Monthly Archives: August 2015

Coals to Yeovil

Another busy week at South Somerset District Council’s Community Heritage Access Centre, (CHAC) near Yeovil, Somerset.

One of the main themes this week so far is ‘returning’ with an archaeological handling box returned from our District Council Countryside colleagues, which helped with a Roman themed activity day and our “Flight Over Everest” Panels which were used during Westland Helicopters Centenary Celebrations Day in July.

Last week also saw our “Record Breaking Storytelling” in Yeovil Library as part of the children’s Summer Reading Challenge. This all began when I asked a librarian the theme of the 2015 Reading Challenge and was informed “Record Breakers.” This instantly brought an idea to mind and I asked the librarian if they were highlighting any Yeovil-based records and this was actually proving a struggle to find any. I then explained about the Westland G-Lynx which still holds (as far as we know!) the world air speed record for a helicopter at 249.10 mph.

Suffice to say, we enjoyed a superb storytelling (the children and adults said so!) with grateful thanks to Westland Helicopters Archive for a great image of the G-Lynx pilot Trevor Eddington (which helped to illustrate the ‘grandpa’ in the story) and The Helicopter Museum, Weston-Super-Mare for permission to use detailed accounts of the modifications to the standard Lynx helicopter and explanations of the record-breaking day itself on 11th August 1986. We also used my Lego Airport helicopter dating from around 1986 to illustrate these modifications and images of gloving and the first Flight Over Everest (which was also by a Westland Aircraft) to place the G-Lynx record in a historical context.

One of our most recent accessioned objects was a simple looking book with “ledger” inscribed on the spine. However, inside were a selection of receipts confirming we believe that this was a ledger used by Bradford’s Building Supplies and dates to around 1904. One of my favourites from these is a yellow receipt which details the number of Bradford depots across Somerset and Devon, the type of products supplied and the all important telephone numbers (2 or 3 digits in length!) Bradford Receipt086 One of the memos from a recently accessioned Bradfords ledger.

IMG_2216 Part of our CHAC Display for the Summer Reading Challenge

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Tall tales

A very quick blog this week – as we are shortly to embark for our storytelling  “The Vital Lynx”
at Yeovil Library at 10am as part of the National Summer Reading Challenge “Record Breakers.”
Our story looks at a specific record still held by a Westland aircraft. If you would like to know more,
come along, or alternatively, I can reveal this is the Westland G-Lynx which set a world air speed
record for a helicopter at 249.10 mph – the first to break 400 km/h and flown by the late Trevor Egginton.
We have a few visual aids in the form of a Lego helicopter; photo of sunflowers and a nut and bolt – they are all connected – honest!

Also a busy week with a loan box of archaeological handling items to our Countryside colleagues; tours for a staff member from Honiton Museum (and whose Mum was born in Yeovil) and a prospective Heritage University Student looking for practical experience of Museum collections.

Oh and the 2016 Yeovil Calendar is now available!

DSCN1977 All set!

Rover’s Return

Another exciting, intriguing and varied week at South Somerset District Council’s Community Heritage Access Centre, near Yeovil – with a transport-related theme!

One of the highlights this week was a visit from an enqurier researching Percy Winsor Ltd of Vicarage Street, Yeovil and specifically the Rover P4 motor car, purchased by Percy Winsor.

This was particularly exciting as the researcher now owns this car and visited in the said Rover to our Centre. This was exciting for many reasons; firstly as we work everyday and enjoy working with historical objects and people ‘from the past’, we were delighted to ‘meet’ a living link to a person and a company that was well-known and widely regarded in Yeovil; secondly, this was especially superb for me as a link to ‘my other job’ writing on tractor-related subjects to discover another link and more information on someone I thought I knew. The central point was a reminder to staff that Museums and acquiring knowledge is a ‘two-way-street’ and we should never stop learning or appreciating ‘hidden gems’ of information, or what could happen to turn up next.

Percy Winsor Ltd were a leading supplier of Ferguson (and later Massey Ferguson) tractors, combine harvesters and balers, based at the site formerly occupied by MotherCare in the Quedam Shopping Centre. They were taken over by South Western Farmers and employees moved to Crewkerne, Somerset, in 1966. It is understood, Percy retired at this stage and he died in 1972 and is buried in Yeovil cemetary.

Interestingly, our enqurier had a love of ‘old’ Rover cars as a first boyfriend owned one! When looking for a new project, this Rover came up for sale and they were unaware of the Yeovil Connection until a search of previous owners through the DVLA led to the first owner, Percy Winsor. Interestingly, this was an ‘old’ model when purchased in 1964 as a newer Rover was available at the time, possibly reflecting that Percy was something of a traditionalist!

After a seven-year search, our enquirer was able to tell us the following:

I now own and have restored his Rover P4 110 car that Percy bought from Males Garage in Yeovil in 1964. It has taken me 7 years to trace him as the original owner and am delighted to find such provenance. I believe that some of the 75 employees that worked there may still be alive and used to meet to remember the old days.

He visited Canada in 1950 via a Cunard White Star Cruise liner perhaps to visit relatives but he also seems to have met up with Ferguson bosses and Massey bosses, they joined together and Percy came back with a massive contract! His wife Winifred Ivy Winsor appears in a Massachusetts directory with a few details that are close but not totally the same. Also, they were getting on a bit when they bought this car but managed to clock up 48,000 miles in the 7 years preceding their deaths.

