Category Archives: Uncategorized

Object of the Month – April 2022

The Museum’s ‘Object of the Month’ provides an opportunity to

explore interesting and unusual objects from our stores. 

April’s Object of the Month chosen by Jenny Oxley, Collections Officer (Human History) is a charred key fob discovered after the Rose & Crown fire in the town on Boxing Day 1969. It forms part of the museum’s new exhibition, All Fired Up, by Essex Fire Museum, which charts the history of Essex Fire & Rescue Service (see more below).

At 1.40am on Boxing Day 1969 a fire broke out. Sadly 11 people died in their sleep, unaware that the fire had even taken hold. 29 people were rescued, some having climbed down from the upper floor windows using knotted sheets. The inquest ruled that the fire was caused by a faulty TV in the resident’s lounge overheating.  Three Saffron Walden firemen received commendations. The fire resulted in the government strengthening the fire safety regulations governing hotels and they passed a new Fire Precautions Act (1971). 

The building erected in its place became Boots the Chemist from 1973 onwards. A bunch of grapes carved in oak and a door canopy are all that remain of the original building. 

More detailed information including eyewitness accounts of the fire can be found in Zofia Everett’s 2008 article published in the Saffron Walden Historical Journal and in Paul Wood’s book, titled From Station Officer Drane

The fire understandably still has a major emotional impact on the town’s residents over 50 years on.  

To find out more visit the Museum in April to see this item on display in our new exhibition, All Fired Up. 

Object of the Month – March 2022

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

March’s Object of the Month chosen by Curator Carolyn Wingfield features three clay tobacco pipe bowls, all recently found in the Castle Street area.

Last autumn, archaeologists monitoring building works at the Fry Art Gallery, Bridge End Gardens recovered two pipe bowls.

In December, sharp-eyed pupils from Year 5 at St Mary’s C of E Primary School discovered a clay tobacco pipe while digging in the school grounds.

In early January, the Museum was delighted to welcome a delegation from Year 5, who very kindly gave their find to the Museum.

Fragments of clay tobacco pipes, especially pieces of broken stems, are common finds. The earliest pipes date from the 17th century, following the introduction of tobacco from America.

Clay pipes continued to be made into the 20th century, although by World War I, smokers were turning to cigarettes and briar pipes.

The three pipe bowls from Castle Street date from the 19th century, when clay pipes were made in great quantities all over the country, and many were decorated with designs or motifs moulded in relief.

The pipe bowl from St Mary’s School probably dates from the later 19th century and has a fine band of leafy decoration within a border running down the front and back of the bowl.

The two pipe bowls from the Fry Art Gallery are very different. One is plain, though a small ‘spur’ beneath the bowl is stamped with the maker’s initial ‘W’.

The other bowl has elaborate moulded decoration. On one side is the badge of the Prince of Wales, three ostrich feathers and the motto ‘Ich Dien’ (‘I serve’). On the other side, a soldier fires a rifle from behind a tree. He wears the tall hat of an early 19th century infantryman.

The archaeologists (Archaeological Solutions Ltd) who were monitoring the works, dated the pipe to around 1820-1840 and suggested that it commemorated the Napoleonic Wars.

Such pipes would have been popular with former soldiers, or might be marketed to landlords of pubs named the Prince of Wales. A clay pipe with a plug of tobacco would be sold over the bar for a penny. There was a Prince of Wales pub in London Road, Saffron Walden in the 19th century, but there were also a number of pubs in Castle Street where pipes would be sold and smoked.

Image (left): all three clay pipe bowls found in the Castle Street area. 

Image (centre): St Marys School pipe bowl, showing the distinctive leafy style design 

Image (right): Detail of the Fry Art Gallery pipe bowl, showing an infantry soldier firing a gun

Many thanks to the pupils, staff and governors of St Mary’s C of E Primary School, and to John Ready and the Fry Art Gallery Society for the donation of these pipes and information on their discovery.

Andy Peachey of Wardell Armstrong LLP Archaeological Solutions Ltd provided the identification of the decorated pipe bowl from the Fry Art Gallery.

To find out more visit the Museum in March to see them on display…  


Victorian Valentines and more

A bit of Valentine’s related history for February from our collections!


An invitation to a Valentine’s ball at Wimbish Village Hall, 12 February 1943.  Miss McQueen was well-known locally she had a small farm at Rowney Corner from which people could buy fresh eggs and she also played the organ in the 1970s at the church in Wimbish.





