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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