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In a transport-related week, Karen Field, the current owner of a Rover P4 110 car bought by Percy Winsor from Males Garage in Yeovil in 1964 and our Centre Display at the 2015 Wessex Truck Show!

Hand in Glove

Another busy, energetic and exciting week at South Somerset District Council’s Community Heritage Access Centre, near Yeovil.

Our new exhibition on the ‘Early Years of Westland’ is now in place in The Town House, Union Street, Yeovil and we have just received an exciting donation of gloves.

If there is one area of our collection we are always keen to receive, this would be gloves and gloving. Many people living in Yeovil today or the casual visitor will associate the town with Agusta Westland and the production of helicopters. However, Yeovil was responsible for around half of England’s glove production up to the 1950s and the donation which recently came in reflects this time.

Clothier Giles Ltd Glove Manufacturers were based in Addlewell Lane, Yeovil and were a leading glove producer at the time. The 12 pairs of gloves were made by Clothier Giles, which is something in itself and sufficient in terms of our collecting policy, but the donor was able to supply more superb detail and provenance.

Like the clock from Preston Road Methodist Church we looked at in a previous blog, the existing detail is significant, but this was heightened by the knowledge that these gloves were samples taken around by salesman to try to establish sales with shops and businesses. In addition, the donor’s wife also worked in the office of Clothier Giles as a secretary. This level of detail provides an extra degree of insight and social history, which places the already eye-catching designs, in a wider, intriguing context and provides another source of information when visitors enjoy a research visit to CHAC.

Not wishing to forget, of course, that there are a number of different designs of glove, in the 12 pairs donated, literally showing the variety of materials, techniques and stitches involved in glove production at the time. From fancy cuffs, to fine leather pointing and warm mittens, the gloves reflect the time, when the phrase ‘fit like a glove’ meant what it said and reflects our collecting policy and context go ‘hand in hand.’ (Or hand in glove!) We are also grateful (as ever) for donations with a Yeovil and South Somerset Connection and especially in this case, where the donation was ‘handed in!’

Upcoming events include our Storytelling for the Summer Reading Challenge at Yeovil Library on Thursday 20th August 2015 at 10am on a local history and helicopter theme! Hope to see you there.

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Gloves made by Clothier Giles of Yeovil.

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Our new ‘product line’ of Greetings Cards and our ‘Remember First World War Booklets’

A Day In The Life of a Curator

8.30 – Arrive at CHAC, am on my own today and put away the handling items that were loaned for a production at the Swan Theatre.  They were returned late on Friday and are from our World War II collection.  The production was a sell out and many people were interested in the display of photographs.  File the paperwork.

9.00 – Do a walk through of CHAC, making sure everything is where it should be and as it should be.  I then empty the dehumidifiers which are full after the weekend.

9.20 – Check my e-mails and social media for any immediate action to be taken, no enquiries today which makes a change.

9.30 – As it is the end of the month, I collect all the statistics required, number of ivisitors, number of photographs and objects accessioned into the collection, number of social media followers, number of records input into our collection computer system and so on.  I have to feedback to the Arts Council at the end of each financial year.

10.00 – Start to check a box of costume for condition, records and take photographs of the items.  Many records on our computer system just say ‘dress’ with no description or measurement.  I update the records of 20 items of underwear.  Unfortunately the previous store at the Museum was damp and there is old mould on about two thirds of the costume I look at.  I repack the costume that hasn’t been affected and pack the affected costume for washing.  I will take the costume home that needs washing as there is more space to do it there.  The items are washed according to instructions from the Conservation Development Officer based at the Museum in Exeter.  The items will be washed by hand in a delicate washing liquid and then swilled with distilled water.

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1.00 – Lunch

2.00 – Catch up on admin, I pay an invoice, raise an order for some goods, check the monthly budget to make sure I’m not spending to much money and check the sundry invoices report to see if I need to chase any debtors.  I don’t at the moment, thankfully.

2.30 – Have received an e-mail from the Imperial War Museum concerning a film of the Battle of the Somme that they will let us show next year.  I tell them how many copies I want and where the film is to be shown, East Coker and a venue to be confirmed in Yeovil.  I let the secretary of East Coker British Legion know the latest development.

2.45 – I write a press release for a donation of gloves made in Yeovil and send that to the media section at South Somerset District Council for checking along with photographs of the gloves and the factory where they were made.

CHAC Gloves 3 (2)

3.00 – I do some inputting on MODES our computer system of objects and photographs, there are currently 28,300 object records and 4,500 photographs.  Like all museums there is currently a backlog of recording.

4.00 – Do some research on a waistcoat that allegedly belonged to Napoleon.  It turns out that the waistcoat was made by a high quality theatrical company, Kerslake and Dixon, in London in the late 19th century.  Therefore it is a waistcoat made for someone to perform as Napoleon.  The company made theatrical costume for Sir Henry Irving and there are examples of their work in the V & A museum.  As the waistcoat is an untraced find it is not known how it got to CHAC or why.  I tweet about this.

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4.30 – I check the post, another donation has come in of a Thankgiving Service at the end of World War II programme and some paperwork for a donation of gloving photographs.  I sort this out and put the paperwork in the relevant places for action.

4.45 – I do another walk through of CHAC to make sure everything is ok and empty the dehumidifiers again as they are filling up rapidly.

5.00 – Go home.