Author Archives: Museum Administrator

Object of the Month – September 2019

September’s Object of the Month is a wax model of Pestle Puffball fungus, Handkea excipuliformis, found growing under Scots pine trees on a road to Newport, Essex by George Maynard between 1880 and 1904.

Pestle Puffball Fungus

This common fungus can be seen from August to November. It grows in woods, grassland, heaths and on waste ground. The fungus is 8 to 20 cm tall. It is white at first and turns brown as it ages. Initially it is covered in soft, pointed warts which all fall off to leave a smooth surface. The upper, rounded section, 3 to 12 cm across, is the head which contains the spores. The lower, straight section is the stem which soon develops a wrinkled skin.

This puffball is edible when it is young and white, if the tough outer skin is removed. However, the older yellow, olive and brown fungi and stems can still be found in winter and summer and should not be eaten. You need an expert to identify edible fungi as mistakes can easily be made.

George Nathan Maynard

George Nathan Maynard was the first curator of Saffron Walden Museum. He was born in 1829 in the village of Whittlesford, Cambridgeshire. From a young age he showed a great interest in natural sciences, including botany, entomology and geology. George inherited his father’s shop but had to sell it in 1873. The family moved to Lambeth in London where he worked as a printer and his wife Elizabeth was a dressmaker. In 1880 he was employed as the first paid curator of Saffron Walden Museum.

As curator he reorganised the museum displays, recorded objects in accession registers and carried out conservation work to preserve the collections. During this time he made a collection of models in wax, modelled from fungus specimens collected in Saffron Walden, Newport, Debden and Little Chesterford.

In 1904 George died of respiratory problems at the age of 75. His son Guy took over as curator until 1920 when he left to become curator of Ipswich Museum.

Fungus Forays

Want to know more about mushrooms and other fungi? 

Wildlife organisations lead fungus forays in the countryside with experts who can help you to discover the fascinating world of fungi, and which ones are edible and which ones to avoid!

Sat 19 October Marks Hill Wood Nature Reserve, Basildon, Essex

Sat 27 October Sandylay & Moat Woods, Great Leighs, Essex

September, October, November.  Lots of fungus meetings with the Essex Field Club, see their Events programme at

Thank you for helping to purchase these treasures!

Thanks to the magnificent generosity of local people and grants from three national organisations, Saffron Walden Museum Society Ltd (charity 1123209) achieved its target of £10,880 and has been able to purchase these four historic objects below for the collections.

They will be on display from Saturday 24 August when there will be short curator’s talks in the Museum’s ground floor gallery at 11.00am, 2.30pm and 4.00pm.

The Museum has been very fortunate to receive grants from the Art Fund, the Arts Council England / V&A Purchase Grant Fund and the Headley Museums Archaeological Acquisition Fund towards the cost of the exquisite medieval reliquary pendant, found in Farnham parish.

The Museum Society has also been able to purchase a Bronze Age gold ring from Great Dunmow, a gold posy ring from Lindsell and a rare silver penny of Harold II which dates to 1066 from Ugley


Thank you to all those who have supported our crowd-funding campaign or donated by cheque or cash.



Your support has saved these local treasures for Uttlesford!





Art Fund

Arts Council England / V&A Purchase Grant Fund

The Headley Museums Archaeological Acquisition Fund



Object of the Month – August 2019


Inspired by the Summer sunshine, Jenny Oxley Collections Officer (Human History) has chosen to pick Victorian ice-cream making equipment as this month’s Object of the Month.

G.E. Read’s shop was on the High Street in Saffron Walden in the 19th century, and by the early 20th century had been taken over by T.T. Snow (Thomas Thurgood Snow and his wife, Ellen Snow).  It was known as the High Street Bakery.

The Victorian pewter Ice cream maker or sorbetiere and accompanying moulds which will be on display in the Museum this month would have been used at Read’s Shop in the late 19th century.  They have recently been donated to the Museum by Read / Thurgood family members. 

There are also some step-by-step picture instructions showing how ice cream was made using the sorbetiere.  The moulds you will be able to view on display, are particularly elaborate in design and in the shape of a traditional jelly moulds, as well as quinelle and fruit shapes. 

