Monthly Archives: October 2015

A New Start

A busy and helpful week since our last posting from South Somerset District Council’s Community Heritage Access Centre, near Yeovil.

One of the highlights this week was a concidental connection which arose from a donation of school items and two new employees in the Economic Development side of the Council – ‘A New Start’ all round one could say.

The donation of school items relates to Yeovil County School, Kingston and was donated by The Old Yeovilians Association. This school was founded in 1845 by John Aldridge and settled on the Kingston site five years later. The original Kingston School had occupied only a shuttered building on the right, the former home of Martock-born, sanitary reformer, Dr Thomas Southwood Smith (1788-1861). Somerset County Council took over the running of the school in 1905 and subsequently greatly enlarged it. Known then as Yeovil County School, it changed its name (yet again) to Yeovil School in 1925 – apparently on a whim of the headmaster! (Credit: Ansell and Barnes: “Around Yeovil” Chalford Publishing, 1995)

The School Donation was particularly good as it included a painting of the school with the school motto – “Esse Quam Videri” (To be, rather than to seem to be) and school caps, blazers and attendance records to add to and enhance our exisitng items and knowledge of this particular subject.

The new starters came for a tour of CHAC as part of their introduction to District Council facilities. They were particularly impressed with the range of objects and photographs related to Yeovil’s past and the knowledge of the tour guide!

One of the key aspects we outlined was the environmental monitoring in the stores, explaining the significance of recording relative humidity and temperature and then examining the results when the information was downloaded onto our computer. We then illustrated ‘the theory’ as we downloaded one of the monitors in a practical demonstration to reveal the blue line for relative humidity and red line for temperature. This seemed to work well to actually show an example of what we do.

Evidently – Esse Quam Videri

In a calendar update, we now have an ‘honesty box’ at Ninesprings Cafe.

Part of the Old Yeovilians Association Donation included this painting of Yeovil County School, Kingston, Yeovil, as the school would have looked around 1910. Note the school logo “Esse Quam Videri” (To be rather than to seem to be)

Along with Yeovil School (after re-naming in 1925) boater, cap and blazer

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The thumbs Up!

A busy and intriguing week since our last posting from South Somerset District Council’s Community Heritage Access Centre, Yeovil.

One of the main themes this week was beneficial training and courses. Staff attended the Mid-Somerset Curators Group Meeting at the Fleet Air Arm Museum, Yeovilton and ‘Identification of Natural Materials’ at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Exeter, Devon. The Natural Materials course was particularly significant in terms of ivory items in the collection.

We were also present with our volunteer team at the autumn meeting of the Museums in Somerset Group, held at Montacute House, near Yeovil. There were very useful discussions on the Somerset Routes website and ‘Know Your Place’, which is a project to digitize historical maps of a local area and upload these to the World Wide Web. The project started in South Gloucestershire and the speaker was looking to see how Somerset Museums could contribute.

We were also at Drayton Senior Citizens Group on Monday to provide a local history talk with handling objects and displays. One aspect that proved particularly rewarding was a study of the 1910 Kelly’s Somerset Directory. The annual directory provided details of Somerset villages including total acreage; population and commercial workers. We believe they were published until the mid-1960s. Of specific interest were a “Mrs Susannah Stone – school mistress” and a “Harry Stone – taxidermist.” We thought this was notable to have two people of the same surname in a population of around 360 and even more so, as the school teacher was clearly married; an unusual occurrence at this time, we were informed. We checked our 1939 Kelly’s and neither Susannah or Harry were listed. We thought of possible reasons for this – had a better teaching position become available, perhaps at Taunton – or had taxidermy fallen out fashion. During our talk we asked the question of why both were not mentioned in the 1939 Directory – answer – Harry and Susannah were husband and wife – with Susannah passing away in 1931 and Harry in 1936 with their daughter, Edith in 1955. In addition, Harry was a keen photographer and chronicler of village life, as two of his framed photographs were behind the speaker during the talk. Thus, we found “the teacher and the taxidermist.”

We also highlighted possibly Drayton’s best known native celebrity, E.R (Eric Richard) Sturgeon, water-colour artist (1920 – 1999).

Donations this week included a pair of metal thumb piece glove cutters. We were interested to see how these were different to our other glove webs and cutters. Once revealed, we could clearly see the “Ashley Brothers, Yeovil” and size for each cutter on what appears to be a small enamel plate on the front of each cutter; making them, in terms of provenance, one could say ‘a cut above the rest and ‘get the thumbs up from us!’

