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About Us

Burford Tolsey Museum

The Tolsey, in which the Tolsey Museum is situated, was built in the early 1500’s, as the market house where traders came to pay tolls for the use of market facilities, and where the Borough Court met. At the back was a prison (Blind-house), the door of which is displayed in the Museum.

When the Corporation was dissolved in 1861 the collection of insignia, charters and other muniments passed to the town’s doctor, and were housed at the surgery, occasionally being exhibited. A Museum was needed. Restoration of the building began in 1955 and the museum opened in 1960.

A leading Burford antique dealer, Roger Warner, who had been collecting objects with a known Burford connection since the 1930’s, donated the collection, ranging from rope-making tools to a boxwood clarinet, to the museum. Since then gifts of items with a local connection have helped to build an illustration of life in Burford and it environs over the centuries.


Exhibits of interest include:

  • The Keble leaded-bronze mortar, which was cast in 1659,  is the largest recorded, dated and named example from the foundry of Edward Neale of Burford.

  • The long vellum roll of the burgesses’ rules (1605), with its echoes of the merchant guild.

  • The decorated charter from Henry VII granting a fair

  • A collection of locally stitched samplers

  • doll’s house that is modelled on the Great House in Witney Street portraying Regency high society.

  • Exhibits portraying the various crafts and trades that once flourished here, recalled in displays of tools and wares used in bell-founding, quarrying, roofing, brewing and coopering, rope-making, saddlery and souvenirs


We also have a large photographic collection

Burford Tolsey Archive

The Burford Tolsey Archive opened in November 2022 to collect, preserve and share Burford’s written and oral stories and images, for everyone to enjoy today and in the future .

The creation of an Archive was made possible by the purchase in the town centre of an historic barn and garden in Swan Lane, by the Falkland Hall Charity (FHC) together with a major fundraising campaign, which was magnificently supported by the community and local and national charitable trusts, to meet the building conversion costs.

The new Community Archive building is let to us at a nominal fee and includes a small apartment whose rent generates an annual contribution towards the Archive’s running costs.

Burford Tolsey Collecting Policy

Burford’s Museum and Archive owe many of their unique and wonderful collections to the much- appreciated generosity of individual donors, charities and members of the community.

For those who have items they would like to donate to our collections, we have a BTMA collecting policy which is outlined in the following paragraphs.  

  • Items for our permanent collections must have a significance and/or relevance to Burford & its surrounding district. This simply means that items must demonstrate a strong association with Burford and its environs by having been made or used in the area, or by being strongly identified with its heritage or culture.


Items not meeting these criteria will not usually be accepted, especially if it would be more appropriate for them to be offered to another museum or archive. We will always try to suggest other museums or archives if we think that an object would be better suited to another collection.

  • We will not usually accept duplicate items, or items for which we do not have appropriate space or storage conditions.

  • Prior to acceptance, items will be inspected so that any potential risk to the health and safety of volunteers or the public can be identified and addressed.  This will apply in particular to items subject to decay, mould, pest-infestation, or asbestos content. (Spoils of war will not usually qualify for inclusion in BTMA).  

  • In general, items in poor condition cannot be accepted, unless they are particularly rare or of special relevance and importance.  In this case, it may be necessary to agree a contribution towards remedial and conservation costs.

  • Please do not bring in any objects without contacting us first. We will not accept items simply left at either the Museum or Archive.


If after considering the above, you believe you have an item to donate, we would be pleased to hear from you personally, in writing to:  The Curator, The Burford Tolsey Museum & Archive, Swan Lane, Burford, OX18 4SH, by telephone or better still by email with an accompanying photograph.  From this we will endeavour to make an initial decision.

If we think your item could be appropriate for our collection, we will arrange for you to bring it to us. We can then carry out a more thorough assessment and decide whether to accept or decline the offer.  

We do not accept material on loan, except for a specific purpose, such as a temporary exhibition or similar project.  All such loans will be for a defined period of time and recorded using a simple loan agreement.

  • Please do not be offended if we are unable to accept your intended donation.  Unfortunately space is at a premium.


Finally, whilst in general, BTMA has benefitted from a steady flow of donated items, occasionally, when items of particular importance and value have become available, either privately or at auction, funds have been raised to purchase them.

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