The Higgins Bedford

The Higgins Bedford: Hours, Address, The Higgins Bedford Reviews: 4.5/5

The Higgins Bedford
Art Galleries • History Museums
11:00 AM - 5:00 PM
11:00 AM - 5:00 PM
11:00 AM - 5:00 PM
11:00 AM - 5:00 PM
11:00 AM - 5:00 PM
11:00 AM - 5:00 PM
2:00 PM - 5:00 PM
The Higgins Bedford is Bedford's art gallery and museum. It's a place to explore collections of fine & decorative arts, world-class watercolours, local stories and find out about great Bedfordians. Changing exhibitions mean there is always something new to see. There is lots to do for all the family.
Suggested duration
1-2 hours
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189 reviews
Very good

1 contribution
Oct 2021
Just visited the Higgins and we were very impressed. This is a really excellent county museum with some very interesting exhibits. We learnt a lot more about the history of Bedford and Bedfordshire. There is a very eclectic mix here and what with the gallery, collections of early glass and then the latest experiential work, Airship Dreams, you cannot put the Higgins into a ‘box with a label’. There’s something here for all to enjoy.
The experiential creation, Airship Dreams, is an impressive abstract work of 40 minutes to celebrate the achievement and the tragedy of the R101 Airship, built at Cardington. This is a good experience to complete your visit, a thought provoking meditation of some depth.
Written October 22, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

London, UK11,130 contributions
Mar 2020 • Solo
Bedford’s main museum and art gallery is now rather simplistically called The Higgins. Unless a local one might be forgiven for thinking it’s a pub or even a shrine to a snooker player or character in My Fair Lady or even a combination of all three. It’s a rambling sort of place with arrows pointing to particular displays in any number of conflicting directions. I went purposefully to revisit the Edward Bawden exhibition and its splendid collection of some of his most famous limo cuts of Brighton Squares, City of London markets and Westminster Abbey. Also a splendid and vast collage in homage to local icon John Bunyan. On the way there and back on a corridor wall I was delighted to spot a truly impressive William Scott.
Written March 13, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Bedford, UK45 contributions
Feb 2020
Should be nationally recognised. Firstly you have the rooms celebrating the history of Bedford from prehistoric to present. Then the exhibitions displaying the recent histories of immigrants to the town.
Then a fantastic art gallery/rooms with pictures by Turner , impressionists, modernists, contemporary Art, etc. Then upstairs rooms of fantastic glassware, and pottery. Can take a few hours to browse your way round, then a look round the shop, before dining at the very highly rated Higgins Pantry.
If you have any time left a visit to the next door Bunyan Museum, and .......Panacea museum. Three treasures in the centre of Bedford.
Written August 13, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Falmouth, UK28 contributions
May 2021 • Solo
An excellent blend of the loved traditional county museum and an art gallery, with the addition of the beautiful Georgian house. Bright, clean, very well interpreted. Refreshing lack of daft interactive exhibits that in many museums sit as relives to recent, bypassed technology and no longer work. Friendly staff and volunteers. Bawden collection worth the visit on its own. Shop has very good selection of unique cards based on the collections, ant the attached Italian restaurant (The Pantry) made delicious panino lunch and artisan ice cream. The Higgins is right next to the castle, the river and bridge and the charming St Paul’s Square. It’s free! Worth a visit to Bedford for half a day.
Written June 21, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Brackley, UK54 contributions
Feb 2020
We visited primarily for the Bawden exhibition but we were very impressed by the "Dreams" exhibition running at the same time with a very wide variety of work. Almost unbelievably all the work in these two specialist exhibitions came from the gallery's own collection. What else is hidden in the vaults?

Apart from the special exhibitions, anyone interested in the Arts and Crafts movement should visit.

If that wasn't enough, the cafe attached is way better than the normal museum / gallery offering - equal range and quality to anything in bigger towns and cities.

Highly recommended.
Written February 22, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

4 contributions
Feb 2020
First thing to say is that this wouldn’t be a place I would usually visit. However, a recent genealogy search by a family member revealed we are descendents of the Higgins ‘brewing family ‘.
‘Flabbergasted’ would be an understatement as we had no idea of this shared family history . We originate from a different part of the country, heard no distant rumours of ‘money’ in the past, and have been relatively unremarkable in success terms !
However, the museum and art galley seemed a must to see and what a wonderful experience that offers something for everyone.
The Higgins house and also the Cecil Higgins collection was of particular interest to us with a wonderful family tree illustrating their history.
However, my favourite area was the Burges collection. It is a decently sized collection including a zodiac settle, famous red bed (that he died in), wardrobe and more with all having the wonder & detail associated with Burges.
I drive past his former home most days. Tower House in Holland Park is now the home of Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page and Mr Page is an avid collector and custodian of Burges style & legacy . I did enquire If Mr Page had visited the collection but they could not confirm this. However, they did say Andrew Lloyd Webber turned up unannounced and visited the Burges collection where he was interested in a particular piece of Burges furniture .
A thoroughly enjoyable visit that will be of interest to all ages.
The only downside was that we struggled for long term parking in Bedford so could not visit the attached Higgins pantry.
Oh ! And when I asked for a ‘family’ discount on some items we purchased unfortunately that could not be accommodated ! 🤣🤣
Written February 7, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Martin S
4 contributions
Feb 2020 • Couples
Having moved to Bedford from Sussex five years ago the Higgins has been a regular both for the interesting history but also the wonderful art.
Housed in the old brewery first time visitors won’t realise how large a space it has.
Something for Bedford to be proud of.
Written February 22, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Michael T
Thurleigh, UK976 contributions
Jan 2020 • Couples
Despite living local for over 25 years this was my first time. Free to visit but suggest a donation.

