Monthly Archives: April 2016

Fit for a Princes

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

Highlights this week have included preparing items for loan to Bruton Museum, another accredited  site- with condition photographs taken and objects wrapped to support them during transit.

Staff have also met with a Mentor for their Associateship of the Museums Association (AMA)

One of the key public enquiries so far came in the form of historical information regarding 24-28 Princes Street, Yeovil, following the discovery of a photograph showing this to be a piano dealer at one time.

One of our favourite aspects at CHAC is helping to answer enquiries using the resources available to us in the collection.

The first thought was before using precious time to find all the images of Princes Street, we determined exactly where 24-28 Princes Street was located, in relation to other buildings in the Street. We achieved this by looking through the Peall & Co Estate Agent Index Cards. This former estate agent series of drawers includes all the properties dealt with by the Agents and is helpfully catalogued from A-Z. Searching in the drawer for ‘P’ we found ’24 Princes Street’ and an image on the Index Card of 24 Princes Street dated 18.2.1998 showing  John Hart and Partners Opticians. This relatively recent image helped us further to appreciate how things have changed in a relatively short space of time.

One of the most enjoyable parts of the search is then comparing and contrasting this source with another, that might be slightly older. Always trying to go back further with supporting evidence is crucial. Helpfully, we then turned to the planning documents and discovered “Plan No: 8696 Alteration to entrance door, Ryburn House, Princes Street for J. Hart.” Interestingly this had handwritten underneath “16.8.66 work not carried out.” Therefore, we were able to link something that was familiar in the photograph with a new piece of evidence in the documents – that was waiting to be discovered and brought together by the enquiry.

The benefit of having digital images of our photographs on our collection database soon became apparent when we searched under ‘Princes Street’ and there revealed was a photograph showing the end of a building with ‘Piano Dealer’ in the window.

Staff also discovered that in 1923 a Mrs A M Castle, Grocer was at 24 Princes Street.

Leslie Brooke in his “Yeovil History in Street Names” notes the following: “By 1853, the name Princes Street replaced “Cattle Market” – a more dignified title to a street which by then contained premises of a substantial character housing some of the more prosperous businessman of the town – thereby removing the anomaly of a street being partly in three separate manors so far as addresses were concerned. One wonders whether the new name commemorated the Prince Consort, despite the omission of an apostrophe, or whether it was in honour of the two infant princes, Edward and Alfred.”

Evidence used in the 24-28 Princes Street Enquiry – Photograph Courtesy of Peall & Co Ltd.

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Dress to Impress

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

Highlights included a donation which featured ‘secret’ instructions for the Yeovil Home Guard of what to do in the event of a German invasion during World War Two and planning an afternoon for our volunteers to attend a Dress and Textile Specialists (DATS) Visit to The Alfred Gillett Trust and Clarks Shoe Museum in Street, Somerset on Wednesday 27th April 2016.

Staff also provided an illustrated talk to the local University of the Third Age (U3A) Group at the Johnson Suite, Octagon Theatre on Tuesday 19th April 2016. This was particularly interesting as the organisers requested the same talk that we had provided to another Yeovil-based Group around a year earlier. A quick search of emails (possibly saved for too long!) revealed this earlier talk was on ‘CHAC – role  and background.’

With this in mind, we took along a selection of handling objects, including gloving tools,  a bright pink dress and Yeovil School Blazer. These were used to illustrate the distinction  between ‘main’ and ‘handling’ collections and how decisions have to be made to place an item in these groups. The pink dress was part of a local dancer’s items, but without a specific Yeovil or South Somerset connection, was placed in the handling items to convey a sense of a ‘period in time.’

The Yeovil School Blazer was an even simpler choice. Clearly, there is a direct Yeovil connection, especially with the “Parsons and Shute, Yeovil” shop label in the collar. However, we had two of the same blazer and put the one in slightly worse condition in the handling collection to use for talks.

The actual objects also helped to structure our talk along with a ‘mystery’ object, an example of environmental monitoring readings of temperature and relative humidity and a blunder pest trap – checked and emptied before passing around!

As always we started by asking if everyone was from Yeovil and this did turn out to be the case, but more specifically, some said they had lived in Yeovil 10 years; some 25 years and some all their lives – including one lady who had relatives with connections to Aplin & Barrett St Ivel Cheese, Newton Road, Yeovil  and Clothier Giles Gloving, Park Street, Yeovil – needless to say we had a chat afterwards!

The impressive pink dress and light ‘over’ garment which belonged to a Somerset-based dancer, which makes a great visual illustration for talks and always creates interest and generates discussion. We believe this is possibly silk due to the ‘dry clean only’ label inside and possibly dates from the mid-1960s.

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Royal Undercover Story

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

For this week’s blog, we hand over, once again, to one of the Yeovil University Centre Students, that evidently enjoyed a certain ‘Royal Connection’ and provides a personal reaction to Queen Victoria’s chemise!

After spending some time in CHAC with the marvellous Clare Robinson and Joseph Lewis, we were allowed to roam the halls of their storage units, filled with artefacts from a variety of decades.

My eyes had never bequeathed such glory until the day they allowed us to view the late Queen Victoria’s chemise. I now take pride in telling people that I have seen the undergarments of a Queen and the impeccable quality of this hand-made garment speaks for itself. Surprisingly, the chemise was very white in colour, even though Queen Victoria is known for her all-black fashion sense, but then I suppose it may have become difficult to distinguish underwear from outerwear if it had all been black. The style of lace used can withstand the pressure of any amount of royal cleaning; and the Queen clearly cut no corners in making the most of her luxurious chemise. Gloved up and ready to delve in hands first, I could barely contain my excitement, holding it up against oneself and cowering over the sheer size of such an epic vestment. In a sheer state of wonderment I couldn’t tell if my excitement came from my love of seeing history first hand, or if it stemmed from the fact that I’d touched Queen Victoria’s underwear (not many people in the world could say they had achieved such an honour).

