The Worcester November Handicap

Worcester November Handicap (c) Museums Worcestershire

The Parliamentary election in Worcester on 17th November 1868 occurred during a corrupt but transforming period. It was the first general election to take place after the 1867 Representation of the People Act, establishing the vote for working class men, and the 1868 Parliamentary Elections Act, designed to reduce electoral bribery. However Worcester underwent an investigation for extensive electoral corruption as late as 1906.

This election poster bears the heading ‘The Worcester November Handicap’ and portrays the five parliamentary candidates competing in a horse race with amusing captions and steeds harshly evoking their characteristics.

Mr ‘out of nothing’ Airey is being carried away by a goose, mocking his plight for ‘purity of election’ as a self-made working class man. The partially submerged Sir Lycett was manager of a large Worcester glove making business, hence the exasperated exclamation “Oh Scissors!” Mr Hill and Mr Sherriffs were wealthy industrialists of the respective Worcester Vinegar and Engine works. But there was ‘no holding’ Conservative local philanthropist William Laslett, who was ultimately elected.

Portrait of Alderman Walter Holland (1831-1888) by John Haynes-Williams

HSW_WGH_10This portrait of Alderman Walter Holland, from the Worcester Guildhall collection, is featured in an upcoming book about his Worcester contemporary, Samuel Telford Dutton.


The researcher and author, Edward Dorricott, describes the publication:
This book, published (2016) by the Signalling Record Society, describes the life and work of enterprising engineer Samuel Telford Dutton who, towards the end of the Victorian era, founded a business in Worcester for the manufacture of railway signalling equipment for British and export markets. A native of Manchester, Dutton made Worcester his home town as a young man and during his lifetime contributed to its corporate life through community involvement and as a city councillor.

Part 1 is largely biographical, tracing Dutton’s family and business life; the second part examines the equipment he supplied to many of the railway companies in the British Isles. A surprising number of his products survive today, both functional and as museum and collectors’ artefacts. During the preparation of the volume, extensive original sources have been consulted and site visits made the length and breadth of the UK. This is the first book to be published on this subject, the culmination of many years of research.

There are 256 pages printed on gloss art paper, casebound with printed board covers Lavishly illustrated, including many colour photographs, and comprehensively indexed. A foreword is provided by David Dutton, great-grandson of Samuel.

Samuel Telford Dutton – Railway Signal Engineer of Worcester

ISBN 978 1 873228 26 5


Stories of glovers in Mrs Halliburton’s Troubles by Mrs Henry Wood

Ellen (Mrs Henry) Wood was a novelist, born in Worcester in 1814. She wrote over 30 popular novels and was, in her time, as much a favourite as Charles Dickens.

Her Worcester upbringing becomes clear in her descriptions of the glove-making industry in Mrs Halliburton’s Troubles, published in 1862. The lifestyle of the gloveresses she puts down, albeit romanticised, shows a level of freedom that would be unheard of for working class women in the fields or factories:


HELSTONLEIGH abounded with glove manufactories. It is a trade that may be said to be a blessing to the localities where it is carried on, since it is one of the very few employments that furnish to the poor female population easy, clean, and profitable work at their own homes. The evils arising to women who go out to work in factories have been rehearsed over and over again ; and the chief evil—we will put others out of sight—is, that it takes the married woman from her home and her family. Her young children drag themselves up in her absence, for worse or for better ; alone they must do it, for she has to be away, toiling for daily bread. There is no home privacy, no home comfort, no home happiness ; the factory is their life, and other interests give way to it. But with glove-making the case is different. While the husbands are abroad at the manufactories pursuing their day’s work, the wives and elder daughters are earning money easily and pleasantly at home. The work is clean and profitable ; all that is necessary for its accomplishment being common skill as a seamstress.

Not five minutes’ walk from Mrs. Halliburton’s house, nearer to Helstonleigh, a turning out of the main road led you to quite a colony of workwomen—gloveresses, as they are termed in the local phraseology. It was a long, wide lane ; the houses, some larger, some smaller, built on either side of it. A road quite wide enough for health, if the inhabitants had only kept it as it ought to have been kept : but they did not do so. The highway was made a common receptacle for refuse. It was so much easier to open the kitchen door (most of the houses were entered at once by the kitchen), and to “chuck” things out, fiele-niele, rather than be at the trouble of conveying to the proper receptacle, the dust-heap at the back. Ashes, cabbage-leaves, bones, egg-shells, potato-peelings, heads and tails of herrings, choked up the gutters in front ; a dead dog or cat being often added by way of variety. Occasionally a solitary policeman would come, picking his way through the dirt, and order it to be removed ; upon which, some slight improvement would be visible for a day or two. The name of this charming place was Honey Fair; though, in truth, it was redolent of nothing so pleasant as honey.

