Category Archives: Uncategorized

Object of the Month – August 2020

Chinese Foot-Binding – Lotus Shoes

Foot-binding was a traditional practice that originated in 10th century China, among court dancers and high society women. By the 12th century it was a widespread practice. In the early 19th century it was estimated that five to eight women out of every ten in China (taking into account regional variations) had bound feet. It eventually spread through all social classes and while it was outlawed in 1912, it continued in some rural areas for years afterwards. A census taken in 1928 in rural Shanxi found that 18% of women had bound feet, while in some remote rural areas such as the Yunnan Province, foot-binding continued to be practiced until the 1950s. In most parts of China, the practice had virtually disappeared by 1949. In 1999, the last lotus shoe-making factory closed.

The museum has around 14 pairs of Chinese lotus shoes associated with foot binding. They typically have wedge heels, pointed upturned toes which extend beyond the sole and stiffened ankles. The embroidered uppers of the shoes have been beautifully crafted in silk and metallic threads, with embellishments – usually gold braid, beading and sequins.

The foot-binding practice involved plunging the feet into hot water and massaging them with oil. Then all the toes, except for the big ones, were broken and bound flat against the sole, to produce a triangular shape. The arch of the foot was strained as the foot was bent double. The feet were bound in place using a silk strip measuring 10ft long and 2 inches wide. These wrappings were briefly removed every 2 days to prevent blood and pus from infecting the foot. Sometimes “excess” flesh was cut away or encouraged to rot. Over time the wrappings became tighter and the shoes became smaller as the heel and sole were crushed together. After 2 years the process was complete and the feet were most probably numb, with a deep cleft in the sole that could hold a coin in place. Once a foot had been crushed and bound, the shape could not be reversed without undergoing the same pain all over again. This practice was usually undertaken on the feet of a young girl, aged between 3 and 11 years, as their feet would have been softer and easier to manipulate. It was usually carried out by the child’s grandmother. 

This painful practice was associated with beauty, status and marriage eligibility. Having tiny feet was considered sexually attractive, emphasising a masculine Chinese view at that time of a woman’s inferiority and weakness.  It was believed that girls who had their feet bound would be able to attract better marriage offers because of their tiny feet. In wealthy families, the feet of all the daughters would have been bound but in poorer families, the practice might only have been carried out on the eldest daughter, as they had the best chance of making a good marriage union. The ideal length of the foot – the “golden lotus” was deemed to be just three inches. 

Request for help with research project

 

 

 

 

 

 

Martin Barry a PhD student from Bristol University is researching ‘The Materiality, Memories & Material Culture” of Princess Mary’s 1914 (WW1) Christmas Gift to Soldiers & Sailors. Let him know if you are still in possession of your relatives embossed brass ‘Mary Tin’.  He would like to interview relatives by phone or virtually via Zoom.  Contact mb12582@bristol.ac.uk

Object of the Month – July 2020

Hipposandal – a Roman horse shoe

Our Object of the Month for July has been chosen by Carolyn Wingfield, Curator

How were hipposandals used?

Iron hipposandals (soleae ferreae) were removable temporary horseshoes, which were used to protect the hooves of working horses.  They were first introduced in the Celtic-Roman area north of the Alps in the mid-1st century AD and were in use until around the 5th century AD, when they were largely replaced by nailed on horseshoes.

The iron soles of the hipposandals were marked with grooves, with an oval-shaped thick metal cup above that, which would have enclosed and protected the hoof. They were fastened to the horse using metallic clips and leather laces.  This particular example from our collections has the back wings and upper frontal loop missing. 

Wearing Hipposandals gave working horses’ better traction and protected their hooves, particularly on rough ground and metalled tracks. Wearing them greatly improved the efficiency and resilience of the animals.  There were also versions known as kureisen (cure shoes) which were worn to help treat and protect a horse if it had diseased hooves.

The word hipposandal is derived from Ancient Greek as the word “hippos” means horse. Hence the word “hippodrome,” which we now use to mean a theatre, but which originally was the name for an ancient Greek stadium for horse and chariot racing.

Where did this one come from?

This item was donated to the Museum in 1985 by a metal-detectorist and researcher along with a collection of shell and pottery fragments (which included sherds of Nene Valley fine-ware) and belemnite fossils all collected in the same area of Wixoe.

Wixoe is a village in West Suffolk, located on the bank of the River Stour, 2 miles south-east of Haverhill. It was recorded in the Domesday Book as having covered 600 acres and was one of the smallest parishes in the hundred of Risbridge.  Today, many of its cottages are Victorian and it has a 12th century church, St Leonard’s. 

