Category Archives: Collections

Object in Focus – Violet Dix’s Trunk

In 1973, a leather trunk was donated to Saffron Walden Museum, containing the belongings of a girl named Violet Dix. Violet died in 1919, aged 10. Her belongings had been packed into a trunk, perhaps by her parents who were too upset to deal with them, and kept, untouched, until her death.

The belongings include clothes, toys, books, schoolwork, letters and material relating to Violet’s death. From these objects we can piece together a picture of Violet and her childhood in Saffron Walden.

School

An embroidered handkerchief from the trunk

Despite her being frequently ill, Violet’s schoolwork and letters show that she was an intelligent girl with a sense of humour. In a note to her mother she wrote “If you want to know where your safety pins are, look where you told me to put them”, suggesting could get away with being cheeky. Violet was at the top of her class at school, and her writing shows skill and imagination. Included in her possessions are some embroidered items, most likely sewn by Violet in needlework class.

Play

All of Violet’s social arrangements were made by letter, so we know that she often had friends to play with her at home, or that she visited others. She liked collecting things, and the trunk contains packs of cigarette cards, pictures of trains and cut-out paper dolls. There are numerous boxes and tins with handmade peg dolls, small toys and brooches.

Clothing

Violet’s clothing includes dresses, petticoats, underwear, scarves, coats and boots. Violet’s dresses are delicate white embroidered cotton, with lace ribbon and trimming. In contrast, her underwear was made to last heavy duty cotton, with large tucks to allow for growth, and her socks are heavily darned – suggesting that her family was thrifty.

Health

School reports and other documents reveal Violet’s poor health. She was absent from school for long periods, suffering from ear trouble, measles and coughs. In 1919, just a few days before she died, Violet wrote in a notebook “I have had a long illness, and I am not well yet. I had to go to London to a great ear specialist. And soon I have to go to his nursing home…I do not want to go”. Four days later, her mother wrote home from London “Violet got through the operation but is very bad today. They will not tell me much”. Violet died the next day.

Death

Poems about Violet’s death, written by her mother, were left in the trunk along with letters of sympathy, in memoriam cards and photographs of Violet’s coffin and grave.

It has been argued that World War One marked a shift in attitudes towards death, from the Victorian fixation with outward expressions of grief to an attitude in which death was shameful and forbidden. The material in Violet’s trunk seems to represent a society on the cusp of this shift. Whilst the photographs of Violet’s coffin and grave are reminiscent of a Victorian reaction, the family’s mourning is carried out more privately, through letters, diary entries and poems.  In contrast to many Victorian mourning cards which use “died” or “departed from life”, the card announcing Violet’s interment states that she “fell asleep”.

Violet Dix’s trunk and its belongings are a fascinating and deeply personal collection. The museum has welcomed several members of the Dix family and friends to view the collection over recent years. In 1996 a book about Violet’s trunk was published locally, and an exhibition staged at the museum, but the collection has not been displayed since. The book, Violet Dix’s Trunk: Childhood in Saffron Walden, 1910 – 1920 by G. Holman, is available in the museum shop.

 

Object of the Month – October 2017

October’s Object of the Month is a mechanical calculator made by Muldivo, which probably dates from the 1930s or 1940s. It was chosen by Vicky Geddes, Digital Engagement Intern. The calculator was donated to the museum in 1982. 

Mechanical calculators

Mechanical calculators used a series of gears and pinwheels to calculate sums, and were popular through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, until the electronic calculator became more affordable.

The first designs for mechanical calculators, also known as pinwheel calculators, came from Germany in the 1600s. The first person to build a pinwheel calculator was Giovanni Poleni in 1709, but on hearing that German Antonius Braun had designed his own calculator and dedicated it to Emperor Charles VI in Vienna (which he would later build and present to the Emperor in 1727), Poleni destroyed his.

For three centuries various people across Europe and America designed and built pinwheel calculators. The first one to be mass produced was Odhner’s Arithometer in 1890, which became the most popular design in Europe. The design that the Muldivo follows first emerged in 1850, and remained popular until the 1970s.

