Williamson Art Gallery and Museum

photograph of exterior of williamson art gallery
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Located outside the centre of Birkenhead, the Williamson Art Gallery & Museum was purpose-built and was opened in December 1928.

The building is named after John and Patrick Williamson, father and son, who each bequeathed a substantial sum of money to Birkenhead Borough Council.

The Williamson has built a strong regional reputation for the quality and variety of its exhibitions and houses the vast majority of Birkenhead's collection of art and history collections, some of which are displayed in a series of varied and well proportioned galleries.

Always on show is the largest single display of ship models in the area, focusing on Cammell Laird shipbuilders and their contribution to marine history, the Mersey Ferries and the variety of vessels that used the River Mersey when it was at its busiest.

Venue Type:

Museum, Gallery

Opening hours

Wednesday to Sunday 10-5pm

Admission charges


Collection details

Archaeology, Archives, Decorative and Applied Art, World Cultures, Fine Art, Natural Sciences, Weapons and War, Science and Technology, Social History, Land Transport, Maritime

Exhibition details are listed below, you may need to scroll down to see them all.
James Deegan in situ with gallery assistant Stuart Campbell

People of the Williamson

  • 13 January — 4 February 2018 *on now

People of the Williamson - photographic portraits by James Deegan
Photographic portraits showing the people of the Williamson and reflecting the the rich variety of people who are connected to the gallery, the museum and cafe. The first of two exhibitions from James - the second will look closely at the people of Oxton.

The exhibition includes portraits of exhibiting painter, Steve des Landes in his studio preparing the works for his exhibition Un-Settled, Katarzyna Miturska who runs the independent art supply shop from the foyer, gallery staff members including Principal Museums Officer, Colin Simpson as well as long time supporters of the gallery.

Open Wednesday to Sunday 10am until 5pm
13 January - 4 February 2018

Suitable for

  • Any age


Free but donations welcomed

Steve des Landes by James Deegan


  • 13 January — 4 March 2018 *on now

Steve des Landes paintings don’t merely show us a representation of external visual life, his compositions, his figures portray tensions, emotional histories and past lives. Despite showing his work elsewhere in Liverpool and London, Steve des Landes has not had a solo show in Wirral and is pleased to be working with the Wirral Museums Service and Wirral Council as part of a year focusing on culture and creativity in the area, with his solo exhibition Un-settled. The Williamson is proud to be part of Liverpool 2018, the beginning of a celebration of ten years of culture and creativity that will bring new visitors to the Liverpool City Region.

Steve has lived close to the Williamson Art Gallery in Birkenhead for several years and was the winner of the Williamson Open in 2015. In the words of the Principal Museums Officer, Colin Simpson, Steve des Landes is one of the most significant artists painting in the North West at the moment but unknown to so many. Despite showing his work elsewhere in Liverpool and London, he has not had a solo show in Wirral before and he has asked me to help promote his exhibition wider than I can in my one-day-a-week role promoting the gallery's busy schedule.

Steve has created the works for Un-settled, working diligently in his studio over the past five years. His work reflects his emotional journey from a childhood in coastal Southport and the significant influences of an urban adulthood in Liverpool and Birkenhead.

The visual language that Steve des Landes uses may be conventional and figures appear realistic and natural but the space is manipulated and contorted as are the figures, to tell the story. His paintings don’t merely show us a representation ofexternal visual life, his compositions, his figures portray tensions, emotional histories and past lives.

This exhibition marks a significant moment in his artistic life as a mature artist when he is saying “I am here, I am part of the community. This is who I am. It is unsettling but necessary”.

Open Wednesday to Sunday 10am until 5pm

Suitable for

  • Any age


Free but donations welcome



Crumpled image of Yes Shing Chao, Terry's father

Dragons in the Pool

  • 10 February — 18 March 2018

The little-known history of Chinese seamen who were secretly deported from the UK after the Second World War is to be revealed in an exhibition from Rosa Fong from Edgehill University at the Williamson Art Gallery in Birkenhead.

In 1946, the Liverpool Constabulary carried out orders from the British government to deport Chinese sailors in Merseyside, many of whom had travelled to England as part of the war effort. They were forcibly repatriated to China.

“More than 1,300 Chinese sailors were put on specially assigned ships and sent to the Far East without notice.”

The wives and children of the men believed they had been deserted. It wasn’t until the release of declassified records 50 years later that it was revealed that more than 1,300 Chinese sailors had been put on specially assigned ships and sent to the Far East without notice.

Now Edge Hill University, working with local community group "The Dragons of the Pool", will document the stories of the surviving children of the seamen for the first time.

Thanks to a £10,000 HLF grant, this year-long project will record video interviews with the seamen’s descendants, now in their seventies, and capture this important part of British Chinese history for future generations. The project’s research will be then be archived in Birkenhead Library.

The project will culminate in an exhibition at the Williamson Art Gallery in Birkenhead, inviting the local community to share their stories of the Liverpool Eurasian community. Chinese seamen began to settle in Liverpool from the end of the 1880s and by the start of the 20th century Liverpool had the largest settlement of Chinese in the UK.

It is hoped the project will help participants to find out the stories behind their fathers’ disappearance and educate the wider community about the shocking events of 1946.

