20th Century

York Castle Museum

One half of the Castle Museum - the Female Prison 2007

York Castle Museum is a landmark in the history of museums world-wide.  It was founded in 1938 by Dr John L. Kirk, who amassed most of the Museum’s collections, and John Bowes Morrell, a leading York City Councillor.

From the 1890’s onwards Dr Kirk collected with a passion - he bought, was given and accepted in lieu of fees.  The collection outgrew his Pickering home and was displayed in Pickering Memorial Hall in the 1920’s.  Dissatisfied with the condition of this building he offered then to any museum authority who would house it to his design.  The City of York agreed to his conditions and converted the former Female Prison

Kirk used the most revolutionary ideas of his day to create Period Rooms and the reconstructed Victorian street, Kirkgate.  These had an enormous impact on a public used to dry and dusty museums.  Years later these original displays have lost nothing of their appeal.

York Castle Museum has grown from the collections of Dr Kirk, it expanded into the Debtors' Prison in 1952.  The original vision continues and the museum still collects objects reflecting the everyday life of the region.  This has resulted in a rich and varied accumulation of objects, and a collection that is of national importance in its scope and quality.

By the end of the 20th century York Castle Museum had been enjoyed by over 31 million visitors.


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