Many companies were set up across Europe to produce clones of Odhner’s machine, resulting in its huge popularity. Even those companies not simply cloning Odhner often used aspects of his design as inspiration, including Muldivo, and as a result many of the mechanical calculators produced in the twentieth century look remarkably similar to one another.

How pinwheel calculators work

Pinwheel calculators have metal wheels (pinwheels), which are assembled into a cylinder called a rotor. The pinwheels have nine pins sticking out of them. The number of pins sticking out from the pinwheel can be changed by moving a setting lever and this selects the number you want to add/subtract/multiply/divide.

A closer view of the Muldivo calculator. Visible here are the setting levers, which choose the numbers which will be used.

To do a calculation, the user chooses the numbers they want using the setting levers. Turning the handle at the side of the calculator clockwise adds the number selected to the accumulator (the row of numbers at the bottom of the calculator) and turning the handle counter-clockwise subtracts the number. Multiplications and divisions can also be done on the calculator, through a series of repeated additions or subtractions.

A more detailed explanation of a pinwheel calculator can be found here (video)

Muldivo

Muldivo was founded in London in 1912. The company grew and expanded in the first half of the twentieth century, moving to various locations around London. Muldivo bought various companies that produced mechanical calculators, and acted mostly as the British distributor for their products.

However the company did produce a few mechanical calculator models of its own. The first Muldivo brand calculator was produced in France, and introduced in 1924. All subsequent models were produced in Germany, and they usually followed a similar design to a product made by one of the other companies Muldivo owned. 

In 1939, Muldivo bought Guy’s Calculating Machines – another British manufacturer of pinwheel calculators. In 1965, Guy’s moved to Witham in Essex, giving Muldivo a stronger footing in the county.

The company continued to grow in success and size through the twentieth century up until the 1960s. By the 1970s, the popularity of electronic calculators had pushed Muldivo out of business, and the company closed its doors in 1971.

You can see the Muldivo calculator on display in the museum until 31 October.

Object of the Month – September 2017

To celebrate the kids going back to school, September’s Object of the Month is a photograph showing the staff and pupils of the Boys’ British School in Saffron Walden in 1954. The photograph is a recent acquisition to the museum’s local history collection and it was donated in August 2017. The donor of the photograph attended the Boys’ British School and he is sat on the front row, seventh from the right.

The photograph was chosen as Object of the Month by Leah Mellors, Collections Officer (Human History), in the hope that we may be able to identify some of the pupils.

Boys’ British School

The Boys’ British School was opened in 1838. It was situated on East Street in Saffron Walden. A girls’ school was also opened at the same time on South Road.

The creation of the Boys’ British School was decided on at a meeting in Saffron Walden Town Hall on 26 July 1838. Those present at the meeting decided that the town needed better education facilities, especially for the poorer classes.

They decided that the school should follow the model of the British and Foreign School Society. The school would be open to children of all religious denominations, from the ages of seven to 14. Parents would pay 2d per week for each boy.

The Gibson family provided the building on East Street for the school, rent-free, and William Jenkines was appointed the first headmaster.


Timeline of the Boys’ British School

1838               The school is established. It averages around 100 students per year for the first three years.

1844               The school reaches a peak of almost 200 students. However, an Anglican school is built on Castle Street and numbers reduce by 40% in just three years.

1847               The school formally affiliates with the British and Foreign School Society, so that it can receive government grants. Jenkines, the Headmaster, opposes this affiliation and resigns. He is replaced by Edwin Chennell.

1857               Chennell is succeeded by Samuel Willett, who is headmaster for 22 years.

1869               The school is inspected by Matthew Arnold, who says “the school is full…and the discipline is excellent. Nearly the whole average attendance are presented for examination…the papers are worked in fair style”.

1876               The number of pupils reaches 230 and the inspector’s report for that year remarks that “discipline suffers through crowded rooms”. Numbers drop off and in 1878, the inspector reports that “the school is in excellent order”.

