The Roald Dahl Museum in Great Missenden
The Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre
81-83, High Street, Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire, HP16 0AL
Reviewed April 2012
The Roald Dahl museum in the extremely pretty village of Great Missenden in Buckinghamshire is a gem of a museum. Not only does it give you a lovely insight into the great author’s work and life but also great ideas and creative wonder for you and your children to take home and ponder. It’s inspiring, very interactive and just the right size to keep you amused all the way round. I took two children aged 7 and 9 and met a friend with two kids aged 10 and 12 and we all loved the museum.
You enter the museum off the high street (which in itself is worth a little mooch either before or after the museum visit) into a lovely courtyard that was the site of a coaching inn and close to Roald Dahl's original house and garden where he had his writing hut and created his classic tales. The very desk and worn leather chair where he sat have been wonderfully replicated (the original is preserved behind glass) and you can sit there and think about Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or another favourites just as the famous author once did.
The permanent exhibition is arranged around the courtyard in a number of rooms – one dedicated to his early years with facts about his childhood mingling with ideas and characters from his books so you really get a sense of where his stories came from. There is a bench looking remarkably like that famous enormous crocodile, there are Muggle-Wump monkeys on the walls plus a jar of sweets with a dead mouse in that relates to a funny story from Dahl’s school days. The wonderful illustrations of Quentin Blake link real stories of his boyhood and inspirations with the make-believe characters, which is the total joy of the museum.
The second room you come to focuses more on Dahl’s early twenties when he lived in Africa as World War II broke out and he joined the RAF. He was a lucky man to survive flying hurricanes over Africa and Greece during the war and again there are plenty of facts and artifacts to occupy little fingers and inquisitive minds.
At the far end of the courtyard is a large room full of inspiring things to do - places to whisper your dreams, to make up silly sentences, the dress up, to create an animated short film or listen to contemporary writers like J. K Rowling and Benjamin Zephaniah talk about their inspirations for writing.
It is very hands on museum but a wonder of details that appeals both to the children and adults. The museum does a lot with schools and some rooms are dictated to school groups and their creations that you can see posted all over the walls. The courtyard has a number of tables and there is the Cafe Twit where you can buy something tasty to enjoy in the lovely open courtyard.
We stayed at the museum for about an hour and a half then taking a leaflet from the museum went on a fabulous nature trail leading from the museum into the very pretty countryside around Great Missenden that was beautiful on the day we were there as spring was just arriving. The walk, expertly navigated in turn by the children, took about an hour and a half as we were not in any hurry but I suspect speedier walkers could complete the circuit that brings you back to the village a little quicker than we did.
We had a lovely day and my seven year old is now reading George's Marvellous Medicine with great aplomb, inspired by sitting in the master's chair perhaps. I would thoroughly recommend this lovely museum for a great day out with the children.