St Barbe Museum & Art Gallery

Open Daily: Mon-Sat: 10am - 5pm
Sun: 11am - 4pm

01590 676969

About St Barbe

Located at the heart of the beautiful, historic coastal market town of Lymington, St Barbe is both a dynamic museum and highly regarded art gallery  that appeals to both locals and New Forest visitors.

The museum explores the history of Lymington and the New Forest Coast, inspired by local pride, and supported by the local community, its collections and colourful, hands-on displays offer a fascinating insight into the area for all ages.

The Art Galleries – Changing Exhibitions

Designed to the highest specifications, the two art galleries host an active temporary exhibitions programme featuring a wide range of subjects throughout the year. Our exhibitions change every 8 weeks and the exclusive exhibition programme combines loans from the country’s finest public and private collections with the best of local art to create shows of national and regional significance.

Visitors say:
'Fantastic Museum, friendly staff and volunteers, and lots for the children to do. Exhibitions are of high quality and the selling gallery with the cafe is a unique idea. Great fun'


The museum’s collections represent life in the coastal strip to the south of the New Forest, the towns of Lymington and New Milton, Barton-on-Sea and the parishes of Boldre, Hordle, Milford and Sway. They illustrate how Lymington developed as a market town and port and reveal smugglers, salt makers and boat builders who have used the Solent shore.

The collections reflect aspects of life in the area from prehistory to the present day including home life, industry, shops, trades, farming, leisure, sport, war, holidays and the local environment.

We also hold an extensive photographic archive of the area. The museum now collects material in a digital format. We also specifically collect material for handling in our educational work with schools, pre-schools, families, the elderly and special interest groups.

If you have something which you think might be of interest to the museum please contact us.

Museum displays

The museum displays provide a colourful, hands on introduction to the New Forest coast. As well as historic artefacts to see there are objects to handle, costumes to try on and a range of activities including a replica pilot boat wheelhouse.

Sea to Land

Reveals that the world-famous fossils of the Barton cliffs tell us this area was once covered by sub-tropical sea and home to sharks, whales and alligators.

Sea Fishing

See how local people have harvested the waters of the Solent and the Channel and how the changing environment has affected fishing methods.

Sailing on the Solent

Traditional boat building and yachting with an original Lymington Scow on show.

Boat Building

Step into the interactive wheelhouse in our pilot boat .Here we focus on famous boat builders including Thomas Inman who built the yachts Alarm and Arrow for Joseph Weld, Dan Bran designer of the Lymington Pram and the Berthon Boat Company.

Marsh and Mud

Here the local salt marshes changed from a sportsman’s playground to a nature reserve. A gun punt used for wild-fowling in the shallow creeks of the Solent is on display.

Bathing Beauties

From the beach where our bathing habits changed from the healthy sea water baths in the 18th century to beach huts and sun worshippers of the 20th century.

Salt Making

Lymington salt crystals - evaporated from sea water - were once an important industry and exported all over the world up until the 1850s.


Revealing the murky world of one of the most lucrative and widespread ‘industries’ of the 18th century. High taxes meant that all kinds of goods were smuggled along the Solent coast. The smugglers were highly organised and could be ruthlessly brutal in protecting their interests.

Road and Rail

See how roads and then the railways opened up the New Forest to visitors. Lymington’s branch line is one of the last still surviving in the country today.

A Tale of Two Towns

A look at how the towns of Lymington and New Milton developed. Lymington was given its charter in around 1200 and became a thriving market town and port for the south of the New Forest. Milton, however  remained a small village until the arrival of the railway in 1888 when the focus moved north and the ‘New’ was added in 1897.

Shops and Traders

A story of Lymington’s market and the development of the High Street into one of the Forest’s most important shopping centres.


Looking at one of the town’s major employer in the 20th century. At its peak, during the Second World War, Wellworthy employed over 4,000 people making engine components, pistons and piston rings.

War Efforts

You can see the importance of the Solent coast for the country’s defence, from Henry VIII’s fort at Hurst Castle to the French royalist troops stationed at Lymington after the revolution and on to the area’s role in the build up to D-Day in 1944.

At Home

Step back into our farm house kitchen and scullery from the Victorian period to the 1930s featuring a host of domestic items dating back to the Victorian period.

Field and Forest

Take a look at the coastal area’s relationship with the New Forest and the importance of farming to the local economy.