Down Through Time

Located in the Governor's Residence of the old Gaol buildings, our permanent exhibition, Down Through Time, brings to life 9000 years of human history in Down. Featuring over 1100 historic objects, documents and works of art, the displays provide a fascinating glimpse into the County's past.

From prehistory to 1798

Discover how the people of Down, from prehistoric hunters and gatherers to eighteenth-century landlords and surveyors have left their imprint on farming, industry and architecture. Find out more about the early history of Down.

Take part in hands-on activities. Listen to accounts of medieval and early modern events and personalities. Get closer to objects from the time and investigate local sites.

1798 - 1803

The 1798 rising was one of the bloodiest episodes in Down's history. Thousands of rebels from the County 'turned out' in June 1798 to be defeated at the Battle of Ballynahinch. The museum holds a significant collection of objects and documents from this period. The gaol's most famous prisoner, Thomas Russell, was a United Irish leader executed here in 1803.

Explore the causes, course and consequences of the rebellions on 1798 and 1803 and listen to accounts of the time.

1804 - 2000

Two centuries of dramatic change have transformed County Down but living through conflict or peace, the indomitable spirit of the people survives.


Look through a window on the past at artefacts, documents and photographs which express our identity and memories.  Enjoy family-themed interactive displays, discover more about the collection and listen to oral history from the past fifty years.                                      

Down Through Time has been developed to provide a stimulating and informative visit for families and children. Children can:
  • use a variety of gallery interactives to investigate objects on display
  • re-assemble a model of a prehistoric pot
  • touch Stone Age and Bronze Age objects
  • dress up in replica costume from the Viking, Victorian and World War II periods
  • have a go at Viking weaving
  • explore an Early Christian monastery and a medieval tower house
  • make their own version of the Ballybrannagh quilt
  • play games from World War II