We also have a selection of Victorian Valentines cards. These 19th century designs typically include floral decoupage, lace doilies, ribbon details and lace trimmings. Inside the cards are lovely little poetic verses.








February’s object of the month shows gemstones which are associated with love and romance, to celebrate Valentine’s Day.


4 mineral specimens on a white background. Lines of shade cross the image.

Amethyst geode (top left), sapphire (bottom left), ruby crystals in sheet of mica (middle), lapis lazuli (top right).  

They have been chosen by James Lumbard, one of the museum’s Natural Sciences Officers.  Amethyst is the birthstone for February, but as a symbol of love, St Valentine is said to have worn an amethyst ring so Christian couples in Ancient Rome could identify him. Valentine was a priest who carried out forbidden Christian marriages and married young couples, when the Roman empire persecuted Christians and preferred their soldiers to be unmarried men.









Lapis lazuli can represent truth and friendship, and in Christianity represents the Virgin Mary. With the blue of the sky and gold of the sun, it represents success in Jewish traditions, while beads found in the ancient town of Bhirrana from 7500 BCE are its oldest known use by people. The remains of Bhirrana are in the Indian state of Haryana.

Sapphires are popular for engagement rings, as used for Lady Diana’s engagement ring from Prince Charles. Sapphire is the traditional gift in the UK for a 45th wedding anniversary and can symbolise truth and faithfulness.

In Ancient Greece and Rome, the word sapphire was used for lapis lazuli, as sapphire was only widely known from the Roman Empire onwards.

To find out more visit the Museum in February to see it on display or check out the Object of the Month Blog article on our website.

Holocaust Memorial Day 27th January

Following the occupation of Poland, the Nazis introduced anti-Semitic laws against the country’s Jewish population. Jewish people were segregated, forced from their homes to live in squalid crowded ghettos and had to wear a Star of David to identify themselves. 

In 1942 the Nazis began what they called ‘the Final Solution’ – a plan to exterminate all Jewish people across Europe. Roma gypsies, gay and disabled people, as well as black and mixed-race people were also persecuted and killed. Many Jewish people were taken straight from the ghettos and packed into trucks and trains to be transported to the death camps.

As persecution of Jewish people had become more extreme, the Anglo-Jewish founder of the Central British Fund for Jewish Relief (CBF), Leonard Montefiore, had set up a mission known as the Kindertransport (children’s transport). The CBF provided refuge to 10,000 children before the war, with the first Kindertransport children arriving by ferry at Harwich, Essex, on 2 December 1938.  Nearly 2,000 of these children spent their 1st weeks in Britain at the Dovercourt holiday camp close to the Harwich docks, whilst others were taken directly by train through Essex to London’s Liverpool Street Station to meet their new foster parents.

After the war, Montefiore appealed for funds to transport 300 surviving orphans from Germany, Czechoslovakia and Poland, who became known as the “Windermere Children” to the Lake District in Cumbria, a plan which was put into action in the summer of 1945.  

They were the first intake of a pioneering rehabilitation scheme, which aimed to use the tranquillity of the English countryside to provide a restorative environment for the children after the horrors they had endured.  Heavily traumatised and with none of their own clothes, toys or possessions, and with many of them under 5 years old, it must have been terrifying for them.  The children grouped together and formed their own self-sufficient family unit. Their behaviour was analysed by child psychologists, such as Anna Freud, who later published a study centred around them in 1951. 

The CBF continued its work after the war, with another 432 child survivors brought to Britain. They continued to fund raise, finding the children new homes, schools and apprenticeships.

By January 1946, all the children had left Windermere. Settling into their adult lives during the 1950s and 60s, they put down roots and started families, businesses and careers.

Recounting the stories of the Windermere children and others is essential to ensure that what happened during the Holocaust is not forgotten, or ever repeated. 

(BBC documentary, The Windermere Children, 1st aired 2020)

It is estimated that six million Jewish people died in the Holocaust.

The Red Cross traced the Nazis’ victims, piecing together the extent of the Holocaust and tried to reunite survivors with their families.

A few Saffron Walden connections…..