1896               The school premises are enlarged to cope with high numbers.

1914               Following the outbreak of World War I, the school premises are used to accommodate over 100 soldiers. Teaching is moved to the Abbey Lane Congregational Chapel.

1918               At the end of World War I, 75 previous students of the school have lost their lives. They are commemorated on a roll of honour (now held in the museum’s collection, pictured right).

1920s             The school flourishes under Headmaster Charles Heaven. Don Purkiss, a former student, describes Mr Heaven as putting “the fear of God…into most of us”.

1939-1945     World War II causes an increase in the number of pupils, as evacuees and boys from the nearby RAF Debden station enrol. Teacher Miss Foster describes the school as “bursting at the seams”.

1945               The school becomes a Controlled School, under the management of the county council.

1950               Saffron Walden County High School opens and the senior boys move from the Boys’ British School to the new school.

1982               The Boys’ British School joins with the South Road School. After 127 years, the Boys’ British School closes and the premises are vacated.

The British and Foreign School Society

The British and Foreign School Society was established in 1808, to carry on the work of Joseph Lancaster. Lancaster was a Quaker who reformed school and educational systems and promoted education for the poorer classes. He introduced a non-sectarian approach to teaching, meaning that teachers could not teach particular denominational beliefs. He also introduced the use of rewards as well as punishments and a system of monitors where older students taught younger students.

Joseph Lancaster’s system of education was based around two principles:

Order, discipline and progress

All children worked at the same time. Older boys were used as monitors, who ruled the books, ensured good behaviour and reported on attendance and progress.

The boys in the first class sat nearest to the teacher. They sat at a flat table that had a sand tray in which they could draw letters.  Once they had mastered the sand trays, they progressed to slates.

Reading stations were established around the walls. Students stood at these stations in order of merit and were taught by the monitors at reading boards, which were attached to the walls.

Students progressed from class to class once their lessons had been learned.

Rewards

Children were rewarded for good work with leather or paper merit tickets Leather merit tickets were hung on coats by a small piece of ribbon. Paper tickets were swapped for prizes.  Three ‘Number 1’ tickets earned a halfpenny prize and 12 ‘Number 5’ tickets earned a sixpenny prize. The prizes (bats, balls, tops, kites etc.) were hung in a net above the schoolroom.

You can see the photograph on display in the museum until 30 September. If you were a pupil or teacher at the Boys’ British School, get in touch and tell us your memories!

A New Costume Display

Part of our Costume in Context gallery has recently been re-displayed, with six new dresses going on display.

It is important that we regularly re-display the costumes in this gallery, as fabrics can be damaged by light if left on display for too long (this is also why we keep the light levels low in the gallery). The process of changing a display takes longer than you may think, and our Collections Officer, Leah, has spent about six weeks working on the display.

Firstly, Leah searched the database for suitable items. She wanted to display dresses from a wide time-span to show how fashion changed through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. She chose six dresses, the earliest from the 1820s, and the most recent from the 1970s. Once she had chosen the dresses, Leah carefully inspected their condition to make sure they were safe to be mounted and displayed.

The prepared costumes wait in the textile store to be put on display

The next step was to prepare the mannequins. We cannot fit the dresses to our mannequins because we don’t want to put pins in the costume or create creases and folds, so instead we fit the mannequins to the dresses. Leah adjusted each mannequin to the correct height, and then created the correct shape using wadding and acid-free tissue, with a layer of Tyvek or cotton jersey to create a smooth finish. This creates a realistic shape, and ensures the dress is fully supported whilst on display. Leah then carefully steamed each dress to remove  any creases.

The next step was to research the dresses and create labels. The labels include information about the particular dress – such as who wore it – but also contextual information about fashion trends at the time.

Leah then de-installed the existing display. She carefully removed the dresses from their mannequins  and stored them in boxes, which were double-bagged and put into the freezer for two weeks to kill any insects that may have found their way into the costumes. Some insects, such as moths, can eat costume and textiles, causing permanent damage. After two weeks, the costume will be slowly defrosted and stored back in the museum’s textile store.

