Author Archives: Museum Administrator

Latest News: Talk: How to make a museum out of your own life

Tuesday 21st September, 2pm 

Talk: How to make a museum out of your own life

Rachel Morris was brought up not far from Saffron Walden. Her book, ‘The Museum Makers’, began when she opened up the boxes of old family mementos under her bed and saw inside them the entire history of her bohemian family. 

Despite all the years she had been running a museum-making company (called Metaphor) this was the first time that she realised that, just as museums are about making meaningful sense out of the confusion of the world, so – in what we do with our pasts and how we try to make sense of them – we are all museum-makers. 

Her book is part history of museums, part memoir of a wayward and bohemian family, part manual of how to make a museum out of your own life. 

Threaded through it are the themes that fascinate her most, of time and memory and museums and the stories families tell themselves and others. 

And it includes a section on Saffron Walden Museum, which was the first museum she ever visited.

Contact the Museum on (01799) 510333 or email museum@uttlesford.gov.uk to book a place at her talk to be held in the Museum on 21st September at 2pm. 

For more information about Rachel Morris and her book check out her social media and her publishers 

@MoMarcoPolo  @rachelmorris writer http://www.momarcopolo.com

Essex Bigger Weekend – 18th September 2021

The summer may be nearing its end, but that does not mean the fun has to stop – as free access to top attractions in Essex is being offered to residents!

Tickets for a wide range of experiences across the county are up for grabs as tourism body Visit Essex launches this year’s Essex Bigger Weekend campaign.

With the county boasting dry and mild weather throughout the autumn, it is the perfect time to venture outside and explore some more.

From August 18, residents from Essex, Kent and East Sussex can enter a ballot to be in with a chance of securing free tickets and vouchers for popular attractions, hotel and restaurants – from Colchester Zoo, Escape Live and Chelmsford City Racecourse, to open-top bus tours of Clacton, cream teas at Tiptree Tea Rooms, white water rafting at Lee Valley and trips to Colchester Castle.

They are just a few of the attractions, cafes, pubs and accommodation giving free access this autumn, with pairs of tickets and family tickets valid from September 18 for a month…and beyond.

Whether you are grandparents keen to take grandchildren out for a day away from the crowds, a couple looking for a romantic midweek date or a family intent on making up for lost time, there is something for everyone in the Essex Bigger Weekend ballot.

Cllr Mark Durham, Chair, Visit Essex, said: “Essex is not just alive with fun things to do in the summer; long into the autumn – and beyond – there are endless activities and attractions to keep families, couples and explorers entertained and enthralled.

“Essex Bigger Weekend is a great way to thank residents for showing their support to venues and attractions across the county since the easing of restrictions allowed. It is an exciting time as our businesses reopen and get back to what they do best – making our county a hotbed of wonderful things to do, beautiful places to visit and surprising hidden treasures.

“Usually giving free access to attractions for just one weekend, the campaign is longer this year – with more than a month to gain free access to your favourite places or to try somewhere new.”

Visit essexbigweekend.co.uk from August 18 to apply for your free tickets before the ballot closes on September 6.

Successful bidders will be notified of any tickets they have secured.

 

Object of the Month – September 2021

We are celebrating staycations with September’s ‘Object of the Month’. The shell of this Edible Crab, Cancer pagurus, was found on the coast of Britain before 1970. It was chosen by Sarah Kenyon, one of the Natural Sciences Officers at the Museum.

Edible Crab

This is the largest species of crab living in the seas around Britain. The shell, or carapace, can reach a size of 25 cm across. Edible Crabs may live for twenty years. This large orangey-brown crab can be recognised by the pie crust edge of its thick, oval shell and the black tips on the end of its claws.

Edible, or Brown Crabs, live on the lower shore and in the sea, down to a depth of 100 metres. They can be found hiding under rocks on rocky shores, or amongst weeds off the shoreline. The predator comes out to hunt for mussels, whelks or smaller crabs and will dig in the sand for razor clams and other shellfish.