Roman remains have been frequently found in the vicinity of Wixoe, mostly on the Essex side of the Stour. In 1803, close to Watsoe Bridge, an earthwork enclosure was identified as a ‘camp’, along with two cemeteries.  In 1973 aerial photography showed many large pits, two streets and a building with flint foundations, close to the river.  Field-walking and metal detection over many years have revealed multiple finds of Roman coins and other artefacts, including brooches, figurines, pottery. 

The assumption of archaeologists and historians is that Wixoe in Roman times occupied between 12 and 24 hectares, and was one of eight small Roman towns in Suffolk, which included Icklingham, Long Melford and Felixstowe.

In 2011, on the Suffolk side of the Stour, archaeological surveying and excavation work undertaken during the Abberton pipeline installation, revealed a small town which was likely to have been occupied between 100-400 AD. Its road connections were the real advantage of the town’s location. 

The Via Devana, a military track, which ran from Chester to Colchester, would have passed through Wixoe. Another road would have led east from Wixoe, on the north side of the Stour, passing through Long Melford, before heading north-east to Baylham and probably on to Dunwich.  A third road led north, probably towards Icklingham and the Icknield Way.  A fourth road, close to the Ains Ford, is thought to have run towards the major Roman fort at Great Chesterford, on a more southerly section of the Icknield Way.  There is no clear trace of these roads immediately outside Wixoe, but it is likely that they have been eroded by ploughing or incorporated into the existing field boundaries.  Evidence suggests that the Stour may have also been navigable as far as Wixoe by flat-bottomed boats.  There may even have been a wharf there at one time.

The town appears to have been a planned rural commercial centre, rather than one which evolved naturally from an earlier settlement. It is most likely that it was built after the Boudiccan revolt and sacking of Camulodunum (Colchester) in AD60-61.  The archaeological evidence suggests that its wealth was focussed on industrial production relying on local timber (charcoal) and imported metals.  It appears to have consisted of largely timber-framed domestic buildings, with evidence of courtyards, boundary ditches, industrial ovens and hearths showing the remains of lead and iron workings, with cobbled surfaces and pits used for quarrying.

Use of horses in Roman Britain

Battle

The Romans used horses primarily for battle; horsemen fought as a secondary force to the infantry soldiers. They would have initially fought on the wings of the battle formation.  It was the job of the cavalry to prevent the enemy from outflanking the infantry, who would have been positioned in the centre of the formation.  When the Romans turned a battle in their favour and the enemy began to retreat, the cavalry would then move forward to cut them down.  The use of horses in battle enabled the Roman army to move faster and more efficiently.  Horse riders also played other crucial non battle roles for example couriering urgent messages and acting as scouts investigating new territories. 

Agriculture & Industry

In Romano-Britain, horses were used in the majority of agricultural processes as draught animals, alongside donkeys and oxen. In industrial processes their walking motion would have been used to power heavy machinery, for example in milling flour or operating a saw mill. 

Transport

The majority of Romano-British people would have travelled on foot, but those who were wealthier such as merchants would have used horses for transport, as did the military and government. Rest stops would have provided those travelling long distances with a chance to rest and change horses. 

Chariot Racing & Public Events

In ancient Rome, chariot racing was extremely popular. Races were held in what was called a “circus” because of the oval shape of the stadium.  The most famous and oldest of these is the Circus Maximus in Rome.  The closest chariot racing circuit in Romano-Britain would have been the Camulodunum Circus (Colchester). The Romans loved a spectacle and in addition to the chariot racing they would have also had hunting shows, where venatores, often on horseback themselves, would have hunted herds of wild animals including horses for the assembled audience’s enjoyment.

References

Manning, W.H. (1985). Catalogue of Romano-British Iron Tools, Fittings and Weapons in the British Museum, BMP, London.

Colchester’s Roman Circus Centre, Colchester Archaeological Trust: https://www.romancircus.co.uk/

Update: Museum Re-opening

We welcome the government’s announcement that museums in England can re-open from the 4th July.

Our first priority is the safety of our staff, volunteers and visitors.

We are working hard behind the scenes to ensure that all necessary safety measures are in place for re-opening in line with the government’s guidelines.

We will announce our official opening date which is likely to be later in the Summer, across our social media channels, website and local media in due course.

Thank you for your continuing support of the Museum.

National Volunteer Week – June 2020

The first week of June is National Volunteer Week.  With the Museum still closed due to the covid-19 lockdown, we’re really missing you all especially our amazing volunteers, who are all integral to the museum’s diverse activities. We thank you all for your on-going support.  Here’s a message from us to you for #NationalVolunteerWeek  – It reads:

We miss you all so much especially our amazing volunteers and can’t wait to see you again when it’s safe

Volunteers play lots of different roles within our organisation:

Welcome Desk volunteers.  June for example (pictured holding the “When” word, has been one of our dedicated volunteers for over 20 years.  She undertakes the vital work of co-ordinating all our welcome desk volunteers –they meet & greet our visitors and provide them with orientation information, sell admission tickets and souvenirs and answer your enquiries.