A dress is tweaked to get the arrangement of the train just right

Finally, Leah thoroughly cleaned the display case before installing each mannequin. Many detailed discussions were had about positioning, and hours of adjusting and tweaking took place to make sure each costume looked just right! Then the labels were added, and the display was finally ready!

Why not come along and admire the new display? It features a silk dress from the 1820s; a day dress from the 1860s; a stunning black mourning dress from the 1880s; a sheer crepe day dress from the 1920s; a wartime wedding dress from the 1940s; and a bohemian floral dress from the 1970s. Discover how fashion changed, adapted and came almost full circle in 150 years.

You can find out more about our Costume and Textiles collection here, or contact Leah if you have any questions.

Object in Focus – Dutch Cheese Press

 

This magnificent object is a Dutch cheese press.. It stands on two large feet, with a handle which hooks onto the structure when it is not in use. It is beautifully carved, and the two pillars on either side of it are carved with the image of a lion holding a crest and a bird. It has been painted red, black and gold and is highly decorated. It also has the inscription ‘1723 AO’ carved into it. The date may be when the cheese press was made, but we don’t know what AO means – it might be the initials of the owner of the cheese press. These were often given as wedding gifts, so it is possible that ‘AO’ is the initials of the bride and groom whom this was given to.

This cheese press has been in our collection since 1888, when the museum purchased it from a sale of old oak at Stansted Hall. It was long thought to be a cheese press, but we recently asked the Cheese Museum in the Netherlands, who confirmed that we were correct. The Kaasmuseum (Cheese Museum) in Alkmaar in the Netherlands has 8 to 10 cheese presses similar to this one, which date to the eighteenth century. The museum believes ours may date to between 1820 and 1850, even though it is inscribed with 1723.

Postcard from Noord-Hollandsche Kaasmakerij, which shows what a cheese press would look like when in use.

A cheese press was worked by hand to create semi hard and hard cheeses. A cheese vat, filled with curds, would be placed under the press, and the handle would be used as a lever to press a piece of wood down onto the press. Weights would then have been hung from the handle after 30 minutes, with further weight being added at 60 minutes. This would have pushed water out from the curds, helping to solidify a hard cheese.

 

We love researching and learning more about the objects in our collection. Some of the items the museum acquired many years ago do not have complete histories, so being able to fill in some gaps is very exciting! If you would like to see the cheese press, it is currently on display in our Local History gallery.

Abolition reticule

This reticule is a beautiful but very delicate object. It is made from unlined pale pink silk with a drawstring at the top. On one side, the image of a seated male slave with his two children has been painted in black. On the reverse, there is a poem entitled ‘The Slaves’ Address to British Ladies’, which reads:

Mothers of the fair and brave
Heavy is the debt you owe
For the sufferings of the slave
Thro’ an age of pain and woe. 

Shall your sons with freedom blest
Be the oppressors of our race
As I plead, each noble breast
Kindles at the foul disgrace.

Torn from Afric’s sunny plains
By your fathers’ cruelty
We have groaned in heavy chains
We have pined in misery.

But a brighter day is near
Blessings by your justice given
Faithful wives & children dear
And the hope of Joy in Heaven. 

We shall bless your holy zeal
In our lisping girls & boys
For we have a heart to feel
All a parent’s anxious joys. 

We shall see the harvests wave
And the sweets of science know
Freemen – at the name of Slave
Shall our souls indignant glow.

 
 

The reticule was made in the 1820s by a female campaign group, to raise funds and awareness for the anti-slavery movement. Although Britain officially ended its participation in the slave trade in 1807, slavery continued in the British Empire and in 1823, William Wilberforce formed the Anti-Slavery Society to campaign for the end of slavery in the colonies. Whilst women were allowed to join the society, they could not form part of its leadership, so a group of women in West Bromwich formed their own group, later called the Female Society for Birmingham. Other groups formed across the country and by 1831, there were 73 female organisations campaigning for the immediate and full abolition of slavery

Many of these groups produced objects such as bags, jewellery, prints and pin cushions, decorated with abolitionist emblems, images and text, which were sold or distributed as part of their campaigns. Silk bags and reticules like the one in our collection were filled with campaign pamphlets and newspaper cuttings and distributed to prominent people, including King George IV and Princess Victoria, as well as to other women’s anti-slavery societies.