Lots to see in relation to local history. It was amazing what I managed to learn about Bedford over the years and the surrounding area.

Recommend a visit.
Written January 26, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Bedford, UK632 contributions
Dec 2014 • Couples
The Higgins rebranding has been successful - the old house style had its merits but this modern space has a better feel and reflects the multicultural community of Bedford in a way the old style never did - the whole area around the museum all adds to a worthwhile visit.
Written December 11, 2014
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

UK204 contributions
Jun 2013 • Friends
I visited on the opening day of the refurbished museum. So bitter was my disappointment at seeing how all that money had been squandered that I have been unable to bring myself to write about it until now. I cannot, however, allow what I saw to go unremarked.

For years during the prolonged refurbishment we were deprived of access to the wonderful collections, consoling ourselves by occasionally leafing through the catalogue and thinking of the wonders to come. At last the promised day arrived and we were deflated by finding that £5.8m has bought us something that is, in some respects, rather worse than what we used to have, and has failed to deliver some of the promises that were made. To be specific:-

1. Building layout

Adapting old buildings would never be easy, but this layout defies logic and does not make up for it by good signage. Shortly after entering the building we went through what seemed to be the right door only to find it was a dead end occupied by lavatories: useful, but not what we had come to see. What could have been a clear timeline through the history section was muddled through an odd management of space: I was disconcerted by jumping straight from prehistory to the mediaeval: I was able to sort the sequence out for myself, but some young people might come away with very odd ideas.

2. Labelling of exhibits

In some areas no exhibits carried a label. An attendant explained that it was because they had not been delivered. Assuming hand-writing not to be a lost art, I would gladly have donated a supply of card and pens if I had known.

3. Extent of displays

One of the key justifications for the redevelopment was that it would become possible for the entire collection to be displayed. Comparing the huge catalogue with the few works on the walls shows that this promise has not been kept. Merely rotating the displays is not an answer as one might miss the turn of a piece one wanted to see and, in any case, that would have been possible within the old building. We were not promised rotations but permanent displays.

4. Wasted space

Despite the performance under 3. above, a large area has been given over to the display of objects chosen by children. I am at a loss to understand what children are thought to bring to the art of curation. Rather than being invited to impose their unformed ideas they ought, perhaps, to be invited to learn from those who know something of it (the original idea of what a gallery is for). The ‘community art’ would be better placed in a church hall: it has no place in a centre of excellence, and the notion that it might displace works of great significance is repugnant.

5. Displays of glass and lace

Under the old regime glassware was superbly shown against a matt black ground and lit by downlighters. The downlighters remain in evidence but a neutral grey ground has robbed the glass of most of its drama. Lace, too, used to be shown more effectively, and my recollection is that there used to be far more of it (see 3. above).

6. Design philosophy: history exhibits

A teacher who came round with us detected the hand of the National Curriculum behind the content of the history presentation. She told us that it is being dropped and asked: ‘why are they grasping at the coat-tails of an abandoned initiative?’ I might add: ‘is that, in any case, the best framework available for conveying Bedford’s history?’

7. Use of drawers

At various points unlabelled drawers appeared at or below knee level. There was no invitation to explore their contents so I assumed that they were for staff use. I saw someone open one and realised that they were part of the exhibit. What did this achieve? It made materials inaccessible to people with bad backs, it concealed exhibits from general view and it did so at considerable cost.

8. Gallery contents’ signage

Signposts throughout the building direct the visitor to various galleries, but there is absolutely no indication of what most contain. ‘The Burges Room’ is clear enough, but where do I go to see the David Coxes (or anything else for that matter)? There was also a regrettable sign close to the Sir William Harpur room to announce the ‘Sir William Harper Room’.

As members of the Higgins Friends my wife and I have long looked forward to a triumphal reopening that would settle upon the town a jewel equal to that of the Embankment or the Philharmonia residency, something that we could show our visitors with pride and in which we could ourselves take pleasure through many visits. To our deep regret that has not been achieved. Those responsible should hang their heads in shame.
Written January 16, 2014
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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Frequently Asked Questions about The Higgins Bedford

The Higgins Bedford is open:
  • Sun - Sun 2:00 PM - 5:00 PM
  • Tue - Sat 11:00 AM - 5:00 PM

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