. Winter opening hours: Saturday 10am-3pm, Sunday 11am-2pm. Price: Free entry, though for some events there is a charge. Read More

The museum holds documents and material related to the history of Sandwich. The collection includes maps, plans, photographs, as well as books and research that provide a background to the historic town’s and nearby towns history. It also includes the 1300AD Sandwich Magna Carta in this 16th-century building. Time; Wednesday to Sunday, 10am-4pm. Price: Free entry. Read More

Housed in an old industrial building on the site of a former market garden, Deal Maritime and Local History Museum itself has as rich a history and portrays the changing history of Deal, Walmer and surrounding areas that are ‘packed to the rafters with fascinating glimpses into the past’. It has maritime and local history galleries as well as Royal Marines exhibition. Time: April to October. Price: Free – donations welcome. Read More

Betteshanger Country Park, Deal
Built on the former Betteshanger Colliery site, draws on the collection built up over the years by the East Kent coalfield communities and aims to complete the story of mining in the UK. It offers a range of exhibitions, events and experiences including meet a miner at this mining heritage centre.
Opening Hours: Wednesday to Sunday 9.30am-4pm. Price: Free to enter – donations welcome. Parking charges apply for the park. Read More

famous for its Bronze Age Boat, the world’s oldest known seagoing vessel, discovered in 1992 and thought to be around 3,000 years old. The museum is one of the oldest in Kent, originally founded in 1836. As well as the castle, Dover’s rich history from prehistoric times, Stone, Bronze and Iron Ages are showcased. Time:  April to September, Monday to Saturday: 9.30am to 5pm, Sunday: 10am to 3pm. October to March, Monday to Saturday: 9.30am to 5pm. Price: Free. Read More

The Museum is full of treasures found in the town that date back as far as the Bronze Age. Locals also donated items such as costumes, artworks and engravings that showcase the town’s history. Time: Tuesday to Saturday, 10am-4pm. Advised to check their website before visiting. Price: Free – donations welcome. Hold regular events throughout the year. Read More

local history museum is based within the Town Council house, a former Doctor’s home and surgery adjacent to the Royal Military Canal, and accessed via the local library. Travel through the history of Hythe from Roman times and then as a Cinque Port, with maps, furniture, costume, military equipment (linked to the Small Arms School of Musketry in Hythe for over 100 years before it was moved to Warminster), commercial, civic and social objects. Opening Hours – when Hythe Library is open – Monday: 9.30am-5pm (while Folkestone Library is closed) Tuesday to Friday: 9.30am-5pm, Saturday: 9.30am-4.30pm. Price: Free. Read More

Covering Dartford, Gravesend, Maidstone, Rochester, Gillingham, Chatham and Isle of Sheppey

The museum was founded in 1897 within this 17th-Century civic building and includes the ornate Chamber which featured in Dicken’s novel, Great Expectations. Learn all about the building’s history and the heritage of the area. The many displays include a full-size reconstruction of part of a Medway prison hulk, archaeological objects, civic silver and regalia from Medway’s past, and lots more. The permanent exhibition on Charles Dickens, The Making Of Mr Dickens, looks at the author’s life and what shaped his work. Opening Hours: Tuesday to Saturday, 10am to 5pm. Price: Free entry. Read More

Chatham, Medway
A former sewage pumping station built in 1929 showcases exhibits about its heritage, as well as the industrial history of the Medway Towns and the surrounding area. Time: First Saturday of the month: 11 am-3 pm. Price: Free – see our listing here.

Opened in 1858, now showcasing more than 600,000 artefacts and specimens, the Museum has been compared to a smaller version of the Victoria & Albert Museum. The collections include ancient Egyptians, archaeology from Anglo-Saxon to remnants of Roman occupation in Maidstone, costumes and textiles, ethnography, natural history and biology artefacts that showcase the towns and the country’s mixed heritage. They hold regular activities throughout the year for all ages. Time: Various throughout the year – see our listing for details. 7th June to 22nd July 2023, Wednesday to Saturday, 24th July to 31th August 2023, Monday to Saturday. Closed 29th August. 10am-4pm. Price: Free entry some events may incur a charge. Read More

Housed in the 14th Century stables of the Archbishop’s Palace complex used by the Archbishop of Canterbury when travelling through the county, the collection was the gift of Sir Garrard Tyrwhitt-Drake, the 12-time Mayor of Maidstone. He started the collection when he realised that they were being replaced by cars. Opened in 1946, it is the first of its kind and is considered one of the finest collections in Europe, with over 60 vehicles on display. Time: 6th April to 21st September: 11am-3pm – subject to staffing.  Price: Free – donations welcome. Read More

Within the Dartford Library, this is one of the smallest museums in Kent showcasing the chronological story of the town as revealed by archaeology with social history items of more recent periods. Artefacts on display include from the Stone and Bronze Ages, jewellery from the Anglo-Saxon period, and the Darenth Bowl, a moulded glass vessel dated from the 5th Century as well as a reconstruction of a draper’s shop that once existed in the High Street. Time: Monday to Friday: 10am-5pm, Saturday: 10am-4pm. Price: Free. Read More

Sheerness, Isle of Sheppey
The museum focusses on preserving and maintaining the rich history of aviation on the Isle of Sheppey and is based in one of the RAF training rooms built in the 1920s. Time: Tuesday, Thursday Friday and Saturday: 10am-3pm. Price: Free – donations welcome. Read More

Isle of Sheppey
The museum history of the town from a small Saxon settlement to a weather borough and royal castle built by Edward III. It is full of Victorian heritage and Queenborough was also home to hundreds of minesweeping vessels during World War II. Artefacts from its rich heritage can be seen and visitors can view the first courtroom of the Guildhall on the Isle of Sheppey, and also take a trip down to the dungeon. Time: April to October, Saturday: 2pm-5pm. Price: Adult: £0.50, child: Free. Read More