It is very likely that this reticule was made by the Female Society for Birmingham. It is similar to reticules made by the society in the collections of the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Museum of London Docklands, the Library of the Religious Society of Friends, and the Daughters of the American Revolution Museum in Washington DC. However, another example matching this particular design has yet to be found.

The reticule is an important part of the Quaker history of Saffron Walden, which was home to some prominent Quaker families such as the Gibsons, Tukes and Frys during the nineteenth century. The abolition movement in Britain was established by the Quakers, who believe that all people are created equal (and therefore one person cannot be owned by another). 

Sadly, the reticule is in a fragile condition and cannot be handled or displayed. We are currently fundraising for conservation work to stabilise the reticule, enabling us to display it in the museum and share its fascinating history. If you would be interested in donating to the fund, please contact us

Update, August 2017: We have received a grant from the Daphne Bullard, Kathy Callow and Elizabeth Hammond Award, as well as donations from the Saffron Walden Quaker Meeting, Saffron Walden Museum Society and a private individual towards this project. We now have enough funding to conserve our reticule and we hope to complete this work in the autumn. 

Treasure20

Saffron Walden Museum is taking part in Treasure 20, a partnership project of the British Museum and Portable Antiquities Scheme, to highlight the important contribution of the Treasure Act to public museum collections around the country. Treasure 20 is a nationwide project which celebrates 20 years since the Treasure Act 1996 came into force in September 1997.

As part of the project, we are re-displaying our Treasure case, adding new archaeological finds such as a rare brooch in the form of a dove and a silver coin from Anglo-Saxon times, a delicate medieval finger ring and a tiny gold brooch with a pair of clasped hands.

The finds reflect the range of objects reported by metal-detectorists and also chance discoveries made by members of the public, like the Anglo-Saxon coin. The ring and brooches were all declared treasure under the Treasure Act 1996 and were purchased for the museum’s collections by Saffron Walden Museum Society Ltd, with generous grant-aid from the Arts Council England / Victoria and Albert Museum Purchase Grant Fund and The Headley Trust. Our collections and our understanding of local heritage have been enriched by over 50 acquisitions made through the Treasure Act.

As well as displaying new finds in the museum (look for the special Treasure20 labels), we will also be featuring a selection on the museum’s website and social media for 20 weeks, from June to October. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook to learn more about our Treasure collection or click on the gallery below.  We’ll be adding to the gallery throughout the project. 

 

 

 

Object of the Month – June 2017

June’s Object of the Month is a print of an engraving of Easton Lodge, in Little Easton, near Dunmow. It was chosen as Object of the Month by Leah Mellors, Collections Officer (Human History).

The print was published in 1832 by George Virtue, a London publisher. It is a print of an engraving of Easton Lodge that was completed by Henry Adlard, after an image drawn by W Bartlett.

Easton Lodge

Easton Lodge was a privately-owned mansion in Little Easton, near the town of Dunmow.  The gardens, grounds and estate of Easton Lodge date back to Tudor times and in 1590, they were granted to Henry Maynard who built a house in 1597.

Easton Lodge rebuilt in the Victorian Gothic style

From the early 1600s until the 1800s, the grounds around Easton Lodge were developed: a small wood was added, along with a dovecote and a temple.  In the 1800s, major changes were made to the house and gardens, mainly due to a large and disastrous fire in 1847, which destroyed almost all of the main Elizabethan part of the house. The house was rebuilt in brick and stucco in the Victorian Gothic style, to a design by Thomas Hopper. The print shows the Elizabethan house before it was destroyed.