Growing Up

To grow in size crabs shed the shells that have become too small in a process called moulting. Female crabs move inshore to moult and mate with male crabs in late spring. They move offshore again later in the summer and fertilise their eggs in late winter. The eggs are carried around for about six weeks before they hatch as planktonic larvae. Young crabs can often be found sheltering amongst the rocks on rocky shores. Large, older males move great distances from the shoreline to depths of 100 metres offshore.    

This species of crab is the most popular one to eat in Britain. To find out more visit the Museum in September to see the Edible Crab on display.

 

© Saffron Walden Museum

Object of the Month – August 2021

The Museum’s ‘Object of the Month’ provides an opportunity to explore interesting and unusual objects from our stores. 

August’s Objects of the Month have been chosen by Jenny Oxley, Collections Officer (Human History)

Wampum is a traditional shell bead of the Eastern Woodlands indigenous tribes in North America. It includes white shell beads hand fashioned from the North Atlantic channeled whelk shell and white and purple beads made from the quahog or Western North Atlantic hard-shelled clam.

The highly decorative wampum belt on the right is currently on display in the Museum’s world cultures gallery, whilst the remaining bead strings and belt are currently on display at The Box in Plymouth for an ongoing touring exhibition commemorating Mayflower 400: Legend and Legacy with the exhibition title Wampum: Stories from the Shells of Native America, in association with Wampanoag partners in the US.

Between May and July the museum’s wampum items were visited at the Box in Plymouth by over 25,000 people. 

Object of the Month – July 2021

The Museum’s ‘Object of the Month’ provides an opportunity to explore interesting and unusual objects from our stores. 

July’s Objects of the Month have been chosen by Carolyn Wingfield, Curator

This pair of solid gold bracelets, found in North-west Essex are nearly 3,000 years old. They date from the late Bronze Age, around 900 – 750 AD and seem to have been deliberately buried on their own. The Museum purchased them through the Treasure Act thanks to generous support from the Arts Council England / V&A Purchase Grant Fund, Art Fund, the Beecroft Bequest and two local donors.

      

Two members of Creative Walden’s Writers’ Room model the Bronze Age bling!

Credits

ACE / V&A Purchase Grant Fund:   www.vam.ac.uk/purchasegrantfund  

Art Fund: Twitter and Instagram @artfund  Facebook  facebook.com/artfunduk

For website include link to  https://www.artfund.org

 

 

New Archaeological Treasure Acquisitions

Roman ring and silver coins

Saffron Walden Museum celebrates Uttlesford’s ancient heritage with three new archaeological treasures on display from 10 June.

The first two are a gold Roman ring from Broxted, set with a polished amethyst, and a hoard of ten silver coins from Barnston. The coins date from AD 395-402 and were probably buried in the early fifth century. When the last Roman legion left Britain in 410 and the supply of new coins dried up, silver coins like these continued in use into the fifth century, and are often found in hoards. The ring and coins were metal-detector finds and acquired by the Museum through the Treasure Act, with thanks to the Gibson Walden Fund who generously supported the purchase of the ring.

 

Ring surrounded by the 10 silver coins is                      © Saffron Walden Museum

 

 

 

Close-up of ring with amethyst                             ©Portable Antiquities Scheme

 

 

 

Bronze Age Gold Bracelets

This pair of solid gold bracelets, found in North-west Essex are nearly 3,000 years old. They date from the late Bronze Age, around 900 – 750 AD and seem to have been deliberately buried on their own. The Museum purchased them through the Treasure Act thanks to generous support from the Arts Council England / V&A Purchase Grant Fund, Art Fund, the Beecroft Bequest and two local donors.

       

Two members of Creative Walden’s Writers’ Room model the Bronze Age bling!