The Harwich Kindertransport Memorial Appeal

The appeal is currently fundraising for a statue to go on public display at Harwich quayside to commemorate the kindertransport.  The artist commissioned for this project is Ian Wolter who has his studio in Saffron Walden.  It will be a life size bronze of five children arriving in Harwich just before the outbreak of the Second World War.  His work has received numerous prizes including the Arte Laguna Prize (Venice, 2016) and the RomArt Sculpture Prize (Rome, 2017).  One of his bronze life-size sculptures can already be seen on display in the town, it’s called The Children of Calais, which echoes The Burghers of Calais by Auguste Rodin, but in Wolter’s version the children are dressed in contemporary clothing , with one of them holding a lifejacket instead of a key to the city, to provoke debate about the inhumanity of our response to the children caught up in the ongoing refugee crises.

The Association of Jewish Refugees Journal, Volume 14 No.1 January 2014:

Herta Oschinski (b. 1901?) arrived in England from Berlin in June 1939 as a domestic worker at the home of Stanley Thorne, who was connected with the Quaker school in Saffron Walden.  Herta’s daughter Lore arrived in England in August 1939 aged 15 and was interned in Rushen Camp, Port Erin, until April 1941, when she joined her mother in Saffron Walden. 


SW Reporter, February 4, 2010:

Otto Deutsch

A survivor of the Kindertransport scheme who lived in Saffron Walden, spoke of leaving his family in Vienna and his gratitude to the English couple who had taken him in and brought him up.


SW Reporter, February 7, 2008

Francis Deutsch

13-year-old Francis Deutsch waved goodbye to his mother in Vienna in 1939 with no idea that he would never see her again.  The plan had been for her to join him 3 months later in England and for them to then head to America to start a new life together. But they didn’t realise how close to the outbreak of war it was. 

In July 1939, Francis got on a train bound for the Hook of Holland, before getting a ferry to Harwich as part of the Kindertransport and met his foster carers in London.  He received half a postcard every 6 months from his mother once the war began, until one day the postcards stopped, and she was deemed missing, presumed dead.

He went on to study at University, became a lawyer, had a family of his own and later retired to Saffron Walden.  For the 2008 Holocaust Memorial Day, at the age of 82, Francis had an exhibition at the Friend’s Meeting House in the town, telling local school children about the Kindertransport operation and his experiences.


“Veteran Staff Room” (Friends School) by Richard Wright pg. 49-64:

“Out of Nazi Germany and Trying to Find My Way” (book) Irene David, Minerva Press (2000)

Irene David

Irene’s Jewish parents went into hiding in Germany and sent her to safety in England with her non-Jewish step-grandmother, Tanta Julia.  On the way over, at the Belgian border they were beaten, interrogated and strip searched by troops.  Irene arrived in Saffron Walden in 1942 and stayed for two years. She did not find it easy. She found that some youngsters did not accept her strong German accent and in her words, she had to fight for her place in society. However, the Friends School must have made a positive impression on her. She later sent her son to the Junior House, run by Jeanne Barrie, and he stayed on, through the main School, to become Head Boy.


“Veteran Staff Room” (Friends School) by Richard Wright pg. 49-64:

Ruth Michaelis

“I came to England with my brother, Martin, three years older than me, in 1939 as part of the Kindertransport. At the time of my coming to England my only thoughts were about how to survive after my parents, home, language and everything familiar had disappeared – except my brother upon whom I relied as a substitute mother.  The world had suddenly gone mad. Nothing made sense anymore.”

Ruth goes on to tell how she and her brother were fostered by 3 families. She tells of the first family she lived with, that she wet the bed and was beaten by her foster mother.  She chose to believe that as they had had no children of their own they were ignorant rather than cruel.  She later went to the Friends’ School and found comfort from the staff there.  She went on to become a teacher in her own right and gained a GCSE in Child Development, wrote a text book and became a chief examiner for the SW CSE Board. Before later switching to a new career as a psychotherapist.  She speaks about attending her first Kindertransport Reunion in 1989 and having to come to terms with survivor’s guilt as well as her work counselling and educating people about the holocaust.  She believed it was probably the Quakers who originally sponsored her and her brother coming to England with the Kindertransport and that’s how she ended up going to the Friend’s School.  In 1995 there was a reunion of all the Friends’ Schools pupils from the war years.

Object of the Month – November

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

November’s Object of the Month is a bronze and iron lynch pin from an Iron Age chariot wheel, chosen by our Curator Carolyn Wingfield.  It is at least 2,000 years old and was found in Radwinter parish by local detectorist James Patmore, who has kindly loaned it to the Museum.

