The Higgins, Bedford
New Displays Breathe Life Back Into
The Higgins, Bedford
Over the last few days, new exhibits are being
prepared at The Higgins, Bedford, with many familiar objects being
returned to the house.
The new displays introduce Eighteenth, and
early Nineteenth, century furniture and decorative arts in the
setting he originally intended.
Cllr Doug McMurdo, Portfolio Holder for
Leisure and Culture at Bedford Borough Council, said: “It’s
exciting times as we eagerly await The Higgins, Bedford’s opening.
We believe the site will create both national and international
The house was built in 1846 by Cecil Higgins’
Grandfather, local brewer, Charles Higgins and remained within the
family for several decades. Cecil Higgins became sole heir of the
Higgins estate and used his inheritance to build a collection of
decorative arts which, in his own words, he could leave ‘for
the benefit, interest and education of the inhabitants of, and
visitors to Bedford’. He left the house to the Borough of
Bedford, to display his collection.
The collections are used to reflect the
historic uses of different rooms.
The dining room, which will display star items
from Cecil’s collection of 18th Century tableware, will
explore dining rituals and compare Georgian and Victorian
etiquette. The Morning Room, which would have been used by
the female members of the Higgins family for taking tea with close
friends, practising crafts and writing letters, will include an
elaborate array of tea pots and porcelain figures. The Drawing Room
will house key pieces of furniture including an intricate marquetry
cabinet. Although the original furniture from the house didn’t
survive, an inventory of its contents suggests that, like
householders today, the Higgins’s furnished their house with a
mixture of modern and antique, an idea which is reflected in the
Upstairs, the bedroom, which is referred to on
the inventory as the ‘pink room’ and the dressing room will explore
the lives of women like those of the Higgins’ family, and offer
visitors the chance to dress up. More pieces from the Higgins’s
furniture collection will be displayed alongside costume and
During the redevelopment, the house has been
redecorated throughout - although no trace of the original
decoration in the house was found when the walls were stripped
back, the art gallery and museum team have chosen fabric, wallpaper
and paint colours to suggest the age and status of the house.
Last week, some of the larger items have been
installed in to the house, including a 2m mirror in the dressing
room, bookcases and cabinets in the drawing room, and an unusual
chair bed in the bedroom. In the morning room a specialist
mountmaker has been working with the display cases that will
feature teapots and figurines. His team have been busy making over
120 bespoke mounts for each object, ready for them to go on
display. While there is still a lot more to do, the spaces in the
house are slowly being brought back to life.