Credits

ACE / V&A Purchase Grant Fund:   www.vam.ac.uk/purchasegrantfund  

Art Fund: Twitter and Instagram @artfund  Facebook  facebook.com/artfunduk

For website include link to  https://www.artfund.org

Object of the Month : May 2021

Skin of a Grass Snake

Our ‘Object of the Month’ for May is the shed skin of a grass snake, Natrix helvetica, that was found at Wimbish Green, Essex in July 2001. It was chosen by Sarah Kenyon, one of the Natural Sciences Officers at the Museum.

Grass Snakes

Snakes are reptiles and the grass snake is Britain’s longest snake, measuring 90 to 150cm in length. They are grey to green in colour, with a striking yellow and black collar around the neck, a pale belly and black markings along the length of the body. Grass snakes are found in England and Wales in wetland areas, grassland, farmland, woodland and gardens with ponds. You may spot one from April to October, when they go into hibernation until March. Don’t be scared if you do see one, because this snake is harmless. One summer I saw a grass snake swim across a pond at the Gardens of Easton Lodge in Little Easton. They are often found near water because they eat amphibians (frogs, toads and newts), fish and small mammals or birds.

Life Cycle

Grass snakes are Britain’s only egg-laying snake. Females lay up to 40 eggs in June or July in rotting vegetation, like garden compost heaps, in which the heat acts as an incubator. The eggs hatch into tiny versions of the adults in the late summer months. To grow in size a snake will shed its skin in a process called moulting. Male grass snakes shed their skin twice a year. Females shed once a year before laying their eggs. The Museum’s snake skin is 125cm long. Grass snakes live for 15 to 25 years. In the UK they are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981), so it illegal to harm or sell them.

 

 

Cast skin of a grass snake, SAFWM : 2001.199 © Saffron Walden Museum

 

 

 

Grass Snake near Morfa Nefyn, Gwynedd, Wales

© Copyright John S Turner and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Licence from www.geograph.org.uk

 

 

On this Day……7th April 1914…….The Great Fire at Little Chesterford

On the 7th April 1914, a fire broke out at Bordeaux farm in the parish of Littlebury.  Newspaper reports at the time suggested that in high winds, sparks from a traction engine caught light to some dry thatch.  The flames ran along the river path to Little Chesterford and then spread rapidly across the village.  Many of the timber framed thatched properties were burnt to the ground whilst the ones built using clunch (chalk bedded in rammed powered chalk) fared better.      

The fire also highlighted the lack of effective fire-fighting equipment and poor communication that existed between local fire fighters at that time.  Littlebury had no fire pump, whilst Little Chesterford had only a small portable one for estate purposes.  The closest fire engine was based at the Mill in Great Chesterford, but it took over half an hour to attend once the alarm had been raised.  The Saffron Walden brigade was hampered in its efforts to attend, as they reportedly “lost their coal on the journey to the fire.”  Eventually additional brigades from Hinxton, Audley End estate and Sawston attended as well as the police, but the response had sadly come too late to save many of the properties.    

Within 30 minutes of the fire starting it had already destroyed 2 farms, 2 pubs (The Crown and The Bushel & Strike) and 9 houses, leaving 43 out of 100 villagers homeless. The fire had taken everyone by surprise and spread so quickly that the alarm had been raised too late to make a difference.   The town’s labourers working in the fields saw the fire spreading at huge speed, they returned home to find their wives and children making frantic efforts to save themselves and their belongings.

Newspaper reports from the time tell the dramatic story of 100 year old Mrs Law who was rescued from her burning first floor room by Stacey Dyer and her son, who lifted her into a wheelbarrow and got her quickly to safety. Stacey Dyer was reportedly scarred on his face for the rest of his life following his heroism.  It must have been pandemonium as villagers and their animals ran from the flames.  One baby was missing for 2 hours before it was found safe.      

