No place sums up Watford’s past, present and future better than Watford Museum, which celebrates its 30th birthday next week.

TV funnyman Terry Scott opened the museum on March 14, 1981 when he was at the height of his fame in the sitcom Terry and June. The late actor and comedian was the perfect choice to unveil the museum plaque being Watford-born and educated close to the museum site at Watford Fields Junior School and Watford Grammar School for Boys before joining the Navy and becoming a TV star.

Since then, the venue has hosted many notable exhibitions including a display of theatre memorabilia from Watford Palace, which was opened by theatrical impresario and writer Jimmy Perry in 2002. Jimmy moved to Watford to avoid the Blitz, which is where he joined the Home Guard and found inspiration to pen the cult series Dad’s Army. From 1954 to 1965 he ran a repertory company at Watford Palace with his wife Gilda.

Watford FC chairman Graham Taylor opened the Goal-den Years exhibitions, in the same year, which celebrated the achievements of the team under his management, including the club’s two famous trips to Wembley in 1984 and 1999. The museum has a permanent collection of Watford FC memorabilia and welcomes contributions from Watford fans.

Housed in the former offices of Benskins Brewery, the museum has extensive displays of local history, including a gallery about the town during World War Two, and important industries such as printing and brewing. It also houses the Cassiobury Collection of fine art. The museum was expanded in 2006 to include the Space2 gallery, which provides a platform for visual art in the widest sense produced by local and regional artists.

Recently, the gallery paid tribute to the late Watford Observer cartoonist Terry Challis in a display of his lesser-known works. It has also played host to two arresting displays of photographs of iconic local landmarks, Watford Market and the Grand Union Canal, taken by Oxhey photographer Dave Parker.

Looking to the future, the museum’s 30th anniversary year sees a series of commemorative exhibitions starting with Painting of the Fortnight – a changing display of works chosen by members of the local community, which runs from March to December.

From March 17 to April 16 the museum will feature a special installation by West Herts College. To celebrate the museum’s anniversary, art students will use objects on display to inspire their own art exhibits.

The Friends of Watford Museum continues its engaging monthly talks series with The Clocks of Windsor Castle, Part 2 on April 15 and The History of Sun Printers on May 12.

Other events planned include Easter egg hunts, a musical evening opening in May and a Watford Museum Poppy Party, part of a national weekend of activities celebrating the 90th birthday of the Royal British Legion with a wartime Watford theme.

Terry and Perry would definitely be pleased.

Watford Museum, Lower High Street, Watford is open Thursday to Saturday, 10am to 5pm. Details: 01923 232297,


1750: first record of brewing on this site

c1775: mansion house built that houses museum

1867: house and brewery bought by Joseph Benskin. Benskin's became the most import brewers in Watford

March 14, 1981: Watford Museum opened by Terry Scott and Mayor of Watford, Councillor SG Reynolds (who recently passed away)

1982: Runner up in the Museum of the Year Award

1984: Purchase of a View of South West Front of Cassiobury by JMW Turner

1984: 'Here For the Beer' exhibition celebrated Watford's brewing heritage

1989: Donation of Cassiobury portrait collection by Lady Essex

1990: Watford at War exhibition was one of the most popular exhibitions

1993: Publication of the museum's art catalogue by Dr L Harwood, exploring the museum's internationally renowned collection of art

1998: First meeting of the Friends of Watford Museum 2001: The Heritage Officer relaunches High Street

Trails which have been a big hit ever since - nearly 3,000 people have walked a heritage trail

2002 and 2003: Goal-den Years exhibitions celebrated Graham Taylor's phenomenally successful periods with Watford FC with the most popular football exhibition at the museum and the museum's biggest exhibitions of this century. The exhibitions were opened by Graham Taylor and also had the biggest participation of people for any exhibition at the museum.

2002: Purchase of a View of Cassiobury Park by John Wootton, one of the largest fundraising projects in the museum's history successfully returning the painting to Watford from America

2003: Watford Museum in partnership with Blind, Stupid and Desperate and Look at the Stars publishes "You Are My Watford", a book of memories of Watford supporters and players. The book sells out with two months and raises thousands for the Watford Supporters Trust

2004: Launch of the museum's website

2005: Dig for Victory project turned the museum's garden into a Dig for Victory garden

July 2006: Opening of Space2 gallery creating an exciting contemporary art exhibition space

2006: Launch of the Watford Junction website, connecting up the diverse strands of Watford's history on-line

2007: Awarded a runners up prize at the Big Draw 2006 awards, presented by Quentin Blake

2007: Museum awarded Full Accreditation in the MLA's (Museums Libraries and Archives Council) new accreditation scheme.

2007: Hosted the Watford African Caribbean Association's Slavery exhibition, commemorating the abolition of slavery and the former slave, George Doney, who is buried in St Mary's Churchyard

2007: Haunted Museum opens door for the first time - our hugely successful Halloween event with I Can't Believe We're Not Better Theatre Company

2009: Participated in LGBT History Month for the first time

2009: Celebrated the Centenary of Cassiobury Park with exhibitions and events

2009: Took part in Heritage Open Day Weekend for the first time, coordinating events in historic venues across the town

2010: Evening opening of the museum for 'Museums at Night' for first time a great success

2010: Participated in the Festival of British Archaeology for the first time with help from TV archaeologist Julian Richards

2010: The museum's most popular printing exhibit, the 1820 Columbian Press which printed the first copy of the Watford Observer in 1863 brought back to full working order by volunteers

2010: Made a Quality Assured Visitor Attraction by Enjoy England (currently the only one in Watford)

2011: Watford for You Favourite Historical Spot Award