About Diss Museum

Come one, come all!

There is something for everybody in our award-winning community museum. Children, especially accompanied by adults, are welcome and will find much to fascinate them.

It is really a Diss & District Museum. Anything that has happened within six miles of the town, or any relevant object used in that area, is of interest to us.


Diss MuseumDiss Museum is situated in the Market Place in a building called The Shambles, formerly two butchers' shops. The museum opened in its current form in 1993. First curator, Tim Holt-Wilson, writing in the Diss Town Guide (1993-95), described its background:
"Before George Moss died in 1969 he gave some thought to founding  a museum in Diss. He set aside £1,000 in his will, and trusted to the future. He may perhaps have wanted to celebrate his home town, or he may have been prompted by a sense that the old integrated fabric of 'people' and 'place' was passing away, and that a more uncertain world lay ahead. It made sense to found a museum. Old Diss was in danger through development pressures and neglect - as John Betjeman saw clearly in his visit six years earlier.
Through the 1970s and 1980s the museum developed with the help of its trustees and supporters, and the Diss Express. The tiny Shambles building became a place where the town was especially aware of its past. It contained old things to do with Diss: objects on shelves and under glass, snapshots of past life - things to marvel at, to rouse one's curiosity, things loaned or given to the museum to start a collection with, precious as part of the lives of the people who put them there."

There are a variety of displays, frequently changed, about the history of the town and area. Always on display are the Old Rectory Doll's House, old photos and jottings from the Memory Bank. Local firms like Cupiss, Aldrich, Anness and Gaze have all been featured. Panels in the windows depict significant characters and events from the town's past.

Who’s Who

The day-to-day running of the museum is largely by volunteers. The Friends of Diss Museum provide stewards and financial support for special items. For more details about how you can support us, please click here.

Basil Abbott became Museum Manager in 2005, working at the end of the street where he was born. In his first season the museum had its best ever visitor figures, as promotion and press coverage increased. In the following years the museum gained over £70,000 in funding. The ethos changed from being collection based to an organisation that promoted local culture, heritage and education, with festivals, projects, talks, tours, presentations and publications.

Diss MuseumThe manager regularly gives presentations, including walks around the town, the cemetery and a Murder Tour. These can be booked at any time, for any number of people. He has given them for one person and for large parties.

Connections with historical events and personalities led to festivals and projects featuring: John Betjeman, Thomas Paine, Ethel Le Neve (mistress of wife-murderer Crippen) and the Manning family, as well as the WW2 American airmen and the town's WW1 sacrifice.

One of the museum's high points was a re-creation of the meeting of a member of the Manning family and the Dalai Lama, 200 years after Thomas Manning became the first European to do so.

In 2009 Basil Abbott was made the town's Honoured Citizen. Two other museum members, Ben Sasada and Clifford Bird, had also previously won the award. 2009 was also the year of the Tom Paine Festival, which won the East of England Market Towns Culture Award and a Museums & Heritage Award for Excellence, the Oscars of the museum world. The respect, publicity, income and subsequent funding made by those awards have enabled the museum to survive and prosper.

Diss Museum


Outreach activities include:
Talks to groups and schools, tours of the town (including a Murder Tour) and involvement in events like the Roydon Riots Centenary (1993), Skelton Festival (2004), Nelson Bi-centenary (2005), Betjeman Centenary (2006), Local History Festival (2007), Tom Paine Festival (2009) and Friends In High Places: The Manning Story (2011).

Diss Museum


The museum has won a Gulbenkian Award for the greatest improvements achieved with limited resources. The Tom Paine Festival won the East of England Market Towns Culture Award and a Museums & Heritage Award for Excellence for the Best Project on a Limited Budget.


The museum is administered by a registered Charitable Trust and supported by Diss Town Council. In 2012 Accreditation was awarded by the Arts Council. Accreditation is the UK standard for museums and galleries. It defines good practice and identifies agreed standards, thereby encouraging development, helping to guide museums to be the best they can be.


We are closely linked to:

Diss Town Council
Diss Corn Hall
Diss Heritage Triangle
Diss Decorative and Fine Arts Society
Museums Norfolk

11 Market Hill
IP22 3JZ
01379 673613

Accredited Museum
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