10 February - 18 March 2018
Open Wednesday to Sunday 10am until 5pm

Suitable for

  • Any age


Free but donations welcomed



Events details are listed below. You may need to scroll down or click on headers to see them all. For events that don't have a specific date see the 'Resources' tab above.
Rhinoceros after Durer

Animal Encounters

  • 10 January — 11 November 2018 *on now


Throughout history, artists have created drawings and paintings of animals reflecting their personal relationships, because animals have always been important to human life. Stone Age people decorated their caves with images of the animals they hunted for food. The ancient Egyptians depicted many of their gods with heads of animals. In recent centuries the images have been more complex, illustrating the extraordinary nature of exotic creatures, the struggles between man and beast, the ‘wildness’ of nature or the individual beauty of an animal.
We tend to categorise animals as ‘wild’, ‘farm’ or ‘domestic’. Why do we do this and can the categories be broken down? This exhibition invites visitors to examine how humans interact and respond to the animal kingdom and add to our enquiry within the exhibition.

The Animal Encounters exhibition brings together paintings, drawings, prints and objects from across the museum collection depicting animals in a wide range of settings. The selection may change from time to time, especially to include work by living local artists contributing to the theme.

The exhibition will be used as a catalyst for our learning programme at the Williamson with schools, pre-schoolers and families with Gallery Four becoming a space dedicated to sharing and celebrating art works and artefacts from across the gallery and stores that inspire enquiry around animals. The art-work and artefacts selected will provide comment on animal encounters on domestic, natural and manipulated settings. The conservation agenda of animals and their habitats will be woven into the exhibition with the support of the community team at Chester Zoo in Spring 2018. The world famous zoo is working to tackle one of the most urgent threats to species worldwide, the illegal wildlife trade. This exciting new partnership with Williamson’s Art Gallery is a fantastic opportunity to provide people with the opportunity to explore and question our historic and current relationship with the natural world.

Conservation has been woven into the exhibition with the support of the safari ranger team from Chester Zoo. They are ready to visit your school to deliver FREE interactive workshops with a range of biofacts and activities, to explore our relationship with the natural world, to engage your pupils and to inspire action.

Anya Moon from Chester Zoo explains what they’re up to…

“Last year we launched a campaign to raise awareness, fund and create solutions towards solving this major issue

“We need the public to be the ‘eyes and ears’ and report anything they suspect could be illegal wildlife trade. To facilitate this, we partnered with Taronga Zoo, San Diego Zoo and TRAFFIC as the European lead on the Wildlife Witness project. People can report wildlife trade in South East Asia through the FREE Wildlife Witness smartphone app with all the information going straight to TRAFFIC to be investigated.

“Following on from this project, we then partnered with the UK National Wildlife Crime Unit and TRAFFIC to develop an online reporting form where members of the public can highlight anyillegal wildlife trade outside of South East Asiaand in the UK. We are encouraging BIAZA members to share these reporting resources amongst colleagues, project partners and members of the public in order to work together to help fight the illegal wildlife trade.

“Our flagship project in Java works to protect Indonesian songbirds that are being captured and trapped for the unrelenting cage bird trade. We are working alongside the Cikananga Conservation Breeding Centre to develop long-term strategies for their survival and are hopeful that we can reintroduce birds back into the wild. Last year saw the launch of our Sing for Songbirds campaign, raising awareness and funds for the conservation of these beautiful and rare songbirds.”

What can you do to get involved?

· Visit the Williamson’s Art Galley Animal Encounters exhibition

· Book for a Chester Zoo Safari Ranger to visit your school and run a FREE interactive workshop for your class

· If you want to run the theme as an immersive cross-curricular learning project within your school the Chester Zoo Safari Ranger team can also visit your school to run a FREE teacher CPD workshop

· Organise a visit to Chester Zoo to see first-hand the amazing animals we look after and to find out more about the conservation projects that we support (entrance fee applies)

A bit more about the Safari Ranger visit to your school….

The intrepid Safari Rangers will arrive at your school in the Rangermobile and bring along a host ofbiofacts for use in your workshops. Elephant tusks, snake skins, macaw feathers, skulls, porcupine quills or ostrich eggs are just a few of the amazing biofacts which our Safari Ranger may use to teach your pupils about the natural world and our relationship with it in our interactive workshop. The zoo’s artefacts really do bring a little bit of the zoo to you! For any class visiting the Animal Encounters exhibition, the zoo would like to offer a FREE 50 minute workshop which can be delivered before or after a visit to the Animal Encounters exhibition.

The galleries are open from Wednesday to Sunday from 10am to 5pm, but staff shortages may necessitate early closure of some rooms at the end of the day. Please note the gallery is closed between 23rd of December 2017 and 10th of January. Schools arranged visits can occur on Mondays and Tuesdays in term-time (despite the building being closed to the public).

Suitable for

  • Any age





Williamson Art Gallery and Museum
Slatey Road
Birkenhead, Wirral
CH43 4UE






0151 6663537

All information is drawn from or provided by the venues themselves and every effort is made to ensure it is correct. Please remember to double check opening hours with the venue concerned before making a special visit.