Guess the Object

Each Monday throughout 2017, starting on 2nd January, we are posting a photo of an item in the collection on our Facebook and Twitter pages for you to guess the object. Each Saturday we will reveal what the object is and tell you a little bit more about it here on our website.

Follow us on social media to join in!



Week 16

"Lazy Tong" Douter

This Victorian steel, rivetted, extendable scissor-like contraption was used to snuff out candles!

Week 15

Pewter Cruet

This 14th century pewter cruet is sadly missing its original lid, although the hinge fitting is still intact, and as a result we may never know what was stored inside it. It was discovered in the Abbey River in the 1970s which gives us clue to its use.

In medieval Britain these small pewter jugs or cruets were most commonly ecclesiastical items. They held the sacrament for the celebration of the Mass. On the lid would have been the letter A, for aqua or water, or the letter V for vinum, or wine.

It was in the 14th century that Chertsey Abbey was at its height, under the auspices of Abbot John de Rutherwyk (1307-1346). It was during his time in charge that the abbey was developed and new lands added. Rutherwyk was responsible for the digging of the moats around the vegetable gardens, which are still visible today, as well as the fishponds. He had drains dug, improved the water supply to the Abbey, built roads, bridges, windmills and wells.

Maybe this cruet, along with its missing pair, was used by John de Rutherwyk, the Abbey’s “second founder”? 

Week 14

Knife Cleaner

This is a knife cleaner dating to the early part of the 20th century. Before the invention of stainless steel, or rustless steel as it was originally called, just before the First World War, keeping your cutlery clean was a tiresome activity. Acidic food caused steel knives and forks to become dull and rust, and polishing them was a laborious business.  In 1844 George Kent was awarded a patent for his rotary knife cleaning machine, and by the end of the century he had sold over 100,000. The knives are placed into the slots in the edge of the drum, the handle turned and the rows of bristles and leather strips inside would brush and polish the blades.  

The Kent’s Knife-Cleaner was available in many different sizes able to clean three knives at a time up to nine, but they were not cheap. The largest cleaner went on sale in 1844 for £3 18s which is the equivalent of £2,000 today.

Week 13

Fireman's Helmet

This brass Chertsey Fire Brigade helmet has a detachable brass badge, and was given to the museum with a pair of brass epaulettes.

In the mid 19th century firefighters wore leather helmets for protection against ash and falling debris, but in the late 1860s they were replaced with metal ones.

The brass Merryweather-style helmet was based on the headwear of French Sapeurs-pompiers and was first introduced into Britain in 1868. It remained in use until 1936-1938 when it was replaced by helmets made of compressed cork and rubber. These were much more practical than the heavy brass helmets, and much safer. As more and more homes had electricity it wasn't wise to wear conductive, metal helmets.

Week 12


These are a pair of spats or short gaiters made of buff coloured wool. They were donated to the museum by Mr Johnston who ran a gentleman’s outfitters at 5 High Street, Addlestone, from 1910 until he retired in the mid-1960s.

Spatterdashes, or spats for short, were primarily worn by men in the late 19th century to protect their shoes and socks from mud and rain. As time progressed into the early part of the 20th century they became a fashion item associated with the wealthy and well-to-do, as immortalised in Irving Berlin’s classic, Puttin’ on the Ritz

Have you seen the well-to-do
Up on Lenox Avenue
On that famous thoroughfare
With their noses in the air
High hats and arrowed collars 
White spats and fifteen dollars
Spending every dime
For a wonderful time

If you're blue and you don't know where to go to
Why don't you go where harlem sits
Puttin' on the Ritz

Spats fell out of favour in the mid 1930s but their demise had started almost a decade before when, in 1926, King George V appeared at the opening of the Chelsea Flower Show without them. Rumour has it that as soon as spectators registered the omission they too discarded their spats, which could be found littering shrubbery across the Show! There was also a practical reason for their loss of popularity; with cleaner streets there was no longer a need for them.

Week 11

Roman Strainer sherd

This pottery sherd dates to the 1st century AD and is from a carinated (rounded base with inward sloping sides) bowl rim with a spout and strainer. It was recovered from the Thames near Magna Carta Island in the late 1990s during dredging work.

Bowls such as this were in use in Britain before the Roman occupation, but they tended to be in bronzework, whereas the earliest ceramic examples date from c.30AD. These bowls were initially used to strain local drinks such as beers.