This lynch pin is far more than just a functional piece of metalwork from a horse-drawn cart; it is a beautifully cast and decorated piece of late Iron Age bronze work and was made for the chariot of an ancient British warrior.

The lynch pin keeps the hub of a wheel in place. In Britain, there is evidence for the use of horses and wheeled vehicles from the Bronze Age, but the use of horses in warfare seems to have developed among the warrior class of Iron Age society. Their mastery of lightweight, two-wheeled chariots, drawn by a pair of native ponies, was described and admired by Julius Caesar, in his campaigns in Britain of 55 and 54 BC:

“In chariot fighting the Britons begin by driving all over the field, hurling javelins, and generally the terror inspired by the horses and the noise of the wheels are sufficient to throw their opponents’ ranks into disorder….even on a steep incline they are able to control the horses at full gallop, and to check and turn them in a moment”.

(Julia Caesar, The Conquest of Gaul, translated by S A Handford, 1951, Penguin Classics)

Some chariot lynch pins have enamel inlay surviving, as on another example on display in the Museum, though this lynch pin, acquired in the 19th century, has one end missing and no record of where it came from. Iron Age lynch pins like these are found occasionally across Britain, and are thought to date from around 300 BC to AD 100. So the Radwinter lynch pin is a very welcome addition to the displays. Who knows, maybe its owner was fighting during Caeser’s campaigns, or the Roman invasion of AD 43, or even Boudicca’s revolt of AD 60-61?

CV Walden Archive (Covid-19 epidemic)

During 2020 and 2021 we sought local people’s experiences of the Covid -19 epidemic.

Details of the project can be found here         

CV Walden Archive 


Here’s a cross section of the material which has been submitted:

Diaries & Contemplative writing….. 

Lucy age 11 Clavering school

Artist Victoria Parker Jervis made a visual record of her lockdown days….

1st Saffron Walden Girls Brigade

Anabelle Atter – Covid Christmas in her own words

Lockdown Diary by Ann Holloway  – Summer 2020 – May 2021

Caring through Corona by Emily Ranoble

Covid-19 Coronovirus by Gillian Mulley

Suitcase by Ian Miller Castle Street Saffron Walden May 1st 2020

SWAN (SW Antenatal group) formed 37 years ago is still going strong as a social & support women’s group, they share their viewpoints about the Covid epidemic

Littlebury News week 3








WhatsApp in the time of Coronavirus by the Inner Wheel

Sestina-Stay inside by Sebastian Page

Covid Waves by Teresa Cobalchini

Living through the Coronavirus Pandemic by B. Davidson

Safe by Carey Dickinson

The Corona Ghost Of Platform Nine by Hester Wolter

Covid-19 April 2020 by Jean Little

Under the Crack Screen of my Phone by Jess Dickinson

Life In Lockdown by Karina Bailey-Watson

Photographs, Artwork & more…. 

5th Saffron Walden Incas Cub Scouts:

Granta Chorale – ‘Singing in a Choir’ Virtual Performance 

Brian Harvey, Littlebury : Sky West band):  20/20 Vision, is the title track of an EP by Harvey’s band, Sky West, it was written during the 1st lockdown and recorded in the summer of 2020 when some of the restrictions were lifted – we were socially distanced in a barn! It can be found on Bandcamp, Spotify and YouTube under Sky West 20/20 Vision.  An accompanying video is also available on YouTube at the following link (copyright Sky West)                            


NHS themed Collage by Temperance Kehoe

Sue Knowles teaching her Year 3 class online remotely during lockdown. Here they are working on the book – Varjak Paw by SF Said. There was a feeling of teachers having to reinvent themselves throughout the terms, combining online learning for the majority and class learning for the children of essential workers and limits on class sizes and the creation of class/year ‘bubbles’

Sandra Beale ran online STEM education sessions which were very much welcomed as the majority of families were home schooling.

April 2020, Pascale J. Fowell reimagined the tune of “My Favourite Things” by Rodgers and Hammerstein to create her songs in praise of her local village bakery Days of Ashwell in Great Chesterford during the Covid-19 lockdown. 

