New Exhibitions This Summer
We have recently opened not one but two new exhibitions, so there’s plenty to see this summer!
Working in conjunction with the Surrey Wildlife Trust, Wild About Runnymede gives an insight into the varied habitats of the Borough and the animals that call them home. Runnymede is surprisingly green considering it is nestled on the edge of the M25 motorway so close to London. Almost 30% of it is covered in trees and woodland and the majority is designated as Green Belt land. Whilst most of the ancient woodland that originally covered Britain has gradually been destroyed, 19% of Surrey is covered with trees, which is more than any other county. The exhibition gives potted histories of the development and efforts to conserve the woodlands, heaths, meadows and rivers of the area - with the help of some former, furry, (now stuffed) residents!
Do keep your eye out on our website and in the local press for activities led by the Surrey Wildlife Trust, which we are planning over the summer months.
Have you heard the tale of Sixteen String Jack, the flamboyant highwayman? Well, his story and those of others who chose the same career path are told in our Highway Robbery exhibition! Highwaymen thrived in England from the mid-17th century until the turn of the 19th century at a time when there were few decent roads and travel was a dangerous pastime. The heathlands of north Surrey were not a place you wanted to be late at night for fear of running into William Davies, the Golden Farmer or perhaps Moll Cutpurse, a female highwayman.
Some of the younger visitors to the exhibition might be interested in our dressing-up area. Our fashion volunteer, Barbara Prowle, has been busy once again making us two wonderful highwayman’s cloaks whilst Victor Spink, Vice-Chairman of the Friends, has been channelling his inner ‘Dick Turpin’ to provide the voiceover of The Highwayman poem by Alfred Noyes. Many thanks to them both, and to James Cumper for making the coach.
New to the Fashion Collection
A number of important new items have been accessioned into the Olive Matthews Collection of Dress in recent months. In addition to a lovely group of Biba pieces, we have added a beautiful 1970s kaftan from Thea Porter’s couture collection and a wonderfully colourful striped man’s swimsuit from the Edwardian era. We have long wanted to acquire a 1920s ‘Robe de Style’, and one of these was also added. It is attributed to the outstanding Parisian designer Jeanne Lanvin, and is made from black silk taffeta with a design of roses in ribbon work embroidery. Lanvin was known for her ‘Robe de Style’ dresses, which were longer, romantic versions of the drop-waisted 1920s cut. Rather than the cylindrical straight up and down silhouette that we associate with the ‘flapper’ era, these feminine garments featured wide, gathered skirts and often billowing folds of soft net. They were a favourite with young girls and society ladies. Our example is likely to have been shortened, but the net from the skirt has been used as a decoration, so can be reinstated.
Another important group of 1930s and ‘40s pieces has also been added. These were kindly donated at the end of last year and include a beautiful pink silk velvet evening dress and cape. They were designed by the lady who wore them and made up by an extremely talented and meticulous dressmaker from Berlin. We now have an excellent archive of 1930s garments, covering evening wear, outerwear, bridal wear, leisure wear, underwear and nightwear.
Items that are not on display are available to view by appointment with Grace Evans, Keeper of Costume. If you have a research enquiry, please contact her on 01932 575373 and you can discuss the types of pieces you would like to see before coming in to study items in detail. Around two weeks’ notice is usually required.
The Vikings Are Coming!
Thanks to the generosity of Thorpe Park Resort we are pleased to announce the return of our hugely successful Viking Day!
On Saturday 24th September we will once again take over Abbeyfields, opposite the museum, for a day of Viking revelry. Learn more about the invaders who sacked Chertsey Abbey and their way of life - and death! Details will follow over the next month, but put it in your diary now!
As well as our Viking re-enactors demonstrating weapon training we hope to have an authentic Viking tent on the field with people practising the art of weaving, whittling and other such Viking pastimes!
The day, which is free to everyone, is expensive to organise, and so it would not have been possible without the funding of Thorpe Park Resort. So, our thanks go to them and in particular Education Manager, Jack du Pille and Head of Development, Chris Edge for their enthusiasm.
The Friends of Chertsey Museum fundraise throughout the year so that they can support us in the work we do, whether that be putting on events, buying objects at auctions, or funding free activities for families. There is a very easy way that you can help them with their efforts and it won’t cost you a penny!
The FoCM is registered as a good cause on the easyfundraising.org.uk website. If you register with them, a very simple process, you can nominate the Friends of Chertsey Museum as the cause you want to support. From their website search for your favourite online shops and click the link to buy the things you would normally buy. Then, when you check-out the retailer will pay the FoCM a percentage of the total of your purchase at no extra cost to you!
