Author Archives: Museum Administrator

Collections Focus: 1514 Charter

This beautiful illuminated 1514 Charter can be seen on display in the museum’s Local History gallery.

Here are a few facts about what is contained in the charter…

When Henry VII came to the throne in 1485, he introduced charges for traders, brewers and bakers in
Saffron Walden. The townspeople were not happy about this, as people went elsewhere to sell their goods.

In 1513, a group of townspeople, led by John Leche and his sister Dame Joan Bradbury, petitioned Henry VIII to withdraw these charges but he refused.

The group then devised a plan to form a religious guild in the name of Katherine Semar, a wealthy widow in the town who wanted to leave money for a chantry in her will. They petitioned the king for the right to form this guild.

The petition was successful and on 24 March 1514, Henry VIII granted a charter allowing the Guild of the Holy Trinity to be formed.

The charter allowed the guild to hold land to the value of 20 marks without paying the normal charges and to act as a body in court.

Two months later, on 12 May 1514, Henry VIII granted a second charter to the guild.

The second charter allowed the guild to run the town’s market, a windmill and a malt mill and to keep the profits from them all. This meant that the townspeople no longer paid charges to the king.  In return Henry VIII demanded £10 per year.

More about the 1514 Charter: 

The charter is hand-written in Latin onto parchment and it is decorated with gold leaf and illustrations, including:

Saffron crocuses: Saffron crocuses can be seen on the left-hand-side of the charter. They
symbolise the town of Saffron Walden.

Bodley coat-of-arms: The Bodley coat-of-arms is on the left- hand-side of the charter. Thomas
Bodley was the first husband of Dame Joan Bradbury.

Saint Ursula: Saint Ursula can be seen sheltering her companions with her cloak. The guild was connected with Saint Ursula because they celebrated a four-day fair at the time of her feast-day.

Henry VIII granted the charter. His coat-of-arms: coat-of-arms is at the top of the charter
and his signature is at the bottom.  

Saint Katherine: Saint Katherine, who can be seen with her wheel at the top of the charter,
represents Katherine of Aragon, Henry VIII’s wife at the time. One of the responsibilities of the guild was to pray for the souls of Henry and Katherine.

Katherine Semar: The figure on the right of the charter is probably Katherine Semar. The guild was formed using the money that Katherine left in her will for a chantry.

Object of the Month – January 2022

Ptarmigan in Winter Plumage

Our ‘Object of the Month’ for January is a Ptarmigan in white winter plumage. This bird was collected between 1835 and 1899, after Saffron Walden Museum opened in 1835 and before the end of the nineteenth century. It is a stuffed specimen mounted on an imitation rock with a painted wooden base. Sarah Kenyon, one of the Natural Sciences Officers at the Museum, chose it because snow has already fallen in Britain this winter.

 

Ptarmigan Lagopus mutus

SAFWM : NB229C © Saffron Walden Museum

 

 

 

 

 

 

Winter Feathers and Fur

As cold temperatures and snow descend over Britain animals put on their winter coats. In Scotland several species change the colour and thickness of their fur and feathers to stay hidden, or camouflaged, and warm. They are the Mountain Hare, Pine Marten, Stoat, Reindeer and Ptarmigan. This adult male Ptarmigan, Lagopus mutus, shows the white winter plumage which helps the bird blend in with the snow and remain safe from predators, especially birds of prey. The feathers around their legs also help to keep in warmth. These small, plump game birds can be found on Scottish mountains, such as the Cairngorms, and on heather moors at high altitudes. They have a characteristic walk. In summer their feathers are speckled grey and brown which blends in with rocks, scrub and heather.

The fur of Mountain Hares turns from grey-brown to completely white in winter as they also need to avoid being caught by birds of prey. They live on heather moorland and in woodland above 300-400 metres in Scotland.

The Pine Marten is found in the north and centre of Scotland. Numbers of this predator are low but stable now that they are protected from persecution. They live in old native forests where the trees lose their leaves in winter. Their fur is brown with a yellow ‘bib’ on the chest. The brown fur becomes lighter in colour during winter to help blend in with the trees and snow. A thicker coat is grown to keep warm.

