WHEN it was announced Colchester Council was going to start charging for entry to Hollytrees Museum there were some questions over the future. 

Until recently the museum had always been free. Would a £5 entry fee for adults put people off visiting?

Council documents revealed it could make the authority between £80,000 and £100,000 a year.

But the move could slash visitor numbers in half from 40,000 to 20,000 a year.

We decided to take a visit to the museum to see if it is worth the new entrance fee. 

The Georgian house sits a stone’s throw from Colchester Castle and amongst the beautifully tended gardens of Castle Park.

After passing through the gift shop, visitors enter the hall which was ‘old fashioned even when it was built in 1719’ and has maintained its original black and white floor tiling of 700 years ago.

The room holds a historic map of Colchester and important notes on the history of the British Empire.

From there, visitors can access a number of historical rooms across two floors of the house.

The Bernard Mason Clock Gallery holds 13 large clocks around the walls, their ticking echoing musically throughout the historic space, and details one of the most productive clockmaking families in Colchester: the Hedge family, which produced hundreds of clocks and watches over four generations.

The Garden Room holds an absorbing history of Colchester’s Roman lamp factory, shoemaking, beer brewing, and wholesale tailoring from the mid-1800s.

The ‘Colchester native’ oysters are also featured, which are still famous to this day, with the history of the Oyster Feast being traced back to the 1300s.

These are just a few noteworthy histories protected in Hollytrees Museum.

Children can have special educational experiences in the museum, with a kitchen playset in the ‘running the home gallery’ and a giant dolls house in the Garden Room prepared for close examination.

One of the kids’ bedrooms in the historic house has been turned into a commemoration for children’s entertainment.

A section of the wall in this room is dedicated to Ann and Jane Taylor, who are known for seven-year-old Ann’s poem ‘The Star’ which later became ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’.

We were surprised at just how much history was crammed into the building and kicking ourselves for not visiting before. 

The cost of a ticket seem to be a small price to pay to see the exciting evolution of the city, traced carefully since the house was built in 1718.

Adult and senior tickets are £5, with students’ and concessions at £4.

A ticket for a child aged 4-16 years is £3.50, with an extra £1.75 for each additional child. Children under four go free.

Opening hours are 10am to 5pm Tuesday to Saturday. It is closed on Sunday.

Following our visit we'll definitely be back again - and encouraging others to give it a go.