Archaeological evidence from the Roman fort at Vindolanda, on Hadrian’s Wall, shows that the soldiers stationed there drank a lot of ale! Military accounts written on wooden tablets have been unearthed there, and at other forts along the defence, which give details of the ceruese (beer) the soldiers bought from local brewers.

Week 10

Fire Mark

This is a copper fire mark of the Norwich Union Fire Insurance Society which was established in 1797.

In 1666 the Great Fire of London resulted in disastrous losses to buildings and possessions, and at the time there were no insurance companies.  By the end of that century the Fire Office (which became the Phoenix Fire Officer), the Friendly Society and the Amicable Contributors for Insuring Loss by Fire (latterly the Hand in Hand) had established themselves in business. During the 18th century and onwards to the present day, many more insurance companies were formed to mitigate against all sorts of losses.

At a time, in the 18th century, when house building was often unplanned and rather haphazard, buildings often had no street number. Therefore, it was necessary for insurance companies to distinguish which of the many houses they had a policy against. Hence the need for a fire mark bearing the company’s emblem and the policy number. Initially these marks were made of lead but were soon replaced by cheaper copper marks. If the policy lapsed, the mark was removed.

These marks were also important when it came to putting out any fires at the property. The catastrophic events of 1666 also resulted in improvements to the way fires were tackled and an improvement in the availability of firefighting equipment. The Fire Office realised that if they had their own, organised, fire brigade then maybe they could put out the fire and limit the amount of damage done. These small fire brigades continued until the mid-19th century when ten insurance companies came together to form the London Fire Engine Establishment, and even up until the early part of the 20th century some still existed in the provinces.

Week 9

Bellarmine Jug

This is an early 17th century Dutch stoneware jug often referred to as a Bellarmine because of the depiction of a bearded man on the neck of the jug.

The bearded man is said to be Cardinal Roberto Francesco Romolo Bellarmino (1542-1621). Ballarmino joined the Catholic Church at the age of eighteen and was promoted to Cardinal when he brought charges against Galileo in 1615 for his support of Heliocentrism - the theory that the earth and planets revolve around the sun. 

This jug dates to a time before Bellarmino was a Cardinal, but the term is widely used to describe all bearded man jugs. This is thought to be because of the Cardinal's strong stance against alcohol, and so the jugs were named in his honour to mock him. The first recorded use of the term to describe one of these stoneware jugs comes from c.1635.

Week 8

Ice Skates

These brown leather ice skates with steel blades, belonged to Olive Matthews, former owner of our costume collection. They were purchased from Fortnum & Mason Ltd, Piccadilly in the early years of the 20th century.

The skates were manufactured by The Salchow Mfg Co. Stockholm and the steel skate is inscribed Salchow and Meyer. Urich Salchow and Bror Meyer were both champion Swedish figure skaters in the 1900s, Meyer is most remembered for his 1921 manual Skating with Bror Meyers, and Salchow is most remembered for the jump he invented in 1909. The Salchow jump is described as 

a takeoff from a back inside edge of one foot. The rotation in the air is made in the direction of the curve of the take-off edge. The landing is made on the back outside edge of the foot opposite the one used for take-off. One or more rotations may be made in the air.


Week 7

Woolly Mammoth Tooth

Woolly mammoths (Mammuthus primigenius) roamed Europe, parts of Asia and parts of North America 400,000 years ago but became extinct c.12,000 years ago. They were the size of today's African elephants but were very woolly indeed!

These enormous creatues could be up tp 9ft (2.75m) tall with up to 16ft.(5m) long tusks which helped them to dig up vegetation in the frozen tundra of the last ice age. They had four molars which they replaced up to six time throughout their lifetime, so these teeth are not that uncommon to find. 

Week 6

Tobacco Jar

This lead tobacco jar with a fox on the lid belonged to Mrs Miles who lived in Eastworth Road, Chertsey, at the turn of the 20th century. Lead jars were first introduced in the 1750s and remained popular until the 1900s. They nearly always had an animal or a person on the lid.

Week 5

The Pedlar Doll

This is one of the most popular objects in the collection and was much played with by Olive herself when she was a young girl.

Pedlar dolls (also know as Dutch dolls, a misnomer as they were made in Austria but sold from Germany; hence Deutsch corruption to Dutch) were a popular child’s toy in the 18th and early 19th centuries and were accompanied by the wares they would sell, such as matches, books, candles etc. Olive’s doll is very traditional in its construction and dress, it is the wares which she sells which mark her out as exceptional. These include candlesticks, shovels, timepieces and candle snuffers and are all made of solid silver. They probably date from the late Stuart to early Georgian period with one piece, the two-handled dish, thought to date from the 1660s. Clearly these items are not original to the doll, but are thought to be from a doll's house.

