The Panacea Museum in Bedford reopens next week - take a picnic and sit in the garden

Expect to see plenty of extra safety measures in place

Wednesday, 12th May 2021, 3:35 pm

The Panacea Museum reopens on Thursday, May 20, with plenty of extra safety measures in place to protect both visitors and staff.

Visitors will have the opportunity to discover the fascinating story of Octavia and the Panacea Society, a religious community formed in the early 20th century.

The society’s name became familiar to many people beyond Bedford through their national advertising campaign to open the sealed box of prophecies written by Joanna Southcott, who lived in the 18th Century.

The Panacea Museum's gardens

Calls to open the box were advertised by the Society on buses, in newspapers, in leaflets and as part of public speaking tours, until the 1990s.

And it became such a well-known part of popular culture that it was part of a Monty Python sketch, the topic of a 1927 spoof by Cambridge University students, and numerous hoaxes including two separate hoax openings in 1925.

It has been in Bedford since 1957.

Panacea Society members believed that the Garden of Eden was actually in Bedford. It was there that they gathered to await the biblical apocalypse and the second coming of Jesus. The last member of the society died in 2012, still waiting.

The museum - in Newnham Road - incorporates beautiful Victorian architecture, interiors and carefully-tended gardens.

The majority of it will be open to the public from next week, with a one-way system in place which includes access to the gardens. Visitors are welcome to bring a picnic and sit in the garden.

All visitors to the museum have to wear a mask and entrance is free.

The Panacea Museum