Next time, developments on the Yeovil Calendar front and looking forward to welcoming a group of Yeovil College Students – exciting time.

Thumb piece glove cutters, made by Ashley Brothers of Yeovil which came to CHAC via the Fleet Air Arm Museum, RNAS Yeovilton, Ilchester, Somerset.

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A Stitch in Time

A quieter week since our last posting from South Somerset District Council’s Community Heritage Access Centre, near Yeovil.

This has allowed us to focus on caring and documenting for the collection, with the help of our volunteer team and helping with enquiries.

Definitely under the ‘caring’ heading was the conservation clean of the South Petherton Drum. This was a delicate operation for the object as it is in a number of parts and for staff as the drum was previously stored in a barn – so plenty of dust and potential for wood worm! We unwrapped the Tyvec and acid free tissue covering, which showed that the drum had acclimatised to the new workshop environment and we set to with a soft brush and the Museum Vac. With this completed, the drum was accessioned into the collection and is now awaiting a permanent location. During the cleaning, we even discovered that a new skin was fitted in 1902 as this was written in pencil on the inside of the main drum.

This week has also seen two gloving related enquiries; possibly one of our main topics from the public, as shown in the football team sign “Yeovil Town – Home of the Glovers,” reflecting that 50% of England’s gloves were produced in Yeovil up until recent times.

The first enquiry came all the way from California and concerned a sewing machine that was used at Moffat’s of High Street, Yeovil that somehow made it ‘across the pond’ to the USA.

The enquirer was searching for a Singer 46K1 for several years, but they are rare as hens teeth.  This machine is such a “clone” of the Singer 46K1 that most of the parts are interchangeable.  They aim to discover all the history available and share this with us.

They also noted that it is their sincerest hope to be able to visit Yeovil one day, and would try to bring this little machine with them, so it can have a “homecoming” as it were.

My colleague also helped with background information.  The earliest we can trace the shop to at the moment is an entry in a 1910 trade directory, he’s still there in 1923 but by 1935 it seems it has become Jason Moffat’s shop.  It was in a prominent position in High Street, Yeovil, opposite the Town Hall.

Our second gloving related enquiry came literally 2 hours ago from Kingsbury Episcopi Time Traveller’s Group. This Local History Forum near Martock have already published two collections of photographs on the village and came to see us regarding a gloving event they are holding on 28th November. We used the Kelly’s Somerset Directories to find information on the village and then showed aspects of the gloving process from the Donkey invented in Stoke Sub Hamdon to a full length glove iron. We also located specific images of Reed’s Gloving Factory in Kingsbury Episcopi which closed in 2005.

Recent donations this week included a silver plated “Yeovil” Spoon complete with St John The Baptist emblem.

Next week already looks busy with the Museum in Somerset Autumn Meeting at Montacute House, followed by a talk for Drayton Local History Group, near Langport. Report next time.

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We believe the location of Moffat’s in High Street, Yeovil shown around 1950- an image from the 2016 Yeovil in the Past Calendar and staff very much in conservation cleaning mode!

A Friendly Foundation

A busy and well travelled week since our last posting from South Somerset District Council’s Community Heritage Access Centre, (CHAC) Yeovil.

On Thursday 1st October 2015, staff and our Volunteer Co-Ordinator enjoyed a journey to the Gold Hill Museum, Shaftesbury, Dorset. The Museum was hosting a course entitled “Building and Maintaining a Volunteer Team” organised by the South West Federation for Museums. Many south west Museums and Heritage Sites were represented including Coleton Fishacre, near Torquay, Devon and Beaminster Museum in Dorset. We soon became aware of how vital volunteers are to some Museums, as one near Bath needed 42 volunteers across the week just to open their doors to the public.

At CHAC, our volunteers help us to document our accessioning backlog and thankfully, new items that are donated by members of the public. We soon realized this was a little different to most of the museums represented on the course, where ‘front of house’ and ‘stewarding’ duties are key. The course was useful to suggest different projects for our CHAC volunteers, where the documentation and ‘form filling’ although crucial to what we do, can be become monotonous. One idea was to create a display for our regular library window slot, based on a particular archive and a printed CHAC Newsletter – both prepared by volunteers – thus giving them a new task and taking responsibility for this, whilst also freeing up staff time to complete other tasks.