The doll and her wares had already had an interesting history before it came to be owned by Olive. It had been owned by the Sassoon family, the wealthy family of bankers related through marriage to the Rothschild and was bought by Olive’s mother from the Sassoon collection (it is not known how and when the doll was bought). It was to be a treasured possession of Olive’s both as a toy when she was a child and as a rare object when she was an adult.

The elevation of what was when new a rather a pedestrian doll into an extraordinary example of its kind through its associated precious objects may have amused Olive as she grew out of childhood and may have even been an inspiration to Olive in her acquisition of rare and beautiful objects.

Week 4

Unmarked figurine of Charles James Fox, c.1850

Charles James Fox  (1749-1806)

Charles James Fox was born in 1749, the third and favourite son of Henry Fox, later Lord Holland.  From an early age Fox became infatuated with gambling, losing small fortunes at cards, such debts were always settled by his father.

With his father’s assistance he entered parliament at 19, before the legal age, as MP for the pocket Borough of Midhurst in Sussex.  Later, as MP for Westminster, Fox established a reputation as an eloquent political orator, speaking in support of civil liberty.  He was appointed Foreign Minister under King George III.

In 1778 Fox purchased a thirty-acre property on St. Ann’s Hill with commanding views of the surrounding countryside.  The house was ‘a plain irregular building, of no architectural importance … The gardens and pleasure grounds are laid out with great taste’ with ‘a small Temple’ and ‘a very neat grotto’.  Fox spent much time in this rural retreat away from the intrigues of political life in London.  Fox’s house was demolished in 1937, though two of Fox’s garden buildings still survive.

In 1782, a young German schoolmaster, Carl Philipp Moritz, during a visit to England, described Fox, ‘This same celebrated Charles Fox is a short, fat, and gross man with a swarthy complexion and dark; and in general he is badly dressed.’

He later aided his friend the Prince Regent, in his attempt to gain power during the illness of George III.  On returning to parliament in 1806, after a break of almost a decade, he strongly opposed the slave trade, but became ill and died of dropsy in the same year.  He had wished to be buried at Chertsey, but his friends considered his memory would be more honoured at Westminster Abbey.

Week 3

Day Dress by Redfern, c.1911

This stunning day gown is made from figured velvet and silk satin. It was made by the high status couture house of Redfern Ltd whose premises were located at 26 Conduit Street, London. The business was founded  around 1850. It eventually closed in 1940. Redfern was famous for quality tailoring, particularly women’s sportswear such as riding habits. It also produced beautiful day wear such as this piece. From around 1908 it led the way in producing women’s clothing in the columnar ‘Grecian’ style. This garment is an excellent example of this new silhouette.

 The dress is extremely complex in construction with a multitude of press-studs and hooks and eyes holding it in place, making it impossible to put on without assistance. It incorporates a hobble skirt with a slight train, a common style for day dress during this period. The fashion for the extremely impractical hobble skirt is attributed to the esteemed fashion designer Paul Poiret, who once famously stated that he had “shackled” women’s legs with his designs. Women had to take very small steps when walking and some even wore garters around their knees to prevent them from taking too large a stride.



Week 2

Holloway's Ointment Pot

1896 recipe for ointment

  • Fresh butter (unsalted with no added water) av.oz.12
  • Yellow wax av.oz.4
  • Resin av.oz.3
  • Vinegar of canthandes fl.oz.1
  • Balsam of fir av.oz.1
  • Expressed oil of mace gr.30
  • Peru balsam drops 12

Thomas Holloway, the eldest son of Thomas and Mary Holloway, was born in Devonport, England in 1800. In his 1816 his parents moved to Penzance where his father took up the occupation of keeping a Public House named The Turks Head. It is believed that during his time in Penzance Holloway undertook a brief apprenticeship in Harvey’s Chemist between 1816 and 1820, perhaps being the inspiration for his later work. 

In 1828 he left home and embarked on a mercantile career in the North of France. In 1836 he returned from France and made the decision to set up business and home in England’s capital city, London. It is during his early time in London that he became acquainted with a leech vendor from Turin, Felix Albinolo. Albinolo met Holloway whilst advertising his ‘St Cosmas and St Damian’ ointment which, backed by numerous testimonials from medical personnel, claimed to cure a variety of different ailments and diseases. Holloway, currently working as a merchant, offered to go into partnership with Albinolo helping to sell and advertise his ointment, but unable to provide the capital that was needed for the venture Holloway’s offer was declined.

