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The Whitaker is a registered charity, which means all the money we make, goes back into running the building and delivering our activities.


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The Whitaker is a forward-facing museum and art gallery that aims to foster inclusive, vibrant communities that thrive within our natural environment.

We have recently undertaken a re-development of interpretation with a focus on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, connecting people, heritage and ideas with the past, the present and the future.

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We are working to strengthen people’s rights and entitlements in terms of cultural access, education and participation in the life of the community.

We are concerned with the sustainability of communities, the environment, local industries and the economy. We draw on history and heritage, to help imagine, design and begin to create the Valley we want for people and nature.

The history of this building goes back nearly 200 years.

George Hardman owned a textile mill at New Hall Hey, and he grew wealthy from the cotton and woollen textile trade. He had this building created as his family home, in the 1840s. The house was called Oak Hill. The house overlooked the textile mill that Hardman owned at New Hall Hey, which you can still see today.

Oak Hill was purchased by Richard Whitaker, another Rawtenstall industrialist, in 1900.

He donated the building to the people of Rawtenstall as a museum. He also paid for the gardens to be extended to create Whitaker Park. The museum and park opened in 1902.

Nature and the Natural History Galleries – The Whitaker is a place to explore nature.

The natural history galleries exhibit taxidermy animals from around the world, including the famous ‘Tiger and Python’, which is over 200 years old, a Polar Bear, ‘Nellie’ the elephant, and birds and mammals from Africa, Australia, South America and Asia.

You can find out about some of the beautiful wildlife that we share the valley with. At a time when the threats to wildlife are increasingly well-known, from pollution, habitat loss and climate change, The Whitaker is a place to explore what everyone can do to support nature through their own actions and choices.

Valley Galleries – People have called Rossendale ‘home’ for thousands of years, but what kind of place would we like it to be?

You can explore the transformation of the valley over time, from a medieval forest for hunting, to farmland, and then to an industrial landscape. This rich history shows us very different relationships between people, nature and industry over time.

The Whitaker is as much about the future as it is about the past. Building on an exploration of the past and the present, The Whitaker is a place for people to take part in the development of the community. It is a place for people to share their hopes and visions of a better future, and to work together to create the community they want to live in.

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