Winter 2015/16

Museum Update

The last few years have been a whirlwind of activity at Chertsey Museum with all efforts turned to marking national commemorations at a local level. Whilst June 2015 already seems a long time ago, Magna Carta has not been forgotten. We are fortunate to be able to display the stunning Magna Carta 800th Embroidery, lovingly created by Rhoda Nevins, from 25th February to 9th April. Rhoda is a member of the Royal School of Needlework and has worked on many high profile projects such as the Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding dress and will be coming to talk to us about the embroidery and its creation.

The Magna Carta 800th Embroidery panels tell the story of how the Barons persuaded King John to agree to Magna Carta, arguably the most important legal document in our history, laying the foundation for justice and freedom, not only in this country but throughout the world. The twelve panel embroidery project took three years to complete and Rhoda was helped by a dedicated team of volunteers.

Work also continues on our First World War project, Runnymede Remembered, with web designers at Brighton based Surface Impressions creating a dedicated site for the thousands of photographs that the museum and volunteer Jim Knight have taken from the original Surrey Herald newspapers housed at Egham Museum. Even though photos are still being added to the archive, we hope to have the new site online by the next edition of the newsletter, so watch this space!

The Friends Committee are busy planning events for the forthcoming year, including a trip to the Fan Museum at Greenwich and a talk by our former Keeper of Costume, Martin Pel, on Biba fashion (see enclosed flyer). Meanwhile, the curatorial team is working on new exhibitions including Waisted Efforts, the 2016 Olive Matthews Costume display, which will explore the changing styles of waistlines in fashion from the 1700s to the New Look of the 1950s, and an exhibition in collaboration with the Surrey Wildlife Trust. We are also working with local award-winning photographer Douglas Kurn on an exhibition for the autumn. So, if Douglas approaches you in the street and asks to take your photo, please say yes, and you will become a part of museum history!

50th Anniversary Celebration

Valerie Cumming with President of the Friends Ian Pickford (L) and Mayor of Runnymede Cllr Derek Cotty (R)

On 27th November 2015 Chertsey Museum passed an important milestone when it celebrated its golden anniversary. To celebrate, the Olive Matthews Trustees hosted an evening reception for staff, volunteers and distinguished guests. Below is the short welcoming speech given by Valerie Cumming, Chairman of the Olive Matthews Collections Trust.

Mr Mayor, ladies and gentlemen, it is a pleasure to welcome you to this party to celebrate the opening of Chertsey Museum in November 1965.

My name is Valerie Cumming and I am a Trustee and Chairman of the Olive Matthews Collection Trust; my co-Trustees, James Lander, Peter Hayes, Richard Mason and the recently retired Ronnie Fleming are also here this evening. We last hosted a party in 2003 when the extension to the museum and its renovated galleries, funded mainly by the Trust, provided new spaces and opportunities for staff and visitors to use and enjoy. Now, to thank all those who work here and those who support Chertsey Museum in other ways such as the Friends of the Museum and the Chertsey Society, we host this evening of music, enjoyment of the galleries and a chance to meet old friends and make new ones.

We celebrate fifty years of achievement and change; in 1965 Chertsey Urban District Council set up a museum in the Old Town Hall to display its collections of archaeology, local history material and ceramics. The creation of the OMC Trust in 1969 and discussions with the Council led to a rare, if not unique partnership.  The Trust bought this house, The Cedars, and together the two partners established a new type of museum within which Olive Matthews’ collections could be cared for and displayed alongside those of the local authority.

Museums expanded across the United Kingdom in the last twenty-five years of the twentieth century.  They added new services, experimented with methods of display, added to existing collections and reached out to their communities – local, regional or national. History and the understanding of history are central to our lives within communities and nation states and we forget this at our peril. Museums offer three-dimensional history – beyond the flat images of technology, newsprint and film. The ‘real thing’ engages everyone from the very young to the very old – for museums offer lifelong learning in its most challenging and intriguing forms. When I was a child it was stuffed animals, mangy but exotic, that captured me; today it can be a Greek vase, a tile from Chertsey Abbey, an eighteenth-century corset or photographs of Chertsey and the surrounding area in the nineteenth century – such items are reminders of a past we cannot recall but offers our imagination entry into worlds that shaped ours. The Trust has played a key role in this development, willingly funding a wide range of initiatives – documentation, education, publications and our latest museum-wide project is the funding of a new publicity leaflet for Chertsey Museum. As Trustees we are proud of what we have contributed and continue to contribute – a minimum of £2,000,000 in the last twenty years as we extended buildings and acquired additional storage. We also contribute our time and our expertise – we are happy to do so and be part of this thriving museum.

This evening would be impossible without the commitment of a succession of talented museum staff across the past fifty years; all have left a mark on the museum, its collection and public profile. Today, we know how dedicated the Curator, Emma Warren and her colleagues are to offering Runnymede a programme which is never static but either ahead of the curve of public expectations or, as with the hugely important Magna Carta exhibition, in keeping with national celebrations. Grace Evans, the Keeper of Costume is, I think, the longest serving curator in that role and a highly distinguished one.  Under her watch the collection has entranced you but also strutted its stuff on the national stage in London at the Victoria and Albert Museum and at Kensington Palace and further afield in Brighton and York. This is an exceptional collection in an outstanding museum.

