The unusual Sheffield museums even most locals won’t have visited

The Alfred Denny Museum is one of Sheffields lesser-known gems and is home to a fascinating collection of strange specimens (Photo: Alfred Denny Museum / Animal and Plant Sciences, University of Sheffield / Facebook)

Sheffield may be best known for its industrial heritage, but the Steel City has much more interesting history waiting to be discovered.

The Alfred Denny Museum of Zoology is a perfect example.

Tucked away in the Department of Animal and Plant Sciences at the University of Sheffield, this fascinating museum is well hidden and often flies under the radar.

A centre for learning

Established in 1905, the museum takes its name from the department’s first professor of biology, Alfred Denny, and has been in continuous use for teaching undergraduates at the university for more than 100 years.

Inside, an array of strange and interesting specimens from the world of natural history are on display, including fossils, remnants of extinct animals, fully articulated skeletons, and rare letters written by Charles Darwin.

The museum also houses a large spirit collection (animals stored in alcohol), some of which have been there since the early 1900s.

While the museum was primarily only used for used for research purposes by the university’s staff and students, it opened its doors to the general public for the first time in 2012, as part of the Festival of the Mind.

It was the first time the collection had been on public show for 40 years.

Open by popular demand

Visitors to the Alfred Denny Museum are now welcome to attend guided tours on the first Saturday of every month (running at 10am, 11am and 12pm), where they will have the chance to peruse the captivating collection.

Alongside its popular tours (which should be booked in advance due to limited places), the museum is also keen to inspire young people to get involved with science, and runs a special school outreach programme to promote more interest in the field.

More unusual and lesser-known museums in Sheffield

The Nichols Building

Far from a traditional museum, The Nichols Building is actually an independent shopping arcade, housed inside a stunning three story Victorian warehouse, which dates back to 1854.

Inside you’ll find a treasure trove of vintage antiques, retro jewellery, crafts, photography and homeware, which you can easily lose an hour or two rummaging through.

It’s a great place to pick up something unique, and even if you aren’t buying, the unusual collection of antique wares make for an interesting browse.

Sheffield Manor Lodge

This beautiful heritage attraction is the last remains of what was once the Great Sheffield Deer Park. It is home to the ruins of a grand Tudor mansion (where Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned for 14 years), a working farm, and 1940s cottages, which recreate life on the eve of the Sheffield Blitz.

The focus here is on exploration and interactivity, and visitors are free to explore, meet the animals that live on-site, attend talks and tours, and see history brought to life by costumed characters.

Bishop’s House

Built at the end of the 15th century, Bishop’s House is the best surviving timber framed house in Sheffield, and is open to the public at weekends.

The charming Grade II listed building has been open as a museum since 1976, allowing visitors to explore the exhibits in the house and get a glimpse of life many centuries ago.

The house’s location – at the top of Meersbrook Park – makes it a popular stopping off point for walkers, following the Sheffield Round Walk.

National Emergency Services Museum

Housed inside a purpose-built combined police, fire and ambulance station, dating back to the 1890s, there are more than 45 vehicles on display in the National Emergency Services Museum.

These include horse drawn fire engines, vintage police cars, and mines rescue vehicles. Some of the museum’s exhibits make use of lights, sound and smoke to help recreate the drama of a real life emergency situation.

Cupola Gallery

Often overshadowed by Sheffield’s Millennium and Graves Galleries, Cupola has grown to become one of the largest and most well-respected contemporary art spaces in the north.

Established in 1991, it boasts four gallery spaces (which house the varied work of more than 300 artists), and an award-winning sculpture garden.

The space hosts regular exhibitions where visitors can purchase something rare and unique to take home.

Originally published on our sister title, iNews

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