10 things to see in the Land of Lost Content museum, Craven Arms, Shropshire

Sometimes less is more. But not in the Land of Lost Content, a museum dedicated to British popular culture in sleepy Craven Arms. Its three floors are stuffed full of everyday household items collected from the last century. A less kind description might liken it to a hoarder’s house but whilst it might look haphazard the owner, Stella Mitchell, has collated her life’s collection into 32 themed areas.

No photographs are allowed in the museum so I’ve chosen to describe 10 parts of the collection that stood out for me. The museum is so full of memorabilia that if you visit you probably won’t even see these. Yet I defy any adult not to walk into this museum and immediately recognise something from their childhood!

1. Scratchy toilet paper

A bowl full of the awful scratchy stuff I remember from school days in the 1980s. I never thought I’d see this again. Certainly not missed but compellingly tactile.

2. 1960s Kenwood chef food mixer

A design classic. I’ve always wanted a Kenwood Chef, but cannot justify the outlay. Out of interest I looked up the model they have in the museum and you can still buy restored versions today – for more than the cost of a brand new one!

3. Woolworth’s corner

A shrine to Woolworths with closing down posters, a child’s top from the sale and newspapers with headlines announcing the demise of Woollies.

4. Sinclair C5

One man’s view of our future transport; which didn’t quite go to plan. Attached to the ceiling above the stairs. Could you imagine a world where we all drove C5s?

5. Politically incorrect items

A signed Jimmy Saville photograph, Robinson’s golly models and Hitler youth memorabilia. Some may question the continued inclusion of items no longer considered acceptable. But to exclude these would be to deny the past. Better we reflect and appreciate that society has moved on.

6. Sweets

There’s an entire section dedicated to sweets. A half full jar of Roses, a cutout cardboard Milk Tray man and packets of Spangles. There’s even a modern One Direction themed sweet bag. I’m sure it will soon blend in with the rest of the exhibits.

7. Christmas decorations

I’m so used to modern decorations that I had forgotten how bad they were when I was a child. Paper chains, green tissue paper bells and spindly artificial Christmas trees.

8. Mobile telephone from the 1980s

It really was a brick. And only mobile in that it was physically possible to carry it and the battery pack if you had strong arms.

9. Stuffed Jack Russell

Realistically lifelike sitting on a chair. Evidently it arrived in a big box in the post one day. Whilst I’m tempted to send the museum some of my 1980s items, who would send a dead pet through the post?!

10. Technology

It’s often technology that ages the fastest and this is proved perfectly in the museum. A Nintendo gameboy, ZX spectrum, black and white TVs, typewriters; all cutting edge at one point but dated and near enough obsolete now.

As you can see from the above review I was primarily drawn to those items I remember from my childhood. There’s plenty (understatement) to see in the Land of Lost Content museum for all ages although younger children might find some of the dolls and mannequins scary. Our older children enjoyed it as they like to take every opportunity to remind us how old we are and this provided them with plenty of ammunition!

More info

  • The Land of Lost Content museum in Craven Arms, Shropshire is open daily except Wednesday from 9am-5pm from February to November. It is closed in December and January. You’ll struggle with a pushchair or wheelchair as there is very little room between exhibits but there is a stairlift between floors. An adult tickets costs £5, a child’s ticket £2.50.
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Exploring the Roman history of Caerleon, Newport

KI sometimes think that the places we enjoy most are those that are completely unexpected and unplanned. That’s exactly how I felt when we stopped off in the town of Caerleon, South Wales.

Caerleon was home to a Roman legionary fortress and settlement, Isca Augusta, one of just three permanent fortresses in Britain. It’s a fantastic place to visit if your children are studying the Romans as in addition to a Roman Legion museum there’s an amphitheatre, baths and barracks to explore. Amazingly they’re all free to visit!

National Roman Legion Museum, Caerleon

We started with a visit to the Roman Legion museum. This small museum is located inside what remains of the fortress and contains many items found in the area around Caerleon. The various displays are dedicated to different aspects of Roman life and death, including how they ate, lived and worked.

National Roman Legion Museum, Caerleon
National Roman Legion Museum, Caerleon

My favourite exhibit was that of the gemstones found in the drains of the Roman baths. Most originally belonged in rings; it’s thought they were lost by legionary soldiers whilst bathing.

Inside National Roman Legion Museum, Caerleon
Inside National Roman Legion Museum, Caerleon

For younger children there’s a chance to dress up as a Roman soldier and see what life would have been like inside a barracks room. The museum has a small but well stocked shop, both my kids found something to spend their money on.

Outside there’s a Roman garden but we visited at the wrong time of year to appreciate it.

The Roman Baths

The Roman baths, just down the road from the museum, were used by the soldiers for relaxation and socialising. They originally consisted of cold, warm and hot pools, heated changing rooms and an outdoor pool (now covered, see the photo below).

We followed the raised boardwalk around the edge of the baths and were treated to projected images and sound which make it seem like the pool contains water and Roman swimmers. It’s cleverly done and is similar to the visual effects we enjoyed at another CADW location, Blaenavon ironworks.

Caerleon Roman baths
Caerleon Roman baths

Look carefully when you walk around the large pool and you’ll be able to see the imprint of a dog’s paw in one of the clay tiles. It’s amazing to think it’s almost 2000 years old.

Caerleon amphitheatre

The amphitheatre was built around AD90 and could seat up to 6000 spectators. Although it is the best preserved amphitheatre in Britain you’ll still need to use your imagination; my favourite kind of attraction. Official excavations first started over 100 years ago with the removal of 30,000 tons of soil from the site. Informal excavations had taken place beforehand as evidenced by the use of ‘Roman’ stone in some local buildings!

Exploring the amphitheatre at Caerleon
Exploring the amphitheatre at Caerleon

The amphitheatre is covered in grass and we were free to wander at will. Back in the Roman times it would have had an upper seating tier made from wood and a sandy arena floor. The soldiers used it for parades, training and deadly gladiator battles. It’s rather hard to envisage this nowadays but it must have been an incredible spectacle.

Roman barracks

Close by you can find the remains of the Roman barracks, home to the 5,500 soldiers. There are a couple of interpretation boards around the site. These explain what the foundation walls and marks on the ground are. It’s possible to make out the soldiers quarters and some large circular ovens but it would be great to see some further interpretation of the site.

We really enjoyed Caerleon. If you’re driving through South Wales on the M4 make an effort to stop off; it’s only a few minutes drive from Newport junction and it’s definitely worth it.

More info

  • The National Roman Legion Museum is free to enter and open daily (although only 2-5pm on Sunday). The museum runs lots of family events throughout the year, current ones include archery, mosaic making and the chance to meet a Roman soldier.
  • The Roman fortress and baths  and amphitheatre are also free to enter. Both are open daily except for a short period over Christmas.
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