The Best Unusual & Specialist Museums in Greater Manchester

Including the Museum of Transport, Police Museum, Stockport's Hat Works and much more...

By Manchester's Finest | Last updated 17 May 2022

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Greater Manchester Police Museum & Archives
It’s only open on Tuesdays but if you get the chance (perhaps get a day booked off from work) a visit to the Police Museum on Newton Street is a must. An old copper shop, the building has been converted into a museum showcasing as much law enforcement information as you can imagine. You can try on all of their clobber, get locked up in one of their Victorian prison cells and even visit the old courthouse upstairs. One of the best rooms is the evidence room where they outline many of the region’s most gruesome crimes over the last century or so, complete with actual criminal evidence and weapons. The place is run by volunteer plod so they’ve got loads of stories to tell too.

Greater Manchester Police Museum, 57A Newton St, Manchester M1 1ET
0161 856 4500


Museum of Transport
To release your inner Francis Bourgeois, head to the region’s very own Museum of Transport just off Cheetham Hill Road. Their impressive collection of buses, trains and vehicles from throughout the ages are delightfully sentimental and will be enjoyed by any generation – although there may only be a few that actually remember getting on them.

Museum of Transport, Greater Manchester, Boyle St, Cheetham, Manchester M8 8UW
0161 205 2122


Museum of Wigan Life
What’s this place going to be filled with then? Pies? Ha! Yeah, very funny. This place is actually a fantastic source for learning all about the town’s history, with exhibitions on everything from the Romans, trade and industry and Rugby League. It’s housed within Wigan’s first public library and in 1936 George Orwell actually researched his book ‘The Road to Wigan Pier’ using the resources here. It’s FREE and is also a great way of investigating your own family history in the area.

Museum of Wigan Life, 41 Library St, Wigan WN1 1NU
01942 828128


AVRO Heritage Museum
I never knew this until about 2 weeks ago but Ancoats was actually home to one of Britain’s most successful aircraft manufacturers – AVRO. Founded in 1910, AVRO went on to design, develop and build some legendary aircraft including the 504 – used as a trainer in WWI and the Lancaster Bomber in WWII. This museum near Stockport allows you to discover the history of the aircraft and how they made their mark on 20th Century warfare. You can also marvel at the Vulcan bomber outside – a big deal during the Cold War.

Avro Heritage Museum, Chester Rd, Woodford, Stockport SK7 1QS
01625 877534


The Pankhurst Centre
Exploring the story of the Pankhurst family and the suffragette campaign for votes for women, The Pankhurst Centre is a must for anyone who wants to know more about the fight for women’s rights in the early 20th Century. Emmeline Pankhurst and her family lived in this very building from 1898 until 1907, and you can sit in the parlour where their first meeting took place, have a stroll in the garden or just chill in the brilliant little cafe.

The Pankhurst Centre, 60-62 Nelson Street, Manchester, M13 9WP


Rochdale Pioneers Museum
Located on Toad Lane in the centre of Rochdale, this Museum is housed in what is regarded as the home of the worldwide Co-operative movement. Back in 1844, the Rochdale Equitable Pioneers Society opened their first little store selling food at fair prices and started a revolution in retailing which has played a significant part in our lives ever since. The ground floor faithfully recreates the original shop and in the display and exhibition area you can learn of the inspiration the Pioneers received from visionaries such as the great social reformer Robert Owen.

Rochdale Pioneers Museum, 31 Toad Ln, Rochdale OL12 0NU
01706 524920


Manchester Jewish Museum
First opening in 1984 in a Grade II* listed 1874 (former) Spanish and Portuguese synagogue in Cheetham Hill, the Manchester Jewish Museum has just recently completed a £6m redevelopment and extension – adding a new gallery, vegetarian café, shop and learning studio & kitchen. They have over 31,000 items in their collection, documenting the story of Jewish migration and settlement in Manchester. The collection is considered by historians to be of national and international significance and the synagogue has been described by Historic England as “one of the highlights of Victorian Gothic architecture in the country”.

Manchester Jewish Museum, 190 Cheetham Hill Rd, Cheetham Hill, Manchester M8 8LW
0161 834 9879


Elizabeth Gaskell’s House
For over 150 years, this house in Victoria Park has been associated with its most famous resident: the novelist, Elizabeth Gaskell, who lived here from 1850 to 1865. Cited after her death as ‘one of the greatest female novelists of all time’, she is best known for writing the novels Cranford, Ruth, North and South and Wives and Daughters, as well as the biography of her friend Charlotte Brontë. Today visitors to the house can find out about Elizabeth’s work, explore the lives of their daughters and servants and discover the Manchester that the Gaskells knew in 1857.

Elizabeth Gaskell’s House, 84 Plymouth Grove, Manchester M13 9LW
0161 273 2215


The Hat Works
Also referred to as ‘that hat museum in Stockport’, the Hat Works is an award-winning attraction offering two floors of interactive exhibits that take you on a journey through Stockport’s once thriving hatting industry. The museum is home to a recreated hat factory with some 20 fully restored working Victorian-style machines. Plus a fantastic collection of over 400 hats from around the world. It’s currently closed for renovation but is set to re-open sometime in 2022.

Hat Works, Wellington Mill, Wellington Rd S, Stockport SK3 0EU
0161 474 2399


Portland Basin Museum
Housed within a restored 19th Century Ashton Canal Warehouse, this museum features a re-created 1920s street, with the sights and sounds of bygone Tameside brought to life. There’s an accurate kitchen and parlour too so you can explore how people used to live 100 years ago. Visitors can also explore the area’s industrial heritage and discover what life was like down the mines or on the farm.

Portland Basin Museum, Portland Pl, Ashton-under-Lyne OL7 0QA
0161 342 5480


Ellenroad Engine House Steam Museum
This place is actually home to the world’s largest working steam mill engine, and they’ll get it pumping for you on the first Sunday of every month. The preserved engine powered the Ellenroad Ring Mill from 1917, and after the mill’s closure, it was turned into a museum display. This huge monster is probably the most powerful preserved engine in the world. Also in the museum is the original Ellenroad Mill generator engine and sprinkler pump – if that’s your sort of thing too.

Ellenroad Engine House Steam Museum, Elizabethan Way, Milnrow, Newhey, Rochdale OL16 4LE


Stockport Air Raid Shelters
Opened in 1939, the shelters were the largest purpose-built civilian air raid shelters in the country designed to provide shelter for up to 3,850 people. They were extended in 1940-41 to accommodate 6,500. Carved into natural sandstone cliffs, this intriguing network of underground tunnels offers visitors an unparalleled insight into life in wartime Britain in the 1940’s. Visitors have the opportunity of learning about the experiences of local people during the war, learning all about the experiences from the displays in the tunnels and from the state of the art audio-guides.

Stockport Air Raid Shelters, 61 Chestergate, Cheshire, Stockport SK1 1NE
0161 474 1940


Bury Transport Museum
Located in a restored Goods Warehouse from 1848, the Bury Transport Museum will take you back through the 20th Century, recreating what life was like with loads of hands-on exhibits and full-sized vehicles. There are cars, trucks, buses and trains on display, with a treasure trove of vintage vehicles to climb aboard and period costumes to try on. There’s also the Yelloway Bus – the UK’s smallest museum-inside-a-museum.

Bury Transport Museum, Bolton St Station, Castlecroft Goods Warehouse, Bury BL9 0EY
0161 763 7949