In 1837 Holloway posted his first advert in the Sunday Times for ‘Holloway’s Universal Family Ointment’. Over the next year Holloway and Albinolo battled in the advertising columns of many well known newspapers and journals before Holloway was imprisoned in Whitecross Debtors Prison for going bankrupt. After his mother bailed him out of Whitecross in 1839, Holloway  immediately embarked  on the making of his digestive pills and subsequently moved to larger and more adequate business premises at 244 The Strand, London.

In January 1840 Holloway married Jane Pearce (1814-1875), the eldest daughter of John Driver a Rotherhithe shipwright. It is unknown how Holloway and Jane Pearce met but it is possible that Holloway became associated with her father whilst visiting the docks at Rotherhithe when trying to sell his ointment and pills to sailors onboard the ships. The couple remained married until Jane’s death in 1875 and according to several accounts led a happy marriage and life whereby Jane was heavily involved in the business; whether by chance or choice the couple went on to have no children of their own.

The success of Holloway’s pills and ointment in subsequent years lay in his extraordinary ability to publicise his patent medicines worldwide. He spent a vast amount of his fortune on advertising through a variety of different means including billboards, tote cards, stamps and posters. He wrote to thousands of people throughout the empire and enlisted agents in other countries to pursue his advertising for him.

In 1860 Holloway decided to take a step back from the business life in London and he and his wife, together with some other members of his family, moved to Tittenhurst Park in Sunninghill, Berkshire. Even though he had taken a back seat in the business he still spent hours each day studying daily returns and stock and share papers; his business continued to be a large part of his everyday life. By now Holloway had become a self-made millionaire and with no children to leave any inheritance to he decided to invest a large sum of his money in two philanthropic ventures.

With the advice of the seventh Earl of Shaftesbury he first planned to build a Sanatorium for 240 middle class mentally ill patients costing around £300,000. The Sanatorium in Virginia Waters, Surrey was opened by the Prince and Princess of Wales in 1885. Sadly, Jane Holloway died of heart trouble and bronchitis in 1875, and it was in memory to his wife that Holloway invested in his second philanthropic venture, the building of a college to educate 250 middle class women. Holloway was closely involved with the construction of the college, built a short distance from the Sanatorium in Egham. However, despite being closely involved with the building of the college Holloway passed away before its opening by Queen Victoria in 1886. Holloway died of congestion of the lungs at his home Tittenhurst Park in December 1883. His body was later buried in St Michael’s, Sunninghill in 1884 where it still rests today. The self- made millionaire left behind him a great fortune and a sizeable estate, amounting to over £600,000.


Week 1

Chertsey Abbey Tile

Chertsey is most famous today for its outstanding medieval tiles, made on site to re-floor the Abbey church in the later 13th century. These tiles were found in July 1996 at the corner of Colonels Lane next to the Abbey Field, just across the road from this museum. 

Other tiles had previously been re-discovered and at the time it was thought that they had been made in France as the idea of laying a floor of plain or decorated tiles was a continental one, which only caught on in England after about 1220.  However, in 1922 the kiln in which the Abbey tiles were then fired was discovered, along with some discarded tiles, proving that the tiles were made on site.

The tiles are made with red and white clay, differences in colour is caused by the amount of oxygen in the kiln during firing.   A shortage of oxygen results in the dark greens and browns, in contrast to the brighter reds and oranges. 

The first stage in the manufacture of the tiles would be to cut the raised design in to a wooden stamp (metal was probably used for more complex designs). Then the stamp is

pressed into the soft clay which is then left to dry. Wet, white clay is then applied to fill the hollow design, and left to dry to a ‘leather hard’ state. Then the extra white clay is scraped off to reveal the design. Then the tile is trimmed to shape and fired. Normally a lead glaze would be applied before firing to protect the design, it also gave a yellow tinge.

Chertsey Abbey tiles are known as ‘the most famous tiles in England’ and are considered to be the finest medieval decorative tiles of their time produced in this country.  The individual tile designs were used as part of tile mosaics as early as 1250 AD.  The tiles consisted of large pictorial roundals with the surrounding design being made up of numerous smaller pieces. Popular designs included zodiac signs, the farming months of the year and legends, as well as decorative patterns. 

The eleven complete medieval tiles in our collection were purchased from Genet Holdings Ltd in September 1999 after a successful fund raising campaign by local people.