In the Georgian and Victorian periods ice cream desserts could be decorated with saffron, cochineal, spinach, or some other natural colouring to add visual flair, a treat for the eyes as well as for the taste buds.

Visiting the Museum in August you will also be able to see adverts and photographs, and extracts of account books, related to both the Read and Snow shops which were in the High Street. 

Object of the Month – July 2019

Parking Deer and Cars at Stansted Airport

If you are heading off on holiday via Stansted Airport this summer, and leave your car in the Long Term Car Park, spare a thought for the medieval and Tudor ‘parkers’ who once tended this area. These men were responsible for the extensive deer park and its stock of deer (principally fallow deer) which provided recreational hunting for the late medieval and Tudor lords of the manor of Stansted. Before the Long Term Car Park was created, nearly 20 years ago, archaeologists from Framework Archaeology excavated the site and discovered remains of successive hunting lodges, dating to the 15th and 16th centuries. Iron arrowheads and deer bones found on the site helped to identify the building as a hunting lodge, situated in the centre of the park. It provided accommodation for the parkers and other retainers through the year, and accommodation for aristocratic hunting parties, when the lord of the manor would entertain guests with a day’s hunting followed by a feast.

The important archives (records and finds) from Framework’s excavations at the Long Term Car Park have just been deposited with Saffron Walden Museum. The vast majority of archaeological finds are fragments, but these two rusted arrowheads (with a modern 1p coin for scale) were among the more complete items of hunting equipment unearthed by the archaeologists. The arrowhead of typical triangular shape was widely used for hunting. The other arrow (its blade partly missing) is of forked or crescent shape; complete examples are shown in the other image. Arrows of this type were probably used for hunting birds, as the shape of the arrowhead bunched the feathers and killed by impact, rather than cutting into and disfiguring the bird, an important consideration for roasting and displaying birds at table.

Not far from the Airport, you can find another relic of Stansted Deer Park in the historic St Mary’s Church, to the east of Stansted Mountfichet. Here there is a notable painted effigy of Hester Salisbury, who died in 1614. She was daughter of Sir Thomas Middleton, lord of the manor in the early 17th century, and it is said that she was killed in Stansted Park by a stag.

For more information on this month’s Object of the Month visit Saffron Walden Museum in July.


Object of the Month – May 2019

The Museum’s ‘Object of the Month’ display provides an opportunity to explore interesting and unusual objects from the stores. The object chosen by Sarah Kenyon, Natural Sciences Officer, for May 2019 is a moth. This leopard moth, Zeuzera pyrina, was found in a house at Elsenham, Essex in July 2012. After it was identified it was given to the Museum.

If you love butterflies and moths then May is the month to come to Saffron Walden Museum. This beautiful black and white leopard moth will be on display all month in the natural history gallery, where you can learn more about the species. Make sure you check out Curiosity Corner – peacock butterfly caterpillars will be on display and you can see them transform into adult butterflies during May.  On 17th May as part of the Wildlife at Night evening you can do moth trapping with the Essex Field Club.  See the moths that live in the Museum grounds before they fly back into the wild.

Object of the Month – April 2019

April’s Objects of the Month have been selected by Jenny Oxley, Collections Officer (Human History). She developed an interest in Napoleonic Prisoner of War items whilst working on the Norman Cross collections at Peterborough Museum in 2005. 

During the Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815) over 100,000 French prisoners of war (POWs) were held captive in Britain.  Many remained captive for the whole duration of the conflict.

The existing land prisons on the South Coast and at Norman Cross (Peterborough) were insufficient to house them all, so extra land prisons were built. Decommissioned naval vessels known as “hulks” were also used, with over 50 in operation by the end of the conflict.  Medical inspectors from the Transport Board visited and reported to Parliament on the state of the hulks and prisons, with contractors and staff reprimanded and in a handful of cases dismissed for providing substandard services. 

The standard daily ration for prisoners was: “half a pound of bread and half a pound of beef supplemented with barley, onions and cabbage or turnips; twice a week the meat was replaced with herring and cod.”

The luckiest of the POWs were probably those who were paroled officers. They were given a tiny allowance and had to live within the bounds of a designated parole town, but they were free to socialise with the local community.  Many prisoners whiled away their days making craft items to sell or teaching the locals French, Latin, Drawing, Music, Dancing and Fencing.       

