Scarborough’s iconic Rotunda Museum birthday celebrations. August Bank Holiday weekend


On 29 August 1829, thanks to the determination of philanthropists, geologists, enthusiasts and local Scarborough societies the iconic Rotunda Museum was formally opened with appropriate pomp, purpose, and partying. Over this August bank holiday weekend, the Museum will be partying again – hosting a series of events to mark the milestone birthday and acknowledge the role that local societies played in its remarkable history.

The Rotunda is one of the world’s first purpose-built geological museums. The design and layout of the Museum was the inspiration of William Smith, the ‘Father of English Geology’, who was then working at Hackness Hall. Working closely with R.H. Sharp, an architect based in York, Smith envisioned a display of fossil specimens placed in their correct geological order as used in his recently published Geological Map of England and Wales. The unique display of ‘geology in the round’ has been a major attraction since its opening, appealing not only to distinguished geologists and antiquarians but also to inquisitive members of the public.

Over the last 188 years many famous people have visited the Rotunda including Branwell Brontë, Susan Darwin, Josiah Wedgwood, Edith Sitwell and H.R.H. Prince Charles.


To mark the birthday, the Rotunda Museum is acting as host to local societies’ displays, information, demonstrations and talks. On Saturday and Sunday, bank holiday weekend, families will be able to enjoy hands on activities – including fossil handling and specimen identification – and interactive displays from societies and their specialists including; the Scarborough Field Naturalist Society, the Whitby Naturalists’ Club, the Rotunda Geology Group, the Scarborough Archaeological and Historical Society, and the Scarborough Photographic Society.

Visitors will be offered a special piece of Rotunda ‘birthday rock’ to take away with them.

To launch the celebrations on Friday 25 August, the Museum will host an invite only event for society members and museum supporters where local historian and author, Roger Osborne, will talk about the role of local societies in the development of museums.

Jane Glaister, Chief Executive of Scarborough Museums Trust said:

“The Rotunda is internationally significant and Scarborians are justly proud of the role the local people played in creating this important icon and helping to preserve and interpret significant collections. Without the initial support from those local societies that helped establish the Museum, Scarborough would not have such a significant asset.

We wanted to acknowledge those local societies and benefactors and thank them for their support, but also celebrate with all our visitors 188 years of engagement and learning. The Rotunda birthday party will be weekend for all to enjoy – Happy Birthday Rotunda.”

The Rotunda Birthday weekend will be open to the public from 26 – 27 August. For more information on the event visit