Photographs show the village roads strewn with salvaged furniture and crowds gathering shocked by the scale of the fire and how quickly it had spread. The landlady of the Bushel and Strike (Pampisford Brewery) hastily prepared a shed so that they could continue to serve drinks to their shell-shocked customers.  A fire relief committee was established and the village reading room was used as a shelter for the homeless and store for their surviving belongings.  A fundraising campaign was advertised in the Daily Mail Newspaper. However, not everyone appreciated outside help, with Reverend John Stewart, vicar of both Chesterfords quoted in a subsequent edition of the newspaper as saying:

“We’re a proud people and like to help ourselves. Tell all the kind people who want to send money that we thank them, but do not need their help.”

Cheques from the Daily Mail campaign were reportedly returned to their senders! Archive material suggests local gentry stepped in and helped with the rebuilding work and financial loss.  Lessons were learnt following the fire, as all the local brigades vowed to work on better communication and to pool resources.

Object of the Month : April 2021

April’s Object of the Month has been chosen by Jenny Oxley, Collections Officer (Human History) and is not strictly one object but a collection, in this case, items made from barkcloth, which form part of the museum’s world cultures collections.

The museum holds around 80 barkcloth items, originating from all around the world, but largely from the Pacific region. Over the last year the museum has been involved in an international project: “A Living Tradition: Expanding engagement with Pacific barkcloth” being led by Glasgow University, which has provided us a great opportunity to shed more light on the cultural traditions surrounding their production, design and use. 

Barkcloth is made from the inner bark of paper mulberry, breadfruit or banyan trees, which is soaked and stretched, then naturally dyed and hand-painted, printed or stencilled, to create often highly decorative barkcloths (sometimes referred to as Tapa).  It is believed there are over 90 different pattern variations in existence.  The barkcloths are used for utilitarian items as well as for ceremonial purposes. 

In addition to large textile rolls and flat sections of barkcloth, the museum also holds clothing made from barkcloth. Notable examples include a barkcloth poncho believed to have originated from Samoa, as well as a lace-bark dress and matching bonnet from Jamaica, which were donated to the museum in 1833 by the Marchioness Cornwallis.

“The Dig” on Netflix & it’s Saffron Walden Museum connections

Have you been watching “The Dig” on Netflix, which explores the excavation of the Great Ship Burial at Sutton Hoo (1939), based on John Preston’s novel.

Many of the characters depicted are inspired by real people, including one connected to Saffron Walden Museum.

Guy Maynard (1877-1968) was the museum’s Curator between 1904 and 1920, having initially been a mechanical engineer in the gun trade. Guy succeeded the 1st paid Curator, his father, George Nathan Maynard (b. 1828, Curator 1880-1904).

In 1920 Guy left Saffron Walden to become Curator of Ipswich Museum (1920-1932). He also became secretary and editor of the Prehistoric Society (1921–1936).

In 1937 as curator of Ipswich Museum, he was invited to visit the Sutton Hoo estate by its owner Edith Pretty and Vincent Redstone, a local historian. The wheels were then set in motion to explore the site. Little did they know then, that what they would unearth would completely transform our understanding of the Anglo-Saxon period. The site began to be excavated in 1938, by a team which included Maynard. The archaeological finds from the site were placed on display at Ipswich Museum and Maynard published a number of articles about them. He liaised with the British Museum about the excavation project.  

However, as the true archaeological significance of the site was revealed, tensions began to rise between Maynard & the Ipswich Museum team on one side and Charles Phillips, the new site archaeologist on the other. Maynard was angry that the finds were now being sent straight to the British Museum. There were increasingly arguments about physical access to the site and who should brief the press. Later Maynard gave evidence at the inquest which gifted the excavated finds back to the landowner Edith Pretty in Suffolk, but she ultimately gifted them back to the nation. Sadly, Guy Maynard and Charles Phillips never did resolve their issues and decided to avoid each other until Maynard retired from Ipswich Museum in 1952.

Photo Description: Guy Maynard wearing a flat cap and plus fours stood at the entrance to Saffron Walden Museum in 1912.