A herd of Reindeer live in the Cairngorm mountains. In winter they grow a thicker, lighter coloured coat of fur to protect against cold mountain temperatures and harsh arctic winds.

Stoats are predators in the same family as Pine Martens. The fur is light brown, white on the belly, and the tail has a black tip. This distinguishes them from Weasels which are smaller in size and have a brown tail.

In northern Scotland the fur of Weasels and Stoats turns white in winter to blend in with the snow, except for the black tail tip. This white fur colouration of stoats is called ermine and the fur was used to trim robes.

 

Weasel from Barley, Hertfordshire

(SAFWM : 1982.164)

 

You can see a Weasel and Stoat in the wildlife display case in the museum

 

Stoat from Newport, Essex               

(SAFWM : 2009.23)

 

 

Stoat in its white winter ermine fur 

(Image Wikimedia Commons)

 

Collections Focus: John Harvey’s Carved Mantlepiece (c.1570)

 

In 1855, Robert Driver Thurgood, decided to demolish his mansion in the centre of Saffron Walden, between Market Street (Market End) and Common Hill, to sell the land to provide additional space for the town’s cattle market.

The house was one of several previously owned by John Harvey (d. 1593). Harvey was a gentleman farmer, master rope-maker, and notable as well as the father of Gabriel Harvey (c.1550-1650) a famous scholar and poet.

During the demolition work sections of oak panelling were removed from the house, which revealed underneath them, three heavily carved chimney pieces. One of these carved overmantels was rescued and has been on display in the museum ever since. It is referred to by specialists as one of the earliest examples of “Alciato” emblems, based on Andrea Alciato, an Italian humanist’s writings, being used in England.

The overmantel has been made from clunch, a form of limestone which was used because it was relatively easy to carve. The central section depicts Harvey’s rope-making business.  A ropewalk is shown, the area where the master roper and his assistants’ twisted hemp, jute or flax yarn into ropes and cordage. The figures shown are dressed in late 16th century clothes, with winged and tabbed doublets or jerkins, breeches, stockings and latchet-secured shoes.  Presumably the ropemaking scene is being used to symbolise the value of labour and effort, and the link to its owner’s profession. Around the rope-making scene are depicted flowering plants and what appears to be a silk moth. There is a small building and an oak tree with a pig beside it eating fallen acorns. The motto in Latin here reads NEC ALIIS NEC NOBIS (Neither for others nor for ourselves).

The scene on the left of the rope making features a mule eating a thistle, a goose-like bird perched on a single tree branch, a series of stylised flowering plants and a tree full of oranges. The motto in Latin which reads ALIIS NON NOBIS (For others not for ourselves), could refer to the idea of not benefitting from your own labours, essentially doing something for the common good. To the right of the rope-making scene is pictured a deciduous tree with birds, a swarm of bees going backwards and forwards to their straw beehive. Here the Latin motto reads ALIIS ET NOBIS (For others and for ourselves), which makes sense with the image of the bees, as their honey benefits the bees themselves as well as humans.

Beneath all three sections of the symbolic emblems, the Latin motto appears to read NOSTRI PLACENTE VNT LABOR, but there are some letters and words missing, it possibly meansOur cakes are our labour,” presumably meaning labour brings its own rewards.

The recessed panels feature a cockatrice (a mythic beast which was said to have plagued Saffron Walden before it was killed) and a gryphon segreant (combined eagle and lion), which both appear to have been used in the design like heraldic crests, as there are twisted ribbons pictured around them. Other emblems carved here include flowers, leaves, fruit and trefoils.

For more information:

  • Peter Daly and Bari Hooper. John Harvey’s Carved Mantle-piece (c. 1570): An Early Instance of the Use of Alciato Emblems in England, Saffron Walden Historical Journal, 2003.
  • Alison Saunders. Emblems in Applied Arts and Crafts with Particular Reference to Alciati. 
  • Peter Daly (ed.,), Andrea Alciato and the Emblem Tradition, New York: AMS Press, pp.177-204

 

Watercolour showing the back of Gabriel Harvey’s childhood house, The Bell, showing the side which faced The Common. The house was pulled down in 1855. The sketch is by GN Maynard in 1886 based on one by Fry. 