Members of staff retire and then return as volunteers – the mark of commitment and affection – many are here tonight and we know how much they have contributed and continue to contribute. This is a strong team and a happy one and I thank you all. But special thanks are due to Doris Neville-Davies who has baked the 50th anniversary cake – and all who know her delicious cakes will be queuing up to sample this one.

Finally, I’d like to thank everyone involved with this event – my co-Trustees, the excellent musicians, one of whom is related to a Trustee, the caterers who released the museum staff to a well-deserved evening of enjoyment and you – our guests, who can ensure that this museum continues on its upward trajectory and isn’t blighted by the problems found elsewhere in the museum sector.

Be proud, and raise a glass to Chertsey Museum its past and present successes and its future development.   


The Friends of Chertsey Museum

Dear Museum Friends

Firstly, I’d like to wish you all a Happy New Year and best wishes for 2016. In 2015 we celebrated the museum's 50th anniversary and the 21st birthday of the Friends of Chertsey Museum and enjoyed a number of great events including all things Magna Carta, of course. Our October AGM included an engaging and informative talk by Euan Roger on The Battle of Agincourt and we were delighted to welcome Norma Kent and Richard Williams as new committee members. Since that meeting, I am pleased to say that Euan has been awarded his PhD - many congratulations, Euan!

We have much to look forward to in 2016. It's the 1350th anniversary of Chertsey Abbey this year and on Saturday 19th March we have the popular Paul Hardy from Discover History speaking to us about life in a monastery. Very advanced notice, but Paul will also be back at the museum on Saturday 19th November to give a talk on Christmas through the ages. Grace has arranged a talk about 1960s Biba fashion on Saturday 12th March (see below), and on February 25th we have Rhoda Nevins discussing her Magna Carta embroideries which will be on display at the museum for a month. Also as this year sees the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme we are looking to arrange a related talk.

I look forward to seeing some of you at the above mentioned events.

Chris Dunster



Unseen Biba

Fashion Talk  by Martin Pel - Saturday 12th March

We are delighted to be welcoming back former Chertsey Museum Keeper of Costume and current Curator of Fashion and Textiles at Brighton Museum, Martin Pel. He will give this very special talk to coincide with the current fashion exhibition 50 Years of Fashion.

Concentrating on Biba’s inception in 1963 to its sudden decline and the departure of founder, Barbara Hulanicki in 1975, this lavishly illustrated talk will include previously unseen images. It will give a unique insight into an iconic label that was both affordable and stylish.

Following his exhibition Biba and Beyond: Barbara Hulanicki at Brighton Museum in 2012, Martin co-authored the book The Biba Years 1963 - 1975 with Barbara Hulanicki, which was published by the V&A in 2014. A copy of the book is available to leaf through in the reading area of the Fashion Gallery.

See What's On for further details

New to the Collection

A chance conversation in June last year has resulted in an incredible addition to the museum collection. Geoff and Chris Brooks contacted Chertsey Museum because their elderly father had been an avid mudlarker, spending his time scouring the Thames foreshore for treasures washed up by the tides, and had amassed a large collection of interesting bits and pieces. Sadly Mr. Brooks Snr. was not in good health and his sons were helping to clear his house of some of the clutter. So, a wonderful array of items such as a Roman pot, an assassin’s knife and more clay pipes than we know what to do with were donated to the museum and have been identified by the Museum of London’s Finds Liaison Officer, Kate Sumnall. However, the star items owned by Mr. Brooks Snr. were a collection of medals relating to residents of Addlestone and Chertsey which he had bought over the years. A chance mention that the collection would be sold to raise funds to pay for Mr. Brooks’s care resulted in The Friends purchasing them for the museum.

Alas, Mr. Brooks Snr. has subsequently passed away, but his sons assure us that he would have been very pleased that his collection will stay together and be well looked after. Mr. Brooks had done much of the research already, so each medal came with a file of information about the recipient and the award. The collection includes medals from the Great War, the Second World War and the Korean War as well as two humanitarian awards. 

Medals for the following individuals form the collection, and can be made available to view at the museum by appointment:

  • Gunner, W.F
  • Hackman, A.C
  • Hammond, H.T
  • Head, E.T.E
  • Hunt, F.C 
  • Marsh, W   
  • Pinner, H.A
  • Rideout, V.R    
  • Roake, H.F
  • Smith, R
  • Stopper
  • Willoughby, F.


Another New Acquisition

The Friends also purchased this wonderful 19th century sampler created by Katherine Bennett of Woodham Farm, in 1865, which is currently on show outside the Accessories Gallery.

Museum volunteer, and former curator, Jocelyn Barker has been investigating Miss Bennett and her family. Katherine was born in Woodham on 7th October 1855 and baptised in St. Paul’s Church 42 days later. Her parents were originally from Hampshire, but the 1851 census has them living at “Bennett’s Farm”, 130 acres just off what is now Grange Road, New Haw. Katherine had four older brothers and a younger sister, but alas she lost both parents by the time she was 18. Further information can be found in edition 125 of the Addlestone Historical Society’s newsletter, and at the museum.

Our warmest thanks go to Jocelyn for her research, her husband David for alerting us to the sale, and to The Friends for purchasing this wonderful addition to our collection.

A Year In The Life Of

It often amazes people just how busy we are, and what a huge range of things we get up to. As those of you who pop in when we’re closed to the public know, there’s always something going on here.

So, we thought it would be fun to try and take a photo every working day throughout 2016 to record what we’re up to. You can see what we’ve been up to each day by searching for us on Facebook.