Museum History

In 1985, when they were 78 and 76 years old respectively, Joanna and Hilary Bourne bought the former school in the village of Ditchling and opened the first museum – Ditchling Museum. The sisters had spent their childhood in the village and mixed with the children of many of the artists whose work would eventually be included in the museum’s collection.

In 2007 serious discussion about the future of the museum, in part prompted by the poor state of the building, began and due to the importance of the collection a bold capital project was developed. Sir Nicholas Serota, Director of Tate, formally opened Ditchling Museum of Art + Craft on 20th September 2013 after a major refurbishment. The £2.3m redevelopment was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, as well as many generous donations by charitable trusts, foundations and individuals.

Re-built, re-hung, re-organised and utterly transformed” – Wallpaper*

The reopening heralded an exciting phase for the museum; with a major refurbishment by Adam Richards Architects, a dedicated learning space with an engaging programme of events for adults and children, a new shop and cafe, purpose built collection store, a research room and new displays. The redefined focus of the museum is reflected in the updated name; ‘Ditchling Museum of Art + Craft’, with a new identity designed by Professor Phil Baines, Professor of Typography, University of the Arts, London.

an unmissable stop on the Sussex art trail” – Rupert Christiansen, The Daily Telegraph

Since reopening the museum has received widespread critical acclaim from the world’s art and architecture press. We were the only UK museum to be shortlisted for the Apollo magazine award for Museum opening of the year 2013, been a finalist for the Art Fund Museum of the Year 2014, been named the first venue in Sussex to be a Clore Learning Space and been awarded a host of architectural awards.

Museum Architecture

a meaningful narrative of light, space, materials and atmosphere” – AJ

The nationally important collection at Ditchling Museum of Art + Craft now has a worthy home.

The original Victorian museum buildings have been linked and sensitively added to by Adam Richards Architects, whose bold scheme beautifully combines contemporary architecture whilst retaining the old building’s vernacular charm. There are glimpses of the village from various points in the museum, enabling the works to be seen in the context in which they were created.

The museum has been awarded the 2014 RIBA Award for South East Building of the Year, 2014 RIBA National Award winner and the 2013 World Architecture News Award for Adaptive Reuse. Most recently it was awarded the inaugural South Downs National Park Design Award for a non-residential building. Judges said the scheme “showcases really thoughtful architectural design, respecting and connecting with its history and setting”.


Cart Lodge

The building housing our Shop and Café is a converted Grade II listed 18th Century cart lodge. Ditchling village green was once a farmyard and this building was used to store wagons. When a housing development was proposed in 1967, the farm was bought and a village green created, held in trust for the village.

Learn more about the cart lodge when you visit by looking at the interpretation panels for young and older visitors located by the main door.