There is also an easyfundraising.org.uk toolbar you can download to your PC so that you don’t even have to remember to use their website. If you install it you’ll get a pop-up box letting you know that the retailer whose site you are browsing is part of the scheme, and you can activate the donation straight away. Don’t be put off, it sounds more complicated than it is, and it might only be pennies each time, but as a well-known retailer says, every little helps!
The Friends of Chertsey Museum
Dear Museum Friends
It's hard to believe it's almost the summer. Spring saw the museum host a number of informative, engaging and well supported events including, Martin Pel discussing Biba fashions, Paul from Discover History bringing alive life in a monastery and the Chertsey Woolcrafters demonstrating various methods for spinning and weaving - preserving history and techniques.
On Wednesday 8th June Major Rob Marshall will be speaking to us about the Battle of the Somme, the 100th anniversary of which is on 1st July.
On Saturday 25th June we are organising a trip down to Battle Abbey and Hastings. Battle Abbey was a Benedictine Abbey, as was Chertsey Abbey which has its 1350th anniversary this year.
On Saturday 9th July it is the Chertsey Black Cherry Fair. As usual the Museum and Friends will, as part of our continuous visibility and outreach drive, have refreshments available throughout the day. We urgently need our Friends to volunteer for this important event. Please contact the museum if you have an hour or two free to help serve, clear tables or wash-up or if you are not free on the day we need donations of handmade cakes please.
I look forward to seeing some of you at the above events and wish you all an enjoyable summer.
Chris Dunster, Chairman
Thanks to the generosity of The Friends, Chertsey Museum is now in a position to offer new education sessions within schools. Money was given for us to commission a range of replicas for use with schools, including some that are copies of items in our collection such as our Bronze Age hafted axe (see photos).
These new resources, made by Roland Williamson who made our lovely replica Viking sword, have enabled us to create new talks to support the schools in their learning within the recently changed national curriculum. We have also been able to use parts of the collection that we haven’t previously used with KS1&2 such as our woolly rhinoceros tooth and mammoth tusk.
Many of you will know our Museum Assistant Jennie Anderson went on maternity leave earlier this year. We are pleased to welcome the newest member to the museum team, Joel Powell, who was born on 13th February weighing a healthy 7lbs 13oz. Jennie will be on maternity leave until November, and in the meantime, Martina Hunter will be stepping in.
Martina is one of our Saturday team, so she is already a familiar face in the Research Room, and has risen to the challenge of her new role; “I am always amazed by our visitors, some come regularly to look at our new exhibits whilst others are visiting for the very first time. There is always something happening at the Museum – last week I spent time researching a local street for a visitor, today I was filling holes in walls – tomorrow, who knows, probably chatting to a visitor and hearing all about their life in Chertsey! ”
In April we were lucky enough to be able to purchase at auction a letter by Chertsey resident and politician, Charles James Fox to William Adam. The letter, dated 2nd October 1803, is a lovely addition to our archives especially as it also mentions Fan Grove, Lyne. Alas Fox is rather cryptic in this one, so it’s difficult to work out the correspondence exactly, however, there are also scribbled action points written by Adam in the margin so we know that the letter was in response to Fox obtaining the grant or lease for St. Ann’s Hill. The letter reads as follows:
Many thanks to you for your letter and its enclosure, I’ll consider the things as done, and will not inquire how it was done; only as I never meant to ask a favour, and as I am of course to pay as much rent as another would I must not consider myself as having received one. By your first letter (by stage) I began to be afraid that you had only Fan Grove in your mind and you had forgot the Hill. Now it appears quite the reverse but I think it is time that I should have an answer to my Memorial, on that subject.
It must have been in relation to that Memorial and to Fan Grove that Pitt said what you allude to. In the printed papers they have stated my proposal and in fact Government would be the gainer and I am afraid the only gainer by accepting it. I most sincerely hope that by this time you have satisfactory news about Charles. A small delay after such weather as there has been is easily accounted for. Mrs F desires to be kindly remembered,
C J Fox
St. Ann’s Hill
PS The Fan Grove business was referred, as I believe, either to the Surveyor of the Crown Lands or Surveyor of the Woods.
Museum Garden Project
The museum garden is undergoing a transformation and permission was granted for us to remove the dangerous, large trees from the museum garden to make way for more suitable planting. Whilst we were sad to see them go, they had grown too large for the space. This is the first step in a project to re-landscape and revamp the garden to make it easier for us to maintain and a more useable space for visitors.
This is a long-term project so in the meantime, the garden is looking a bit bare. We do not want to spend lots of money on plants this summer when we hope to have the garden redesigned later in the year, so if you have any spare plants at home that you are willing to give us we’d be very grateful!
To help us with this project we have a new band of willing volunteers who, between them, have offered to help tidy up the garden. We are very grateful to Carol, Delyth, Gerry, Jill, Mags, Mary, Richard, and Robert.