Please note: from 30 November 2018 for an expected three months the First Generation Gallery and the Mainframes and Large Systems Room will not be included in the tour because the roof is being refurbished.
The public guided tours are very popular and enable visitors to see our collection when the museum is closed to the general public and accompanied by one of our knowledgeable guides.
To book a place on a tour: you can book in advance online or buy a ticket as soon as you arrive at Block H (The National Museum of Computing) on Bletchley Park. Places are limited to 16 people, so online advance booking is recommended. The cost is £12.50 (concessions £10). We are unable to accept education groups on our public tours -- these should be booked through our Learning Programme.
Please arrive 15 minutes before the start of your tour and meet at the shop. The shop will be open 30 minutes before the tour starts.
The tour lasts about 2 hours and covers the full museum collection from Colossus onwards. Much of what is on display actually works, and our guides describe how the computers were used, tell anecdotes on their design and operation, and operate some of the equipment.
The tours are designed for adults and is a walking tour packed with information, but with little opportunity for hands-on with the exhibits (that's best on days when the museum is fully open to the public). Consequently, it is not really suitable for children under 11. Families with young children are advised to visit when the museum is fully open – Thursday, Saturday and Sunday afternoons, public holidays and additional days during the school holidays – then there are opportunities to have hands-on access to many computers.
If you wish to make a booking for a group of 10 or more, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss the possibilities of a private group tour.
The National Museum of Computing hosts organised educational visits from schools and educational establishments which are suitable for young people of all ages. Please contact our Learning Programme for more details.
Tour Guide Profiles
Robert Dowell is an author of two SciFi books and has always been fascinated with Technology and Science Fiction. As a qualified Interior and Product Designer, he has a love of Artistic and creative pursuits. He has spent 20 years in the IT industry, before joining The National Museum of Computing in 2011 to became a guide for the Public and Educational tours. Over the past four years he has read extensively about computing history to gain a wide knowledge and understanding of the computing industry, past and present. Robert is a naturally inquisitive person, always looking for more than just a simple reason for something to exist. Most of this can of course be laid at the door of his personal hero, the technology writer and presenter James Burke, who was responsible for the late 1970's outstanding BBC TV series Connections.
Robert has three mottoes in his life:
1 For ultimate happiness, follow your heart and let your brain figure it out.
2 Nothing is as simple as it at first seems and is never as complex as we would like to believe.
3 Everything exists for a reason.
Philip Catterall's career to date has spanned most of the technology on display at the museum and he has experienced it from many perspectives from training and business analysis to operations and systems design. He even worked in Block H long before The National Museum of Computing arrived and in a time when the history of Bletchley Park was still under security wraps. In the1980s, Philip designed and developed training courses to help convert BT engineers from analogue to the new digital systems and later was responsible for the design and development of corporate scale training, pricing and billing systems. He is fascinated to see echoes of earlier technologies on display at the museum still evident in systems today and ruefully wishes he had had knowledge of the principles of those earlier systems such as the 1950s LEO approach to costing methods! Philip's more recent work on systems and contract management in health and social care has steered him in the direction of using cheap and powerful 21st century technology to find ways of making music accessible for people with disabilities. He feels that with devices like the Raspberry Pi and the Arduino, it is as exciting today to take up computing science as it was in the 1980s.
During his career Sheridan Williams has actually used lots of the computers now on display in the Museum, so he will have lots of first-hand anecdotes to tell throughout his tours! Sheridan began his career in 1966 as a rocket-scientist with the UK Ministry of Defence using a Ferranti Mk1 and PACE analogue computer to model the flight of rockets. After 10 years he became a senior lecturer in computer science using Elliott and ICL computers. He helped launch Personal Computer World magazine in the 1980s and was its equipment reviewer and computer agony uncle on the Computer Answers pages. He was also a co-founder of BEEBUG, the user group for the BBC micro and later Acorn's RISC computers. Sheridan is a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society and was Director of the British Astronomical Association's Computing Section for several years, compiling their annual handbook, and leads astronomical tours all over the world. He has even found time to be a successful rally driver winning several championships.
Peter Hoath started his career working for English Electric as a commissioning engineer for large electrical machines in a steel rolling mill in northern Spain. The attraction of large currents soon waned and he moved onto programming telephone exchanges in machine code for the Post Office, progressed into communications security in the early 1980s and that naturally led into IT security. There he was engaged in catching hackers, preparing and delivering expert evidence in court including the feted case of Robert Schifreen whose prosecution for fraud led to the Computer Misuse Act. Sadly, the longer he spent in the industry the further away he moved from the interesting nuts and bolts. Moving into IT security policy and compliance, he reached the position of CSO for BT Global Services in the UK. Following his retirement, he spent two years restoring Eric, a Royal Blue Triumph TR4A, from a basket case of parts. Looking for another challenge and, having been a frequent visitor and Club Member, he joined The National Museum of Computing volunteering team as a steward in April 2014. His knowledge and enthusiasm soon led to him giving guided and education tours. He has a daughter and grandson in Canada who he enjoys visiting and exploring that vast country.
Starting his career at Marconi as a Student Apprentice, Tony Carroll worked on early microchips in their research lab. He then transferred to the Microelectronics facility at Witham and from the late 1960s he worked for a semi-conductor distributor company, setting up his own business in 1976 distributing electronics to industry and aerospace. Sadly, he had to sell this business in the mid-1990s because of kidney failure, but was given a new lease of life in 2002 following a kidney transplant. Later he started volunteering, initially at Bletchley Park Trust from 2007-2014, doing both guided tours and education tours about codes and ciphers. In 2015 he joined the volunteer team at The National Museum of Computing where he leads our Tuesday public guided tours as well as education and corporate groups. He entertains and educates visitors here with his detailed knowledge of the wartime story of Bletchley Park and development of computing since World War II. He is married with two daughters and four grandchildren. One of his daughters works in the industry for a software company located in Block E at the Bletchley Park Science & Innovation Centre.
Vincent Bodsworth read mathematics and theoretical physics at Cambridge University in the 1960s, when he also had the opportunity to attend lectures on computers given by Maurice Wilkes, the designer of the EDSAC computer, now being reconstructed in the First Generation Gallery. After university he joined ICL, or ICT as it then was, the largest of the British computer manufacturers at that time. While at ICL he worked with many of the early British pioneers of computing who had joined from the original companies, including Leo Computers and Elliott Automation that had been absorbed along the way. He was one of the team instrumental in the specification and launch of the ICL 2900 series (now a big favourite at the Museum). With a keen interest in mathematics and technology, Vincent has read widely on the development of early computers in the UK and USA and also has been a user of quite a few of the exhibits on display in the museum. From the 1980s Vincent worked predominantly in the software industry, developing and implementing systems in major companies around the globe.