Thanking essential workers.  copyright Lynne Blount

Spaces locked down to discourage people from congregating in public places.  copyright Lynne Blount

Thanking the NHS.  copyright Lynne Blount

Thanking the NHS.  copyright Lynne Blount

Thanking the NHS.  The rainbow symbol was widely used.  copyright Lynne Blount

Official NHS guidance.  copyright Lynne Blount

Spaces locked down to discourage people from congregating in public places.  Children’s playgrounds were later re-opened before many other spaces. copyright Lynne Blount

Thanking the NHS. copyright Lynne Blount

Social distanced queuing by Les Dobson

Deserted streets in Saffron Walden. Copyright Dominic Davey (SWCC)

Manchester Field Hospital 2020 (former station) by Elaine Atchison (artist based in Elsenham, Nr. Bishop’s Stortford)


Latest News: Blog article by our Artist in Residence, Heidi Sharp (Snapping the Stiletto project)

Earlier this summer, I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to become the artist in residence at Saffron Walden Museum in collaboration with the Snapping the Stiletto project.

The aim of the residency was to use the resources available at the museum to inspire and drive my work, with the end result of creating something that reflected the Essex woman, from a more historical perspective, challenging the very misconstrued idea of the modern ‘Essex girl’.

Being from Essex, this has always been a problematic term for me, one that belittles us and wrongly portrays us.  It feels so far from all the real Essex girls I know and love, and I was keen to produce something that truly identifies us and our roots – celebrating us for the strong-willed women I have always known us to be.

Throughout my time at the museum, I’ve really been given the opportunity to learn more about the ‘Essex Woman’ with thanks to the vast wealth of knowledge that was suddenly made available to me. Very early into the residency I was lucky enough to get my hands on the diaries of local woman, Evelyn Coleman, previously Evelyn Nee Parker. These diaries dated back as far as 1940 and continued all the way through to 2009. This was particularly interesting as I could get a good feel of a journey of a place and a time, much before I was born, right into a year that I can relate to and remember. 

However, it was the earlier years of these diaries that intrigued me most for this project. Evelyn speaks about the war as a teenager and then in time, ends up joining the land army. This insight into the land army made me think also about our county’s connections to agriculture, with East Anglia being recognised as the ‘most productive crop producer in the UK’.

It was this, alongside a cross stitch piece by a young girl who went by the name Martha Smee that can be found in the Costume, Textiles, Toys and Games gallery, that inspired the floral element within the wall hanging that I later went on to produce. I chose the common poppy to feature in my work after I researched whether Essex had a flower associated to it – and indeed, it was the common poppy. Further research taught me that the common poppy was also recognised in Roman and Greek culture as a sign of fertility of the land, therefore, it seemed most appropriate to include it (not to mention our Roman links – with Colchester being the first Roman capital of Britain!).

The work also includes a stiletto – inspired by the one on show in the Costume, Textiles, Toys and Games gallery. I decided that this object deserved centre stage in the work, with the ‘Essex girl’ so often associated to white stilettos, and as a nod to the group that helped make this happen – Snapping the Stiletto. It’s a fierce looking object, particularly when blown up to the scale I’ve made it on my work. Its name is derived from the stiletto dagger, due to its small stature and fine, sharp point. This tool was used within the textile industry, initially to create holes in animal skins so that they could be laced together, however their design and use has become broader and more sophisticated throughout the years.

Whilst there is plenty more I could say about this piece, one of the most important parts I am yet to mention is the back of the wall hanging. The whole piece has been screen printed by myself, and the front entirely designed by me. However, the back is a more collaborative effort that stemmed from a mono-printing and collage workshop I ran with a group of local women. Over the course of the residency, I had the pleasure of running a couple of workshops, the first being with this group of women whose work has become part of the finished piece. Using photos and other resources from the museum’s library, the participants breathed new life into these images, by reimagining them in a different medium. Mono-printing is quite an unforgiving method and likely not best suited to those whom consider themselves perfectionists, but the outcomes you can achieve are truly beautiful, and can even be somewhat haunting, and as the name suggests – each one is unique.

With the whole theme of this piece being about women and Essex women specifically, it felt important to me that this was somehow included in the work. After kindly being given permission by the artists to use their work, I spliced them together digitally and created a screen print of them altogether. A nice finish to what now feels even more so like a community project – something that represents many of us, made in collaboration.

Heidi Sharp, Artist in Residence, Saffron Walden Museum as part of the Snapping the Stiletto Project, kindly funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

For more information about Heidi’s work with us as Artist in Residence, please check out the Museum’s learning site


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 – 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!


ACE / V&A Purchase Grant Fund:  

Art Fund: Twitter and Instagram @artfund  Facebook

For website include link to