SGS Original Collection Awarded Designated Status by Arts Council England

The Society is delighted to announce that we’ve been awarded Designated status by Arts Council England for the Original Collection. SGS is one of only two Designated collections in Lincolnshire, and one of just 164 in the country. The Original Collection is accessible to everyone, free of charge, at the SGS Museum in Broad Street, Spalding.

Founded in Spalding in 1710, SGS is Britain’s oldest provincial learned society and second-oldest museum in continuous existence. Members began collecting at the Society’s earliest meetings. The Original Collection includes SGS’s founding museum, library and archive holdings, gathered between 1710 and 1814.

Plan of the SGS’s first museum room with cabinets and their contents labelled, c.1727. (SGS Archive)

Made up of several thousand objects ranging from medieval manuscripts to classical antiquities to works of fine art and sculpture, the Original Collection represents the SGS’s – and by extension Spalding’s – worldwide connections in the 18th century. It also tells the stories of Spalding residents and visitors, many of whom played crucial roles in the shaping of the town and the Fenland region as they are today. The Original Collection represents one of the best sources for understanding provincial intellectual life in the Enlightenment, and the history of museums and collections in Britain.

Arts Council England’s Designation Scheme identifies pre-eminent collections of national importance held in England’s non-national museums, libraries and archives. This award demonstrates the significance of SGS’s collection and its commitment to continued preservation and promotion of these objects for the enjoyment of generations to come.



“I’m delighted that SGS has received Designated status. The Society’s early collections have inspired scholars and artists for 300 years, and testify to the vibrant cultural history of Spalding and the Fenlands in the eighteenth century.”

Dustin Frazier Wood, SGS Librarian


A 16th-century brass astrolabe, formerly belonging to Sir Christopher Hatton, Lord Chancellor to Elizabeth I. (SPAGS:80000102)

SGS has featured the Original Collection in its recent ‘Curious Connections’ exhibition, created by a team of SGS members and students from the University of Roehampton, led by Dr Frazier Wood. Beginning in March 2024, SGS will host a series of public events and exhibitions to celebrate the Original Collection and explore its links to local, national and global histories and cultures.

Liz Johnson, Director, Museums and Collections at Arts Council England, said: “We’re delighted that the magnificent Original Collection of the Spalding Gentlemen’s Society has been awarded Designated status.

“Museums, and their collections, help communities to understand their culture, and in turn, themselves. The Designation scheme celebrates collections of outstanding importance that help deepen our connection to the world we live in. The Original Collection at Spalding Gentlemen’s Society has inspired people for generations. Made up of an eclectic mix of objects collected by members in the 18th century, it tells the fascinating stories of those who’ve lived, visited, and worked in the town. It is one of just two designated collections in Lincolnshire and only 164 in England.

“This award will put the collection in the spotlight, raising its profile locally, nationally, and internationally. It will also ensure the collection can continue to inspire, empower and enrich people’s lives for many more years to come.”

For enquiries or information about the Original Collection, contact

SGS member, researcher and collections volunteer Abby Hammond is one of two dozen conservation volunteers who are working to ensure the Original Collection remains in good condition and accessible to the public.

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