The star attraction of Olney is the world renowned Cowper and Newton museum which celebrates the unique literary heritage of two men, and the place where the hymn ‘Amazing Grace’ was written.
Cowper and Newton lived in Olney, and this a unique Georgian story about their friendship, as well as beautifully documenting their lives in the town. It attracts visitors from around the world. The gardens are are delightful place to explore too: well tended, with a lovely 18th Century summerhouse.
The museum showcases the life and work of the leading 18th Century poet & letter writer, William Cowper, and his friend, John Newton who wrote the hymn “Amazing Grace” (the hymn is quoted below).
John Newton had been a seafarer and slave trader, but became a famous preacher and a spiritual mentor to William Wilberforce, the abolitionist. The museum has a display showing the slave trade and Newton’s part in abolition. (Image Steve James for Visit Olney)
The museum also has many belongings of the men which show how they lived, worked and about how their fame spread.
More than just Cowper and Newton
There is also a fascinating array of documents, objects and pictures to show how Olney evolved, particularly its past as a centre for lace-making and the boot and shoe industry. A treasure trove of Olney’s history through the years.
The town museum is supported by a hardworking team of staff and volunteers who put on an ambitious programme of events during the year. Volunteers are often to be seen dressed up in Georgian outfits!
Open day: Copyright Steve James for Visit Olney.
There is access for wheelchair users to the garden, and some access to the house. A portfolio of photographs of the exhibits in the upper rooms is available for those who find the steep stairs from this old building difficult to manage.
Our listing for the museum with more information is here…
We are grateful for the kind permission given by the museum for our photography;
and to Steve James for providing such images.
Amazing Grace by John Newton
“Amazing grace! (how sweet the sound)
That sav’d a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.
‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears reliev’d;
How precious did that grace appear,
The hour I first believ’d!
Thro’ many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
‘Tis grace has brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.
The Lord has promis’d good to me,
His word my hope secures;
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures
Yes, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease;
I shall possess, within the vail,
A life of joy and peace.
The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun forbear to shine;
But God, who call’d me here below,
Will be for ever mine.”
By Kind permission of the Cowper and Newton Museum, Olney