Frances ‘Daisy’ Maynard

In 1865, the Easton Lodge estate was inherited by Frances ‘Daisy’ Maynard, who was only three years old. Daisy grew up to be a noted beauty and turned down several marriage offers, including Prince Leopold, the youngest son of Queen Victoria. She chose instead to marry Lord Brooke. Brooke would later become the Earl of Warwick and Daisy the Countess of Warwick.  After their wedding the couple preferred living at Easton Lodge, rather than their home in London, and the architect William Young was employed to make changes to the house.  The west wing was reconstructed and a new façade was added.

In 1918, there was another major fire at Easton Lodge, believed to have been caused by one of Daisy’s pet monkeys. The west wing, kitchen and servants’ quarters were all gutted by the fire. Daisy employed the architect Philip Tilden to plan the rebuilding. The west wing was rebuilt as a separate building but the remainder of Tilden’s plans were never realised. In 1919, Daisy had to sell off most of her estates as a result of her poor finances.
 

The Gardens of Easton Lodge

By the end of the 1800s, Daisy had created many formal gardens in the grounds of Easton Lodge, including large walled kitchen gardens, which produced exotic flowers and fruit and vegetables.

The Italian garden and pergolas

In 1902, Daisy commissioned Harold Peto, a popular architect and landscape gardener, to create further gardens for her. These gardens were designed in the Italian, French and Japanese styles and featured classical and oriental artefacts that Peto had collected on his travels throughout the world. The commission included a sunken Italian garden, with a 100-foot long oval-shaped pool filled with water lilies; a croquet lawn bordered by arched pergolas covered with blossoming climbers; and an oriental garden, which featured an elaborate thatched tea house on the edge of the lake.

Daisy died in 1938 and her son inherited the estate. During World War II, the main house stood derelict and although the lawns and kitchen gardens were tended by two gardeners, the formal areas were completely abandoned. The tea house rotted away, the lakes were overgrown and the surrounding woodland returned back to wild. In 1950, the main house was demolished and the gardeners left.   

In 1971, the west wing of Easton Lodge was bought by Brian and Diana Creasey. They were greeted by a mass of brambles and nettles and a concrete jungle. The explorations of their children revealed the almost hidden sunken Italian garden. They started work on restoring the old gardens and creating new ones and they began to open the gardens to visitors. From 1993 onwards, the restoration of the grounds got underway with the help of volunteers and that work continues today.

The gardens today

Volunteers recruited by the Gardens of Easton Lodge Preservation Trust look after and restore the gardens, opening them up to visitors on open days that take place once a month. The Italian garden has been replanted in the style of Harold Peto and extensive work is currently being done on the walled kitchen garden.  

You can find out more about Easton Lodge,  the restoration work and garden open days at www.eastonlodge.co.uk. The next open days are on 25 June and 23 July. You can see the print on display in the museum until 30 June 2017. 

Object of the Month – May 2017

May’s Object of the Month is a pottery bowl made by an unknown potter of the Hopi people of North America in the early twentieth century. It was chosen as Object of the Month by Carolyn Wingfield, Curator. Although we have no records of where the pot came from or who gave it to the museum, its distinctive style links it to a fascinating story about the village of Sikyatki and the modern revival of traditional Hopi pottery.

The surface of the pot has been polished to make it smooth and shiny, and the decoration has been painted using mineral pigments. The design of black bands with paw-like feet encircling the pot is typical of Hopi patterns which draw on animals, birds and nature.

Ancient Hopi pottery and Sikyatki village
The Hopi tribe are a Native America Nation living in what is today north-eastern Arizona, USA. Their name Hopitu means ‘The Peaceful People’. When the Spanish first came to the Americas in the 1500s, they referred to the Hopi and other cultures in the region as Pueblo people because they lived in villages (pueblos in the Spanish language).

