One of the oldest secular buildings in the country is set to reopen to the public this week – with visitors able to explore the much-loved Marlipins Museum for free until the end of October.

The doors of the distinctive Norman building in Shoreham High Street have been closed for much of the past two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But, after many weeks of work by The Sussex Archaeological Society, the unique collections of maritime treasures are now looking shipshape and will be available for anyone to visit for free every Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 11am to 3pm until the autumn.

Emma O’Connor, Museums Officer at Sussex Past – the trading name of registered charity Sussex Archaeological Society, said: “We’re delighted to be reopening the Marlipins Museum to visitors once again. After being shut for most of the past two years, it will be fantastic to see people enjoying the space and interacting with the collections and curiosities inside.

It’s one of the oldest secular buildings still standing in the country and there’s lots to see inside, from the strange and macabre surgical instruments to shipwreck souvenirs and amazing examples of ship modelling. We want to thank the volunteers from the Friends of Marlipins who have helped us prepare for reopening and allow us to share this wonderful space with the wider public.”

The Grade II listed building, which is famous for its striking flint and limestone chequerboard façade, dates back to the 12th century. The building is understood to have been used as a toll or custom house for the port and markets, providing secure storage for high-end goods such as wines, spices and fabrics.

Now it is home to a unique collection which sheds light on the area’s rich maritime history, with objects collected from shipwrecks off the coast of Sussex and further afield. On display are naval surgeons’ sinister-looking medical instruments to incredible examples of 19th century ship models. There are also souvenirs from the HMS Royal George, the largest warship in the world at the time of her launch in 1756, which sank off Portsmouth the same year.

This year will also see a new temporary exhibition of maritime paintings featuring many ships which have links to Sussex.

The Marlipins Museum is among the historic sites owned and cared for by The Sussex Archaeological Society. The county’s largest heritage-based organisation and charity cares for a range of remarkable historical properties, including Lewes Castle & Museum, Fishbourne Roman Palace, Michelham Priory and The Long Man of Wilmington. Membership of the organisation starts at £40 for an individual, £58 for two adults while families can join from £45.

For more information, please visit: www.sussexpast.co.uk