Some of you may be wondering how such an artefact could fall into the hands of a Community Heritage Access Centre. Now, to stop all you with a vivid imagination thinking that someone with a particular fetish had broken into Queen Victoria’s underwear drawer, I can assure you that this was not the case. With each donation, the Centre creates a record of how they obtained an artefact; an acquisition register, which provides proof that no underwear drawer diving had occurred. This particular garment had been donated by one of Queen Victoria’s ladies in waiting. It is to be understood that the Queen had gifted the chemise to E.M Miss Troyte- Bullock along with a hat and a pair of stockings. (One lucky lady if you ask me). The assumed time of Queen Victoria’s generosity is around the Diamond Jubilee Procession.

Since last viewing the glorious chemise Clare and Joseph have ordered a special costume box to better store this impeccable product; as it had been folded up before, damaging some of the fibres, causing weak points in the fabric. We can all feel safe in the knowledge that Queen Victoria’s underwear is in safe hands and is being taken care of to the highest of standards.

One of our Yeovil University Centre Students enjoyed their visit – and especially Queen Victoria’s chemise!

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A Prestigious Panel

We have enjoyed a busy and involving week since our last posting from South Somerset District Council’s Community Heritage Access Centre.

In a departure from our usual weekly posting, we wish to highlight some notable and intriguing aspects of the collection. This thought came from attending a learning symposium at the Royal West of England Academy of Art in Bristol, where there was a ‘Painting of the Month.’ We cannot promise a painting or an object on every blog page, mainly as we have so much to report back on – but we aim to have a ‘sprinkling’ of interest.

For our first ‘highlight’ we asked one of our volunteers to select one of their favourite paintings or artworks. They selected the ‘Angel Inn’ Panel because of its eye-catching nature; the materials the panel is made from; as far as we know it is possibly unique and is always full of interest, no matter how many times the features are viewed.

The carved wooden panel depicts Adam and Eve, Abraham and Isaac. Abraham is about to sacrifice Isaac and his arm is stayed by an angel. His two servants, one drinking from a water bottle, remain with the ass at the foot of the mountain, while the sacrificial ram is shown caught in a thicket. The panel used to hang in the kitchen of the Angel Inn, Hendford, Yeovil, which stood on the site of the present Westminster Bank. An example of early Puritan influence, the inclusion of a lion and a unicorn has reference to the supporters of James I’s royal coat of arms. The panel is believed to date from 1603.

Correspondence relating to historical research on the panel is contained in the Somerset Archaeological and Natural History Society proceedings for 1910. A ‘loan museum’ was set up in the justice room at Yeovil Town Hall in 1909 and on page 67 mentions a ‘large oak carving taken from the old Angel Inn, Yeovil – exhibited by Mr. H. M. Watts’.Richard Gough Nichols Bodleian Library written in 1761 states: ‘The Angel Inn (Yeovil) is celebrated over this County for its Kitchen…furnish’t with the greatest variety of curiosities’. After listing some of them, the writer added that the landlord’s whole delight was centred on this singular room. His successor in 1779 advertised the inn as ‘famed for the beautiful kitchen and repository of curiosities in a Western Flying Post 1 January 1779 advertisement. The inn was pulled down in around 1850.

Recent information has also noted that the panel is possibly the work of Humphry Beckham who died 2.2.1671 aged 83, in Salisbury, Wiltshire. There are carvings by Beckham in Salisbury which have a similar style.


The ‘Angel  Inn’ Panel believed to date from 1603, which was part of a ‘curious collection’ arranged in the former Angel Inn, Yeovil. Note the gilded frame.


A very telling photograph

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

We enjoyed the company of the Somerset Finds Liaison Officer from Taunton for our Archaeological Finds Afternoon and we have received donations related to Seavington St. Michael, near South Petherton and World War Two Instructions given to H.C.C. Batten, Yeovil Town Clerk.

We also experienced a strange occurence just before Easter, when we discovered a strange odour from a photograph in our collection. We are in the process of digitizing our photographic collection and during this process, the rather intriguing aroma occurred. The golden rule is never to sniff anything that is uncertain, as the effect can be hazardous. We did take a little close attention to determine the type of odour, which was closest to an adhesive aroma. Interestingly, this was the first time this had happened after around 500 photographs. Therefore this seemed to rule out, the actual scanning causing the problem, or the change in temperature from the store to the research room; which would suggest something in the photograph itself.

Therefore, we sought professional advice – and as we had scanned the photograph, we could email a copy of the ‘offending’ item across.

We isolated the image in a metal cabinet and this is some of the advice we received.

It wasn’t a camphor type odour? That’s an aromatic smell – think of camphor wood and old mothballs (not the naptha type).

If it was more of an animal-glue type smell, then it may well have been the remains of an adhesive you’re smelling, which might imply it’s a little damp. However, I don’t think anyone would have applied that to the surface of the image. It might be a varnish, which would have been used on a wet plate collodion image and would usually be shellac or a mix of natural resins including sandarac.

Is the image a negative or positive, and is it on glass, metal, paperor flexible clear film? Is there any discolouration or is it black and white (black and clear?)

I’ve copied this to our wonderful photo conservator to see what she thinks.

The photograph in question:623421

Lufton Roman Villa excavations, 1951