Collections volunteers  (Natural Sciences, Archaeology and Human History) assist staff with vital collections tasks such as cataloguing, packing, labelling and digitising collections, they also transcribe early museum records and assist with exhibition installing. #DidYouKnow We also have verge volunteers who carry out ecological surveys of plants at 16 Special Roadside Verges in the Uttlesford District

Learning and Activity Volunteers have a vital role assisting us with preparing and running our school sessions and school holiday activities.

Last year we held a Volunteer Party for #NationalVolunteerWeek. When it’s safe to do so we will make sure we have another one!  The volunteers admired a temporary display explaining how they are vital cogs in our organisation.  They also took part in wildlife surveying with our Natural Sciences Officer, James Lumbard. 

Follow this link for a full-size PDF version  of the Volunteers Pictures  Scrapbook  or see the Flipbook version  below

“The Shape of Women” : Corsets & Crinolines

Our Collections Officer (Human History), Jenny Oxley has a real passion for vintage fashion, check out her latest blog, charting the changes in the female fashion silhouette between 1790 and 1900 – Corsets and Crinolines – illustrated through the museum’s collections.

Follow this link for the PDF version The Shape of Women – Part 1: 1790=1900 or see the flipbook version below

 

CV Walden : a Community Archive

We are living through a pandemic which has changed every aspect of the world as we know it. The Covid-19 outbreak has propelled us into history books yet to be written as our lives have been reshaped beyond anything we could have imagined mere weeks ago.

There is a great deal that we can do to help future generations to understand the impact of Covid-19 on communities such as ours. You can play your own valuable part in contributing to awareness of the sociological, psychological and economic impact of this disease. Saffron Walden Museum, in conjunction with Saffron Walden Tourist Information Centre is encouraging local people to submit their own experiences of this unprecedented crisis in the form of written articles (including diaries or poetry), photographs, art, music or film. Submissions will be curated by Jenny Oxley, the Museum’s Collections Officer (Human History), and will in time form part of an on-line archive and possibly a physical or on-line exhibition in due course.

If you are part of an organisation, club, society or charity, consider asking all of your members and clients to take part; there is no deadline for submissions as it is recognised that people might wish to observe in their chosen media the development and eventual resolution of the crisis. If you are a teacher or a parent or guardian teaching at home, consider encouraging children to express their thoughts and feelings in whatever way sparks their imaginations.

Submissions should be sent to museum@uttlesford.gov.uk with ‘CV Walden’ as the subject. Please note that although digital submissions are preferred, non-digital submissions will be accepted at a later date, once the threat of infection is over.

Thank you.

Saffron Walden TIC (Saffron Walden Town Council) and Saffron Walden Museum (Uttlesford District Council & Saffron Walden Museum Society)

Object of the Month – April 2020


Adoration of the Shepherds pen & ink with chalk drawing by Gaspare Diziani (in Museum’s collections)

April’s Object of the Month has been chosen by Jenny Oxley, Collections Officer (Human History). It is a pen and ink drawing with additions in chalk by Italian artist Gaspare Diziani (b.1689 d.1767) called the Adoration of the Shepherds

This item recently came back off loan from the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge where it has been on loan to them since 1979. In its time at the Fitzwilliam, it also went out on further loan to the Fondazione Cini in Venice for a special display of Venetian drawings.  Before it came to Saffron Walden Museum, the drawing had originally been housed at Ashdon Hall.

Diziani’s original oil on canvas painting – a version of the same scene dates to around 1755 and is housed in a private collection. Diziani was an Italian painter and draughtsman.  His earliest training was in Belluno in Northern Italy with Antonio Lazzarini (1672-1732). Having moved to Venice, he joined the workshop of Gregorio Lazzarini and later that of Sebastiano Ricci, who was in Venice until 1715 and exerted the strongest influence on his development; presumably Diziani was familiar with Ricci’s many paintings in Belluno before becoming his pupil. 

Between 1710 and 1720 he painted a group of eight pictures that included the Mary Magdalene for Santo. Stefano, Belluno, and the Entry into Jerusalem for Santo. Teodoro, Venice. His speed of production and technical assurance are demonstrated especially in his preparatory oil sketches, with colour applied in rapid and spirited pen-like strokes.  He also worked as a scenery painter in a number of Venetian theatres.  Art commissions took him to Munich (1717) and later to Dresden, where he was highly acclaimed.  In 1719 he was active in Rome but by 1720 he was already back in Venice where he entered the “Fraglia dei Pittori Veneziani”, remaining in the Veneto for the rest of his life. 