Sikyatki bowl, Museum of Indian Arts and Culture

One of these villages, Sikyatki – meaning ‘Yellow House’ – gave its name to a distinctive style of pottery produced by the Hopi from the 1300s to the 1600s. They made bowls, ladles and jars in yellow-orange clay, painted with black, red and white mineral pigments. Designs were based on animals and birds, such as heads, beaks, wings and feathers, and other patterns derived from the natural world.

Sikyatki itself was probably abandoned between 1500 and 1600, before Spanish colonisers reached the area. According to Hopi tradition Sikyatki was burned by people from the neighbouring village of Walpi in a feud.

Nampeyo and ‘Sikyatki Revival Style’
The revival of traditional Hopi pottery was started by the work of the Native American potter Nampeyo. She was a Hopi-Tewa woman, born in the village of Hano in 1859. Much of her early life was spent in the village of Walpi with her grandmother, who taught her the art of pot-making.

Nampeyo quickly became known for her skill in designing, shaping and decorating pots. By the 1890s Nampeyo was incorporating traditional Hopi designs into her pottery. She drew her inspiration from sherds of ancient Sikyatki pottery which she and her husband Lesso collected. Further stimulation came from pots found at Sikyatki in 1895 by Jesse Walter Fewkes, on an excavation funded by the Smithsonian institution.

Nampeyo with examples of her work, 1900

Nampeyo continued to experiment with clays and designs, and began to teach other women, as well as members of her own family. The designs she created both revised and preserved the symbols of Hopi culture. This extended beyond the pots themselves to the rituals and ceremonies involved in making pottery, and prayers to Mother Clay. The demand for Sikyatki Revival Style pottery among collectors and tourists was also important in ensuring the Hopi’s economic survival.

The term ‘Sikyatki Revival Style’ was coined to describe the pottery produced by Nampeyo and other potters, such as Maria Martinez. Nampeyo died in 1942 but potters continued working in the Sikyatki Revival Style through the twentieth century. Despite influences from the outside world, the Hopi have retained their own culture, language and religion to this day.

The Hopi bowl can be seen on display in the museum until 31 May 2017.

The Adoration of the Magi, by Reinagle

his large painting called The Adoration of the Magi is one of the museum’s early acquisitions. It is an oil painting on canvas and it stands at approximately 4.5 metres high and 3 metres wide.

Self-portrait of Reinagle

The painting is by Ramsay Richard Reinagle (1775-1862), an English portrait, landscape and animal painter. Reinagle was a pupil of his father, Philip Reinagle, also a painter, and he followed his style. He exhibited at the Royal Academy in London from as early as 1788 before studying in Rome and Holland. He returned to London and painted panoramas of cities such as Rome, Naples and Paris, as well as making copies of Old Masters.

Reinagle painted three copies of religious paintings by Paul Raul Rubens, the Flemish painter – The Crucifixion, The Adoration of the Magi (the museum’s painting) and The Entombment. The original paintings hung in the museum in Antwerp. Reinagle’s copies were exhibited in Pall Mall, London in 1819 and a review of the exhibition in The New Monthly Magazine described them as having “as much of the spirit, power, glow and unction of Rubens’ style as we could have well expected in copies”.

Sometime later, in about 1842, The Adoration of the Magi was sold at an auction in Leicester Square Sale Rooms. The painting had been in the sale rooms, unsold, for some time but it was eventually bought by William Davidson for £13, on behalf of Francis Gibson, a member of the Quaker Gibson family of Saffron Walden. In 1843, Davidson brought the painting to Saffron Walden where it was presented by Gibson as a gift to the museum. During his visit, Davidson, himself a painter, painted a number of portraits, including the portrait of John Player that is on display in the museum’s Local History Gallery.  

Initially the painting was displayed in the museum but it was attacked by vandals, or “mischievous persons” as our accession register calls them! It was restored by George Nathan Maynard, Curator of the museum, in the 1880s.

In 1943, an agreement was made with Holy Trinity Church in Chrishall that they would take the painting on a long-term loan and display it in the church. The painting is still on loan to the church now and you can see it on display there. The church is open to visitors every day of the week so why not go along and see the painting in all its glory!