The museum within a museum – the Maidstone Museum – documents the history of Maidstone’s local regiment from its foundations in 1756 to its amalgamation in 1961. The regiment was involved in many of the British Army’s campaigns of the 18th and 19th Centuries,  World War I and II. The gallery is full of fascinating, colourful and thought-provoking objects such as the Sutlej Gun and four Victoria Crosses, with a focus on the stories objects tell and the people at the heart of the regiment. Low Season / Term Time: Wednesday to Saturday. High Season/School holidays: Tuesday to Saturday – 10am-4pm – though some variations during the year. Price: Free entry. Read More

Covering Ashford, Tenterden, Canterbury, Broadstairs, Ramsgate, Margate, Birchington, Herne Bay, Whitstable, Faversham and Sittingbourne

Step back in time to trace Faversham’s growth from early settlement to the height of its prosperity, explained in words, illustrations, photographs and sound. Hop growing, fruit growing, charcoal production for explosives, clay field for brick, and the importance of Faversham Creek are highlighted in the Museum through over 40,000 objects, artefacts and images that can be explored to learn more about Faversham’s rich history. The gallery hosts a changing programme of artistic and historical exhibitions, with work by both local artists and showcasing items from the Museum’s collections. Friday and Saturday, 11am to 3pm. Price: Free entry. Read More

An extensive collection that details the history of Kent Police dating back to 1857 where you can try on a police uniform and hear real-life stories. Explore photographs, artefacts, documents and lots more. Time: Open from 30th March 2024, times TBC. Price: Free entry. Read More

The Beaney in Canterbury is a building to be admired in its own right. It is an art gallery, library and visitor information centre and houses collections including silverware, mosaics, and sculptures, with displays of children’s favourites Rupert Bear and Bagpuss. It features sculptures of the Magna Carta Barons, created for the Palace of Westminster when rebuilt after the fire of 1834 and given to the museum in 1906. Holds regular exhibitions and activities for children and adults throughout the year. Time: Tuesday to Saturday, 10am-5pm and Sunday. 11am-4pm. Price: Free, donations welcome, and may be a charge for some events. Read More

The museum has a rare collection of national and international exhibits regarding Freemasonry history. Items on display include books, regalia, and coves all Masonic orders through the ages. Time: various, 10am-4pm – check before visiting as vary month-by-month. Price: Free – donations welcome. Read More

A varied collection, including a pre-historic collection featuring a 200 million-year-old dinosaur leg bone. Visitors can also explore artefacts from the Neolithic, Romano-Briton, and Anglo-Saxon periods, and the World War I feature, Life in the Trenches. This World War II prisoner-of-war display highlights the military history of the town. Local businesses past and lost, exhibits of medical instruments from the old Ashford and cottage hospitals, the lives and the demise of a smuggler gang, and railway memorabilia including two model railways. Time: April to October, Tuesday to Saturday: 11am-2pm. Price: Free. Read More

Between Ashford and Tenterden
Housed in an 18th Century oak-framed barn and 17th Century cart shed, on a rural site with a varied collection from wagons to coins. Artefacts from the Stone Age to the present day are all linked by a connection to the village of Woodchurch. Time: Easter to late October, Saturday, Sunday and Bank Holidays: 10am-4pm. Price: Free. Read More.

Based at the Kent and East Sussex Railway focuses on the work and life of the engineer, Holman Fred Stephens, who was significantly involved in building 16 light railways. The museum features a range of artefacts and articles about the engineer’s work and family, and locomotives and vehicles. Time: Easter to October on the railway’s operation days. Price: Free – donations welcome. Read More

Housed over two floors and has exhibits and works that showcase the history of the Cinque Ports, the importance of the busy seaport of Small Hythe, and the development of Tenterden around its 13th-Century market area. It also has a Tapestry Room that has 14 panels that depict the town’s history –  from Roman times and exhibits from local potteries, the tannery, and the brewery as well as the emergency services. There are 19th Century hop press and harvesting illustrations displayed,  photographs, old maps, postcards, and even a Horse Drawn Fire Engine. Time: 1st April – or Good Friday if earlier until mid-December – Mondaty to Saturday: 10am to 4pm, Sunday: 1pm-4pm. Price: Adults: £3, Child – under 18 years, and students: Free. Read More

discover their secrets, from how these crustaceans maintain the oceans to how they help with important new medicines. Europe’s only museum dedicated to the world of the decapod which is incredibly diverse – all sizes, all types form vulnerable to indestructible and those a million years old. Crabs can teach us about biology, climate change, evolutionary history and much more. Discover the many facets of the crab at this fascinating new museum. Friday to Sunday
11am-5pm, school holidays times may vary. Price: Free entry. Read More

Manston, Thanet
The museum dates back to World War I when, from the outset of the war, nearby St Mildred’s Bay inn Westgate-on-Sea was used as a landing strip for aircraft. In 1915-1916, aircraft started to use the open farmland of Manston as an emergency landing site. Soon the Admiralty established an aerodrome at Manston and was integral in providing air defence. It also is heavily involved in World War II, where it was heavily bombed during the Battle of Britain. The collection has a plethora of historic artefacts from the Second World War including a Supermarine Spitfire and a Hawker Hurricane and you can book a flight on their Spitfire simulator. Time: Tuesday to Sunday, open Bank Holiday Monday: 10am-5pm. Price: Free entry, Spitfire Simulator: £30. Read More

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Picture credit: © THE KENT POLICE MUSEUM

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