The Panacea Museum tells the story of the Panacea Society, a remarkable religious community that existed in Bedford for almost a century.
In the main museum building you can discover how the society was formed, what they believed and how they lived. You can also find out about Joanna Southcott and her sealed box of prophecies and why the Panacea Society campaigned tirelessly for the box to be opened.
On the far side of the museum gardens you can visit No. 12 Albany Road – the home of Mabel Barltrop, the founder of the Panacea Society. From around 1904, this was the Barltrop family home, where Mabel lived with her husband Arthur, and their four children. Later the house became a central location in the Society, as Mabel, who later became known as Octavia to her followers, remained in residence until her death in 1934. Today you can see this building as it appeared in the 1930s.
The Chapel is where members of the Panacea Society gathered for religious worship from 1920 to the 1990s. Inside this building you can learn more about the Society’s daily services and about their international healing ministry which they believed could provide a cure for all illnesses.
To the North of the Chapel is a small building known as the ‘Wireless Room’. In this space, community members came to listen to the radio. The room was also used for games such as darts, cards and board games.
Finally the gardens that house the Panacea buildings were of great importance to members of the society, as they believed these gardens stood on the site of the original Garden of Eden. Today you can explore the grounds, and if you are visiting on one of our Open Days, enjoy tea and cake on the lawn.