Bolton Library and Museum Services

Egyptology Collection history

Annie Barlow in 1931, with Mahatma Gandhi

Bolton Museum houses one of the most comprehensive collections of Ancient Egyptian objects in the UK, containing some 10,000 objects spanning a period of over 12,000 years.

At the time of the opening of the Chadwick Museum in 1883, Egypt was of great interest to Britain. The Suez Canal, the main sea route to India, was partly under British control, and Egypt itself was governed under an Anglo-French protectorate. Egypt was a large market for British goods, and an increasingly popular destination for adventurous tourists.


Large amounts of Egyptian cotton were exported to the mills of Bolton; one of the largest and most successful mill companies was the firm of Barlow and Jones, founded by James Barlow of Edgeworth.

Annie Barlow (1863-1941), James’s daughter, became interested in Ancient Egypt. She began to support the Egypt Exploration Society, a group set up to promote interest in the monuments of Egypt. She was soon appointed as "Local Secretary" for Bolton, responsible for raising funds for the EES.

She travelled to Egypt in 1888, a considerable undertaking for an unmarried woman, and visited sites in the Delta being excavated by the EES.

Bolton benefited from Annie Barlow’s support for the Egypt Exploration Society. Excavators in Egypt were allowed to keep a proportion of their finds, and the Egypt Exploration Society used this system to raise money for excavations, giving objects to institutions or collectors who had funded their work.

Annie Barlow asked for her share of the finds to be given to the Chadwick Museum, the forerunner of Bolton Museum.

Bolton Museum has been a major supporter of the Egypt Exploration Society ever since, and a large proportion of its Egyptian collection derives from EES excavations. In the 1920s and 1930s. The Museum also supported the excavations of Flinders Petrie in Egypt and Palestine. Much more detail about the make up of the collection can be found in the Egyptology researchers section.

The collection has also grown through purchase and gift. One major donation was received in 1983: a large group of Egyptian objects from the Wellcome Historical Museum of Medicine in London.