 

 

The mantelpiece as it appeared in the museum on display in the late 19th / early 20th century

 

The carved mantlepiece or over-mantel

Object of the Month – December 2021

1914 Christmas Gift Box for the Troops

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

December’s Object of the Month chosen by Jenny Oxley, Collections Officer (Human History) is a Princess Mary Christmas gift box, an embossed and monogrammed tin which was intended to be distributed to all members of the armed forces of the British Empire on Christmas day 1914, during World War I.

Following the outbreak of the First World War in August 1914, the British Expeditionary Force was sent to the Western Front and was soon joined by troops from the Empire, those from India arriving before the end of the year.  In October 1914, George V’s 17-year-old daughter, Mary, Princess Royal, launched a public appeal to fund every member of the armed forces receiving a Christmas gift.  Shortly before Christmas 1914, advertisements were placed in the British press seeking donations for the “Soldiers and Sailors Christmas fund” and £513,000 was quickly raised.

The funding was used to manufacture small boxes made of silver for officers and brass for all others.  However, there were metal shortages.  Supplies of 45 tons of brass strip, destined to make more boxes, was lost in May 1915 when RMS Lusitania was sunk off Ireland on passage from the USA.  In the latter stages of the war when metal became even more scarce, some of the tins were made from plated base metals or alloys. 

Each tin was decorated with an image of Mary and other military and imperial symbols.  They were typically filled with an ounce of pipe tobacco, a packet of cigarettes in a yellow monogrammed wrapper, a pipe, a tinder cigarette lighter, and a Christmas card and photograph from Princess Mary.  Some contained sweets, chocolates, and lemon drops.   There were also variations on the contents of the boxes for non-smokers, who received a packet of acid tablets, a khaki writing set comprising a case with pencil, paper and envelopes. 

The Committee was also obliged to consider the tastes of other minority groups and it was recognised that if the dietary rules of various religious groups were to be respected, changes would have to be made in the gifts intended for Indian troops. It was decided that The Gurkhas were to receive the same gift as the British troops; Sikhs the box filled with sugar candy, a tin box of spices and the Christmas card; all other Indian troops, the box with a packet of cigarettes and sugar candy, a tin box of spices and the card. Authorised camp followers, grouped under the title of ‘Bhistis’ were to receive a tin box of spices and the card.

The smokers’ and non-smokers’ gifts were both deemed unacceptable by the committee for nurses at the front in France who were instead offered the box, a packet of chocolate and the card.

However, suppliers of the content items had trouble and it was realised that there were still not enough to go round. The Committee resolved the problem by hurriedly buying in an assortment of substitute gifts: bullet pencil cases, tobacco pouches, shaving brushes, combs, pencil cases with packets of postcards, knives, scissors, cigarette cases and purses.  Those sailors who should also have received the lighter as part of their gift, were given instead, a handsome bullet pencil in a silver cartridge case which bore Princess Mary’s monogram. The ‘pencil bullet’ was not fashioned out of real bullet parts – it was simply a pencil with a rounded white metal end that looked like an unfired round when stored inside a brass tube resembling a cartridge case.   

The boxes were originally intended for “every sailor afloat and every soldier at the front” on Christmas day 1914, but with the charity fun in surplus and some feeling that they had been left out, eligibility was soon extended to everyone “wearing the King’s uniform on Christmas day”, later prisoners of war were included, as well as the next of kin of 1914 casualties.  It is estimated that 400,000 were delivered by Christmas 1914, with full distribution completed in 1920, by which time approximately 2.5 million had been delivered.

A Princess Mary Gift Fund Box was a treasured possession of many veteran soldiers of the First World War, even when the original contents – usually cigarettes and rolling tobacco – had long been used. The embossed brass box was air-tight, and made a useful container for money, tobacco, papers and photographs, so was often carried through subsequent service.  Some troops repacked their tins and sent them home to their wives and families.

