Introduction to The Panacea Museum, Bedford
This museum tells the story of the Panacea Society – a remarkable religious community formed in the early twentieth century.
The Society was founded in 1919 by Mabel Barltrop, a 53-year-old widow who lived in Bedford.
For 90 years, members of the society quietly lived, worked and worshipped God in their community.
Although they took care to reveal little about themselves to outsiders, the society’s name became familiar to many people beyond Bedford through their national advertising campaign to open ‘Joanna Southcott’s Box’ a curious cultural icon of inter-war Britain.
During the 1920s and 1930s the community grew to more than 70 resident members living in and around Albany Road in Bedford, with about 2,000 members living elsewhere across the world. Over 130,000 people applied to receive the Society’s method of healing through water – its ‘panacea’ to cure all illnesses
The Panacea Museum is in ‘Castleside’, a beautiful Victorian house that was part of the community’s headquarters. It tells the story of the Panacea Society and other similar religious groups.
The museum also incorporates several other buildings, set within the gardens, that formed the original community’s ‘campus’.
The museum has a small café which serves tea, coffee, soft drinks and a selection of cakes and snacks.
If you would like to visit the museum, please click here.
Alternatively, if you would like to take a virtual look around the museum, you can access our guide book here.