The World of James Herriot is a charming and nostalgic attraction located in Thirsk, North Yorkshire, England. It is dedicated to the life and works of the ‘real’ James Herriot, the pen name of the renowned British veterinarian and author, James Alfred Wight, better known as Alfie Wight.
Thirsk holds a special place in the heart of James Herriot’s fans as it was the town where the Alf Wight practiced veterinary medicine for over 50 years. The World of James Herriot serves as a tribute to his enduring legacy, offering visitors an immersive experience into the world he depicted in his beloved books. Although Herriot’s many animal adventures took place in fictitious Darrowby, Thirsk served as the inspiration for the Yorkshire town of Wight’s many books.
The World of James Herriot is located in the actual house where Alf Wight lived and worked from the 1940s until his retirement in the late 1980s. It is a beautifully preserved Georgian building, which has been faithfully restored to replicate the original veterinary surgery as it appeared during Wight’s time. The attention to detail is remarkable, allowing visitors to step back in time and feel as though they have stepped in to the pages of his stories.
Visitors are greeted by friendly staff and can explore the museum at their own pace. Tickets are sold in the adjacent house which is also home to the gift shop. When we visited (Summer 2023) an adult ticket cost £8.50.
The museum showcases an extensive collection of artifacts and memorabilia related to Wight’s life. The exhibits include his personal belongings, original veterinary instruments, and even the Austin Seven car he used to make his rounds in the Yorkshire Dales.
Entering the museum through the bright red front door, you are immediately transported back in to a 1940’s corridor. Everything is laid out as if the inhabitants of the house have merely stepped out for a moment. Trench coats and macs hanging on the coat rack, shoes lined up along the corridor and at the far end, the well-beloved old grandfather’s clock which featured often in the James Herriot shows.
Dining Room & Sitting Room
Around the corner, the first room you encounter is the dining and examining room. It is a busy room with a dining table laid out ready for a meal, a writing desk and cabinets for china. Fans of the Herriot world will immediately recognise Mrs Pumphrey and Tricki Woo waiting to see the Doctor.
Just along that corridor is the infamous telephone that rings at all hours – with farmers in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales asking the vet to make house calls come rain, sleet or snow. While diagonally opposite the dining room, is the sitting room is all laid out ready for the family to wind down in the evening. With big comfy chairs, a smaterring of children’s toys on the floor and even a baby’s rocking cradle.
The Dispensary, Breakfast/Examining Room, Consulting Room/Store
The business aspects of the veterinary practise becomes clear in the next couple of rooms which house the dispensary, the breakfast/examining room and the consulting room/store. The dispensary is filled with rows and rows of glass bottles of powders, medicines and tinctures and a sink with which to make up said prescriptions.
While the breakfast room, supposedly where the Wight family ate most of their meals, also served as the examining room for visiting animal patients. The consulting room is really not much larger than a box room and in the corner stands the large pressure vessel used to disinfect surgical instruments.
The largest room in the entire house is the kitchen/scullery where a large dining table fills the space, not unlike that in the TV series’. The busy table is laid out ready for a meal and the kitchen and cooking area is filled with boxes and tins from yesteryears. From cans of peaches and oxo cubes to cans of Chivers jams.
The kitchen-scullery leads to a passage way that is now a tribute to much of Wight’s published work. This includes various extracts and newspaper clippings, reader’s digest magazines, scripts, sheet music and photographs both from Wight’s life and from the various TV series of Herriot’s adventures.
Garden & Barn
The garden is a beautiful sun trap, well tended with mature flowering roses bushes and a bronze statue of Wight with one of his beloved dogs. In a corner of the garden, under shade and behind glass is Wight’s actual Austin Seven car.
The barn at the end of the garden captures a glimpse of a farmer’s yard with a repeating video narrative of Wight’s life and times. While the rest of the downstairs of the museum is dedicated to the sets and filming of the different versions of on-screen Herriot.
The upstairs of the museum is dedicated to veterinary as a profession with a huge interactive play area for younger children to explore. Moving through the rooms upstairs is a clear narrative of the development of veterinary science including a history of women’s acceptance in to a profession that was initially closed to them. The end of the self-paced tour takes you back into the gift shop with souvenirs, books, and other items related to James Herriot and Yorkshire farm life, from where the entrance tickets were initially purchased.
The World of James Herriot in Thirsk is a must-visit destination for fans of the beloved author and anyone interested in the history of veterinary medicine and the rural way of life. It captures the essence of James Herriot’s world and pays tribute to his enduring contribution to literature and the love he had for the people and animals he served.
Thirsk itself is a picturesque market town that offers a range of attractions and activities for visitors. From strolling along its quaint streets lined with charming shops and cafes to exploring the beautiful surrounding countryside, there is much to see and do in this delightful corner of North Yorkshire.
Add: 23 Kirkgate, Thirsk YO7 1PL
- Monday: 9:30 am–5 pm
- Tuesday: 9:30 am–5 pm
- Wednesday: 9:30 am–5 pm
- Thursday: 9:30 am–5 pm
- Friday: 9:30 am–5 pm
- Saturday: 9:30 am–5 pm
- Sunday: 9:30 am–5 pm