Further information and acknowledged sources  here:

Historic Walking Tour – the Radical Women of Saffron Walden

 

Wednesday 10th November, 10am-12.30noon
or
Saturday 13th November, 10am-12.30noon

Historic creative writing walks with author Hannah Jane Walker on the theme of local radical non-conformist women through time.

This is a free event, though standard admission charges still apply to the museum (adult: £2.50; concessions: £1.25; children: free).

The walk will be exploring radical historical women of Saffron Walden. Each of these women are attached to a specific site within the town. We will begin our journey at Saffron Walden Museum, and then walk between sites. At each site you will learn a little about the radical woman in question and explore their identity and try to bring them to life through simple accessible creative writing exercises. No experience of creative writing is necessary.

The walks will meet at the museum at 10am, then go out on the tour around town, before returning to the museum around 12 noon as the last stop on the tour.

The walk will cover roughly 4k in distance.

Accessibility – all on public pavements. Please note: Saffron Walden is a town with some streets where the pavement is so narrow that scooter and pram access are severely compromised. We will be using some of these paths such as the piece of path along Church Street.

If you wish to attend the walk you can book online via Art Tickets https://saffron-walden-museum.arttickets.org.uk/ or phone or email the museum directly 01799 510333 or email museum@uttlesford.gov.uk

More information about the Snapping the Stiletto Project: Campaigning for Equality https://www.snappingthestiletto.co.uk/ 

For more information about Saffron Walden Museum: http://www.saffronwaldenmuseum.org/

 

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?

Hair-Raising Half-Term Activities & Revised Opening Hours

Our click and collect activity packs bring our usual holiday craft and learning activities to your home! Each pack contains the materials you need plus exciting stories from our collections.
Please note you will need basic craft materials such as paint, scissors and glue and masking tape.
Get ready for Halloween with our hair-raising half term pack. Make your own climbing spider to scare your friends, some super creepy witch ears to wear trick or treating and a flappy bat or owl.

Your pack will include:
1x flappy bat/owl kit
1x witches ears kit
3 x climbing spider kit
1 x A4 activity booklet including instructions and spooky trail

Available to order now via our art tickets page for £5 each
https://saffron-walden-museum.arttickets.org.uk/

COLLECTION
Once you have ordered your pack you can come to the museum on either the 26th or 27th of October to collect, any time during our opening hours. Please bring along your order number so we can check you off our list.

MATERIALS
We often use re-purposed materials in our packs and as such there will be slight variations between packs. We use recycled materials to keep the pack costs down for you and the planet.
Children should be supervised at all times when carrying out the activities, packs may contain small parts unsuitable for young children.
________________________________________
Thursday 28th October, 6.30-8.30pm
Museum at Night – Spooky Forest

Strange creatures are abroad in Saffron Walden Museum. Come and hunt them down next Thursday from 6.30pm and see if you can solve the true or false trail! No need to pre book. Trails are £1.50 (this doesn’t include entry to the Museum). Explore the museum by torch light. Collect a spooky forest pack from the Welcome desk. Why not come dressed up to!
________________________________________
Revised Opening Hours

Currently our opening hours until the end of this week are:
Thursday-Saturday: 10am – 5pm
Sundays and Bank Holiday Monday: 2pm-5pm
CLOSED Monday-Wednesday

For half-term week, the Museum will be open Tuesday 26 – Saturday 29 October 10-5pm, and Sunday 31 October 2-5pm.

From November, our opening hours will be Wednesday-Saturday 10-4.30pm, Sunday 2-4.30pm. Closed Mondays. Open on Tuesdays for school visits, group bookings and pre-booked events only.

Admissions: Adults £2.50; Concessions £1.25; Under 18s Free.
Admission not included with event tickets.

Email: museum@uttlesford.gov.uk 
Phone: 01799 510333

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poems…..

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 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2DbqPeLRRx4 

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)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3CILYnXxHwE                            

 

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  https://www.swmuseumlearning.com/snappingthestiletto