Mad Hatter makeover at Dimbola Tea Room

Hats off to Dimbola

Mad Hatter makeover at Dimbola Tea Room wins top award

Last Wednesday (15/5/13) the Dimbola Tea Room won the Museum & Heritage Award for Excellence for best project on a limited budget fending off serious competition from The British Library and National Galleries of Scotland. The Awards, held in London, were presented by BAFTA winning comedienne Sue Perkins. Dimbola Museum trustees Gail Middleton and Mary Clemmensen were on hand to pick up the award.


‘This is a very prestigious award,’ says Gail ‘and proof that Dimbola is made all the more magical by our amazing team of volunteers led by Shirley Harman. The work for this project was carried out by them and we can’t thank them enough.’

The tea room makeover was part of a volunteer based initiative aimed at making the space more attractive to people of all ages whilst still retaining a strong connection to the museum and galleries. The budget was only £1,500 and so the team utilized reclaimed objects, donated china and up-cycled old linen. The theme of Mad Hatter was chosen as Lewis Carroll was a visitor to Dimbola and there is clear evidence that some of his characters were based on the ‘Freshwater circle’ which included Julia Margaret Cameron.  This is explored in two exhibitions, The Wonderland of Alice, on show at the gallery over the summer.

There is no charge to visit the tea room which is open 7 days a week serving delicious home-made food and afternoon tea. They also serve a classic Victorian high-tea which requires 24 hour notice and costs just £15.00 for two people. The tea includes sandwiches, cakes and scones with cream and jam.


Dimbola Museum & Galleries is the former home of pioneering Victorian photographer Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-1879). The Museum is dedicated to displaying her life and work as well as showcasing contemporary exhibitions from photographers around the world.

April – October: The gallery and tea room serving freshly made food, open 7 days a week 10am – 5pm, last entry 4.30pm. Entry to the Museum and Gallery is £4.00 for adults

The M+H Awards, now in their 11th year, was attended by over 300 guests and celebrates the best practice within museums, galleries and heritage visitor attractions. Each year hundreds of entrants  battle it out to win one of eleven prestigious awards.  Categories are judged by a panel of experts from a range of industry sectors and specialism’s. The judges will be looking for evidence of ‘outcome, creativity, relation to objective and cost effectiveness’

Gail Downey Middleton is the author of THE FRESHWATER CIRCLE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS AND WHAT LEWIS CARROLL FOUND THERE. Alfred Lord Tennyson, Julia Margaret Cameron, George Frederick Watts were all part of the glittering Freshwater circle. Gail’s book explores how they may have inspired Lewis Carroll giving substance to his literary characters. Gail also worked in the fashion industry for many years with such luminaries as John Galliano.

For more information call 01983 756 814 or visit www.dimbola.co.ukDimbola Museum & Galleries: Terrace Lane, Freshwater Bay, Isle of Wight PO40 9QEPhoto credit Julian Winslow

Tracy Mikich

Mobile: 0744 905 4368