The works of Gaspare Diziani can be found in the Church of San Rocco in Belluno, dated 1727, several paintings in the Sacristy of the Church of Santo Stefano in Venice, dated 1733, the frescoes in Palazzo Spineda in Treviso, dated 1748, and the frescoes in the Church of San Bartolomeo in Bergamo.

The Adoration of the Shepherds (based on the account in Luke 2) is a scene in which the shepherds witness the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem.  It is often combined in art with the Adoration of the Magi.  The Museum holds an oil-on-canvas painting of the Adoration of the Magi scene as well, which is by the artist Ramsey Richard Reinagle (1749-1833) – (a copy after Peter Paul Rubens c.1616).  It is currently on renewable loan to Chrishall Parish Council, where it is on display in the Holy Trinity Church, Chrishall.  It originally came to the Museum around 1843, having been bought for Francis Gibson at an auction at the Leicester Square Sale Rooms.

 

Adoration of the Shepherds, oil on canvas painting by  Gaspare Diziani c. 1755

(in a private collection)

 

 

 

 

Timeline of 19th century Fire-Fighting

1826

  • Gold Street Maltings, Shrove Tuesday (see also fire in the same location in 1941

1835

  • Workhouse, High Street, Saffron Walden In the run up to Christmas, a serious fire broke out at the workhouse, located at the top of the High Street (opposite what is now the war memorial). Initially it threatened to spread to the adjoining town gaol and nearby houses, “but through the exertions of a large portion of the respectable inhabitants” it was brought under control in about 90 minutes. The building was destroyed and a new workhouse was built on an alternative site, which later became part of the Radwinter Road Hospital and housing.    

1847

  • Easton Lodge, Little Easton– partly destroyed by fire (see additional account)

1865

  • Howards Hairdressers
  • JT Fryes, Stables

1866

  • Mr Lucas Farmer, Radwinter
  • Charles Norris, High Street

1867

  • JC Crussell, High Street
  • John Miller, Ashdon Street Farm
  • George Beddall, Hempstead

1868

  • George Clark, Ringers Farm, Widdington
  • Joshua Housden, High Street, Saffron Walden
  • Mr Edwick, agricultural stack fire, Newport
  • Robert Medcalf, Hempstead

1870

  • Mr Mascalls & Debnam Watchmaker, Newport

1872

  • Charles Earnshaw, Freshwell Street, Saffron Walden
  • Westley Farm

1874

Great fire of Radwinter – A poster (shown in our local history gallery) was produced to encourage people to raise funds for those affected by the Radwinter fire in which 24 buildings were destroyed and 95 people were left homeless. The fire was found to have been caused accidentally by a young girl playing with matches in a barn. The Saffron Walden and Audley End fire engines attended and sucked the local ponds drying trying to extinguish the fire.  The charred remains of a black jug can be seen in the Museum’s Local History Gallery, Fire Brigade display case.

 

 

 

 

1878

  • Debden Church – a member of staff checking inside the organ with a candle set the organ alight, it destroyed the organ and 10ft of the roof above.
  • Crown House, Newport

1879

  • Catons, Lofts Lane

1880

  • Elmdon

1885

  • Mrs Gibson’s Almshouses, Abbey Lane
  • Hempstead
  • Conservative Club
  • Mr Harts, King Street

1886

  • Littlebury
  • Great Chesterford Mill

1887

  • Byrds Farm
  • Market Hill
  • Great Chesterford
  • Copt Hall buildings, Ashdon Road – 17 families left homeless  
  • Westley Farm
  • Myddleton House

1888

  • Ravenstock Farm

1889

  • Radwinter

1890

  • Grange, Clavering
  • Hempstead Farm – a large barley stack on fire. The fire brigade’s hose had been maliciously cut so it couldn’t be used to put out the fire.
  • Catmere End

1891

  • London Road

1892

  • Ashdon
  • Debden

1894

  • Elmdon
  • Vineyard
  • Castle Brewery

1895

  • Radwinter – 3 separate incidents
  • Kings flour mill – entirely destroyed

1896

  • Farm, Saffron Walden
  • Johnson engineering

1897

  • Debden Farm
  • Radwinter Hall – over £1,000 damage
  • Hempstead
  • Great Chesterford
  • Wicken
  • High Street, Saffron Walden
  • Flinn Maltings

1898

  • Springwell
  • Radwinter

1899

  • Wills Ayley
  • Gray Palmer (2 fires that year)