On display in the Museum throughout April as Objects of the Month will be examples of craft items made by French POWs, including intricately carved bone models and examples of straw-plaiting and marquetry.

National Lottery Heritage Fund grant to boost museum’s plans for future

18 March 2019

National Lottery Heritage Fund grant to boost museum’s plans for future

Saffron Walden Museum is delighted to be awarded a grant of £51,200 by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, under its ‘Resilient Heritage’ programme.

The museum will use the grant to undertake studies and commission work to determine the best way of improving the museum, and to attract more people to the site, which it shares with the ruins of Walden Castle.

The museum, which serves the whole of Uttlesford district, is housed in its original purpose-built building, opened in 1835.

Curator Carolyn Wingfield said: “While it is wonderful to work in such an historic Museum, with fantastic collections, there are many challenges in such an old building, and also opportunities to explore with the National Lottery funding.

“We need to make some major changes and attract more visitors. The Heritage Fund grant is a terrific boost and means we can start planning significant developments with the expert help we will need.”

Cllr Vic Ranger, Cabinet Member for Communities & Partnerships at Uttlesford District Council, said: “The National Lottery grant is excellent news. With increasing pressure on local authority finances, it is very important that the museum can increase its audiences and income, and develop as a well-used and sustainable service.”

Saffron Walden Museum Society Ltd, which is a charity, is a partner in the project and contributed £10,000 as matching funding. Museum Society Chairman, Tony Watson, said: “This demonstrates the strong partnership between the council and museum society in providing the museum. We are very grateful to the National Lottery and can now look forward to planning the museum’s long-term future and financial resilience.”



About The National Lottery Heritage Fund

Using money raised by the National Lottery, we Inspire, lead and resource the UK’s heritage to create positive and lasting change for people and communities, now and in the future.

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  • For more details on this media release please contact Carolyn Wingfield, Curator, Saffron Walden Museum, or ring 01799 510333

Object of the Month – March 2019

March’s Object of the Month is an ancient bronze oil lamp recently donated to Saffron Walden Museum. Olive oil would have been poured into the lamp through the hole which has a hinged lid. The spout at the front was for the wick. There is a small loop for carrying or hanging the lamp on the back of the cross, which rises from the hinge attachment.  Both the cross and the top of the lamp are decorated with engraved ‘ring and dot’ patterns.

The lamp was found in the Saffron Walden area along with pieces of glass bottles and china jars – a typical Victorian household rubbish dump! A rabbit had burrowed into the dump, bringing some of the rubbish to light, including the lamp.

The lamp however is much older, probably nearly 1,500 years old. It dates from the time of the Byzantine Empire, and was made somewhere in the east Mediterranean region, probably the Near East or Egypt, around 500-800 AD. The cross is a Christian symbol. Christianity was the official religion of the Byzantine (or Eastern Roman) Empire, and its capital was Constantinople, also known in the ancient world as Byzantium and today as Istanbul.

We do not know how and when the lamp travelled to north-west Essex, but can make a guess. Classical antiquities like this were popular souvenirs for gentlemen taking the Grand Tour in the 18th and 19th centuries. The lamp may have been such a souvenir, but discarded later in the 19th century in a house clear-out, or perhaps after its owner died.

Object of the Month – July 2016

July’s Object of the Month is a mineral tablet created by Richard Brown, a marble merchant, and John Mawe, a dealer and expert in minerals.  This tablet was made between 1790 and 1810 from sections of rock cemented to each side of a slab of marble.

One side of the tablet is engraved Strata of Derbyshire.  It shows the limestones, toadstones and millstone grit in the Peak District of Derbyshire, with a few rock faults and mineral veins.

The reverse side of the tablet is engraved Vein of Copper Ore.  It is an engraved black marble section of Ecton Hill and its copper mine in the Manifold Valley of Staffordshire.


Originally the tablet was enclosed in a black marble frame.  Only part of the frame survives.  It was engraved Brown, Son & Maw, London.


You can see the mineral tablet on display in the museum until 31 July 2016. It was chosen by Sarah Kenyon, Natural Sciences Officer, because the object illustrates how people were exploring and recording the natural world over 200 years ago at the dawn of the nineteenth century in 1800.