On Tuesday 6th October 2105, we provided an illustrated talk to the Fivehead Local History Forum, between Langport and Taunton. This was particularly useful as we were able to add new information to an existing object. When we give a talk to a group in South Somerset, we always like to find a connection to the location in our CHAC collection. In Fivehead’s case, we pass something from the village everyday, when we do our guided tours. This is a collection of Friendly Society pole head emblems stored in four archive boxes. A quick search on our database highlighted the Fivehead emblem and checking the location showed “Fivehead” on the outside of the box. Inside we found the traditional brass emblem but unusually topped by a bird. During further research we discovered the following in a report from the Langport and Somerton Herald, May 27, 1922:

“”In proposing the toast of “The Club,” the President reminded them of what Mr Calder said to them during his speech. They had recently unveiled and dedicated their war memorial in the parish, which had been erected in memory of their gallant fellows who returned not. Those men belonged to the great friendly society which went to stem the German hordes. (Cheers) In referring to the figure of a dove on their club-pole, the speaker said that the dove was the emblem of peace. When the Armistice was signed there was joy throughout the length and breadth of the land and they all spent a happy time in Fivehead on that day.”

The Friendly Society emblems also revealed a central connection and foundation to the Yeovil Museum Collection as the 50 or so emblems were acquired by William Wyndham, the founder of the first Museum in Yeovil in 1928.

Following a Fivehead cream tea (a speciality I understand!) we were back to CHAC via Drayton, Muchelney, Long Load; Tintinhull and Chilthorne Domer to host a visit from a local Brownie Group with 18 Brownies and three helpers between 6 and 7pm. There was a special display of our oldest, newest and smallest objects and an exciting quiz highlighting aspects of the collection including “what is the name of the family that collected the glass collection?” (Answer – Pinney) Everyone enjoyed their time (see visitor book for proof!) and when the quiz asked what was your least favourite object – many hands went up and responded “Is it all right to say we liked everything!”

A friendly foundation all round.

Next time – look forward to a report on conservation cleaning a local drum!

The Fivehead Friendly Society Pole Head Emblem – a dove – emblem of peace – when the Armistice was signed the “doves” of Fivehead came out over 100 strong.

By the 18th Century many village clubs or friendly societies had been formed, usually with headquarters in the local inn. Members contributed a shilling a month to ensure medical attention in time of sickness or to provide a decent funeral.

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We also supported Long Sutton Women’s Institute and Flower Club with a copy of a harvest image.

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Keep Sake

We have enjoyed another busy and varied week since our last posting from South Somerset District Council’s Community Heritage Access Centre, near Yeovil, Somerset.

Intriguingly, our week starts and ends with a Dorset connection. Last Friday, we were in Dorchester for our annual Research Trip, investigating another Museum to pick up hints and tips and to see if we can use these to develop the service we offer at CHAC.

We started our day at the Keep Military Museum, located on the junction of Bridport Road and Barrack Road, Dorchester, which was the home to the Regiments of Devon and Dorset. The Keep was completed in 1879 and designed to resemble a Norman Castle. The Keep is built of Portland Stone, which gives it a white appearance.

We enjoyed a superb tour, climbing ever higher up the spiral staircase – and were mindful not to look down as we climbed! Of particular interest was the outreach work completed with local schools and sixth form colleges. We were shown around the dedicated outreach room and the replica uniforms used to illustrate a series of talks and activities. On the way to the newly opened replica trench with periscopes to view the ensuing battle at the front in case of snipers, we passed Adolf Hitler’s desk complete with Christmas card from the Fuehrer!

Very small details like display stands and archive drawers were another great spot.Our tour was completed with a roof top glimpse out over Dorchester in the brilliant sunshine and explanation of how the Keep Gateway was part of the Barracks layout.

On our way to leave, we also received a number of documents related to Yeovil including a leaflet related to the “Cessation of Conflict on VJ Day” – a helpful addition to our collection as we have a selection of items on VE Day, but only a few on VJ Day.  Following our enjoyable lunch time arrangements (soup with side serving of seasonal vegetables) we completed our day at Dorchester County Museum, with a noticeable focus on the new archaeology gallery. The display of small tokens on resin blocks so both sides were visible was a great insight.

The following day we were in Yeovil Town Centre for 9am with our Yeovil Calendars at the “Super Saturday” Event between the Farmer’s Market and ‘Busker’s Base’ – 1 of 4 we were informed!This was very much worth attending as we did well in terms of calendar sales and explaining the background and purpose of CHAC – one lady even asked when our next lecture was due!

So to Shaftesbury for Thursday 1st October 2015 – report due next time.

View from the top of the Keep Military Museum, looking out over the layout of the barracks – a little changed by modern construction!

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Part of our Display from “Super Saturday” in Yeovil on Saturday 26th September 2015

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