Museum collections

The Lubbock Collection

The museum has part of the archaeology and ethnographic collection built up by Sir John Lubbock.

Sir John Lubbock

Sir John Lubbock, the first Lord Avebury, lived at High Elms near Farnborough (1834 - 1913). He belonged to a wealthy banking family and was MP for Maidstone and London University. As an MP he is best known for introducing the August Bank Holiday and other social reforms. He also had academic interests in areas ranging from archaeology to zoology. His collection was partly a reflection of these interests.


In 1865 Sir John published one of his most popular books - Prehistoric Times. This book was partly based on his own research whilst visiting important prehistoric sites across Europe and building up his own collection of archaeological finds. These items include flint handaxes from St Acheul in the Somme Valley and chipped and polished flint axeheads from Denmark. His analysis of prehistoric stone tools led to the suggestion that there was an Old Stone Age (Palaeolithic) and New Stone Age (Neolithic). These are divisions still in use by archaeologists today.


Sir John studied the lifestyles of people living in Africa, the Far East, Australia and North America to help him understand how people lived in prehistoric societies. Through contacts around the world Lubbock acquired objects as diverse as boomerangs from Australia, ceremonial spears from the Pacific and tribal weapons from Africa. This approach to studying ethnography and archaeology was quite common in the late 19th century. Today archaeologists realise that making comparisons between the lifestyles of modern non-literate societies and prehistoric societies can be misleading.

Ernest Griset Pictures

Lubbock commissioned a series of nineteen watercolours reconstructing prehistoric life by Victorian artist Ernest Griset. They provide a useful insight into his views on prehistory, although the reason why they were produced is unknown as he never published them. They include reconstructions of specific archaeological sites he studied, such as lake dwellings in Switzerland, and more general scenes of animal hunts and prehistoric wildlife. 
La Trobe University in Australia is carrying out a research project into the Griset paintings as they are probably the earliest attempted reconstruction of prehistoric life and would have been considered quite controversial for their time. They were possibly on show at High Elms, Lord Avebury's family home.

Bromley Museum


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