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The walled gardens of the Stockwood Discovery Centre.
The Garden Cafe's exterior at the Stockwood Discovery Centre.
A carriage displayed at the Discovery Centre in the Mossman Gallery.
One of the Discovery Centre's displays.

Stockwood Discovery Centre

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Please be aware of government guidelines before setting off.

Government Guidelines
  • Discover the many gorgeous themed gardens of Stockwood.
  • Find out about carriages and crafts from around Luton in the Mossman Gallery and Bagshawe Gallery.
  • Let the kids play while you get a tasty snack at the café.


Stockwood Discovery Centre Luton, also known as Stockwood Park Discovery Centre, displays a variety of local-based history, archaeology, geology and crafts within the Georgian Grade II listed stable block and walled garden that were once part of the Stockwood House. Originally the Stockwood Craft Museum opened in 1986; it is one of the few places in the country that the work of Ian Hamilton Finlay can be seen, a Scottish poet, writer, artist and gardener. It was awarded the Tripadvisor Certificate of Excellence in 2019 and is a great day out with the kids in Bedfordshire. If you’re looking for other amazing Bedfordshire experiences, Dunstable Downs is a fun and informative day out as a family.

One of the most memorable parts of Stockwood Discovery Centre is the gardens, which were created by Luton Council. The Elizabethan Knot Garden and Dig for Victory Garden are two of the specially made gardens. The Period Garden demonstrates the changing styles in gardening across time. There is also a Sensory Garden featuring elements to smell and touch. The Medicinal Garden demonstrates the importance of plants in medicine throughout history. Ian Hamilton Finlay’s garden, the Improvement Garden, brings together plants and his sculptures.

Another famous aspect of the Stockwood Discovery Centre is the Mossman Carriage Collection, the largest collection of horse-drawn carriages in the UK. The collection focuses on vehicles and carriages from Roman times up until the 1930s. The collection also looks at vehicles used in Britain by ordinary people and labourers to luxury vehicles and state coaches used by the British nobility. George Mossman, the curator of the collection, was born in 1908 and had a fascination with horse-drawn vehicles when working as a butcher. He was able to join a company who leased carriages for films and special events and ended up driving them during events like the Lord Mayor’s Show and Queen Elizabeth's coronation procession. The collection has more than 60 vehicles on display.

For art, the museum has a multitude of galleries, but one of the most impressive is the Bagshawe Gallery, focusing on rural crafts and trades amassed by Thomas Wyatt Bagshawe. He focused first ongoing across Bedfordshire villages to interview people about their crafts and then amassed a large number of notes, photographs and illustrations. He also donated some of his personal collection of books on agriculture, local trades, crafts and related topics.  

Stockwood Discovery Centre events are popular throughout the year. Vauxhall: Made In Luton explores the history of Vauxhall, with cars on display from the Vauxhall Heritage Centre. You’ll be able to get up close and personal in a brand new way as you learn about the impact Vauxhall had on Luton. The British Wildlife Photography Awards were held at the Centre in 2019, as well as Gulp! by The Bone Ensemble. The show for kids was based around an environmental message, looking at water, plastic and climate change. The Stockwood Discovery Centre Christmas celebrations are also a bright affair. Stockwood: Illuminated lights up its walkways as you pave through the garden to the festivities at the end, including street food stalls and live music.

The Stockwood Discovery Centre is great for families, perhaps because of its amazing children’s play area alongside the fascinating exhibits. With two rock-climbing walls and plenty of space to run around, this is a great area for the kids to get their energy out after such an exciting day. There is a slide, a wooden shelter, and three pretend horses to play on, one drawing a carriage. There’s also springy wooden platforms and a huge climbing frame with cargo nets and another slide.

If you’re feeling peckish, the children’s play area is just across from the Stockwood Discovery Centre Café. The Café is great for light bites and has begun a takeaway menu to help you picnic in the glorious outdoors. Stockwood also has an afternoon tea which can not be taken away too. What’s particularly special about the Café is that the food prepared there uses local produce or food grown at the Centre. The food grown is Victorian-inspired so includes things such as Golden Sunrise Tomatoes, Crystal Lemon Cucumbers, Golden Ball Turnips and Bedford Fillbasket Brussel Sprouts. If you don’t feel like buying food from the Café, you’re welcome to bring your own picnic.

Feel like having more of a meal? There’s plenty of places to eat nearby. The Carriages Bar and Restaurant is aptly named and serves yummy Italian food. There’s also Parillas Grill and Nakorn Thai, as well as the Frog and Rhubarb who serve pub food. For staying in Luton, the Stockwood Hotel is less than a mile from the Centre. There is also the Linton Hotel Luton and a Premier Inn Luton Town Centre Hotel.

What to know before you go

  • Opening times are currently Thursday - Sunday, 11am - 5pm but may be subject to change, so always check the website first.
  • All buildings have level access and can be entered by wheelchairs and buggies.
  • There are sloping areas in parts of the garden.
  • There is restricted access for wide buggies and wheelchairs in the Discovery Galleries and Period Gardens.
  • Self-propelled wheelchairs and electric mobility scooters are available to borrow if required but call ahead to ensure availability.
  • Fully accessible toilets are available on site, along with baby changing facilities.
  • Halal options are available at the café, but the café venue is not Halal.

Getting there

  • The Stockwood Discovery Centre has a free car park.
  • The Centre is 1.5 miles away from both Luton and Luton Airport Parkway.
  • For buses, take the 321 from Luton Town Centre, Church Street, Stop C9.

Please follow the latest government guidelines if travelling by public transport.

Government Guidelines

Location

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