Of the occupants of these houses, the husbands and elder sons were all glove operatives ; several of them in the manufactory of Mr. Ashley. The wives sewed the gloves at home. Many a similar colony to Honey Fair was there in Helstonleigh, but in hearing of one set you hear of all. The trade was extensively pursued. A very few of the manufactories were of the large extent that was Mr. Ashley’s ; and they gradually descended in size, until some comprised not half a score workmen, all told ; but whose masters alike dignified themselves by the title of “manufacturer.”


During the summer weather, whenever Jane had occasion to walk through Honey Fair, on her way to this shop, she would linger to admire the women at their open doors and windows, busy over their nice clean work. Rocking the cradle with one foot, or jogging the baby on their knees, to a tune of their own composing, their hands would be ever active at their employment. Some made the gloves; that is, seamed the fingers together and put in the thumbs, and these were called “makers.” Some welted, or hemmed the gloves round at the edge of the wrist ; these were called “welters.” Some worked the three ornamental lines on the back; and these were called “pointers.” Some of the work was done in what was called a patent machine, whereby the stitches were rendered perfectly equal. And some of the stouter gloves were stitched together, instead of being sewn: stitching so beautifully regular and neat, that a stranger would look at it in admiration. In short, there were, and are, different branches in the making and sewing of gloves, as there are in most trades.


“What could a good, steady workwoman earn a week at the glove-making ?”
” That depends, mum, upon how close she stuck to it,” responded Mrs. Buffle.
” I mean, sitting closely.”
” Oh, well,” debated Mrs. Buffle carelessly, ” she might earn ten shillings a week, and do it comfortable.”

Ten shillings a week ! Jane’s heart beat hopefully. Upon ten shillings a week she might manage to exist, to keep her children from starvation, until better days arose. She, impelled by necessity, could sit longer and closer, too, than perhaps those women did. Mrs. Buffle continued, full of inward gratulation that her silent customer had come round to gossip at last.
“They be the improvidentest things in the world, mum, these gloveress girls. Sundays they be dressed up as grand as queens, flowers inside their bonnets, and ribbuns out, a-setting the churches and chapels alight with their finery; and then off for walks with their sweethearts, all the afternoon and evening. Mondays is mostly spent in waste, gathering of themselves at each other’s houses, talking and laughing, or, may be, off to the fields again—anything for idleness. Tuesdays is often the same, and then the rest of the week they has to scout over their work, to get it in on the Saturday. Ah! you don’t know ’em, mum.”

Seventeenth Century Bronze Saker Cannon

web Civil War Cannon (c) Museums WorcestershireThe cannon was cast in Brussels by Johann Seehof in 1628 for Count Henry de Bergh. It was cast in solid bronze using the same techniques that would be employed in bell making and would have originally be part of a pair. It is likely that the pair were constructed to be used in The Thirty Years’ War that raged through central Europe between 1618 and 1648.

The gun is known as a Saker and like all cannons of this period, it derives its name from a bird of prey, the Arabic Saker falcon. A cannon such as this would have been a prized piece of equipment. In the right hands the Saker could fire a 5-6lb ball with a calibre of around 3.25 inches and damage structures a mile away. It could also be used to wreak havoc as an anti-personnel weapon by firing canister shot, contemporarily known as “hail shot” into tightly packed formations of men on the battlefield. The cannon is approximately one foot shorter than standard length and may have been shorted for ease of transportation.

It is no wonder that such an asset was acquired by the Royalist Army during the English Civil War. It was transported to England by Charles II as he attempted to retake the throne from the Parliamentarian Army of Oliver Cromwell at the final conflict at Worcester in 1651.

During the Battle of Worcester, the Saker was deployed either at Powick, Castle Mound or Fort Royal Hill, situated directly behind The Commandery. Sakers were primarily used in a fixed role, either in a siege against a city or from a consolidated defensive position such as Fort Royal. Too heavy to be a part of a field army, lighter guns were preferred due to their mobility.

Worcester was the last place that our cannon was used in anger and over 350 years later, it remains here, as part of the Worcester city museum collection. A weapon of war, expertly designed with a single purpose it now sits silently in The Commandery, which also witnessed the devastation and loss of life of 1651. Just like The Commandery, it is a beautiful asset to be treasured and passed on to future generations, but carries an unforgettable reminder of our nation’s bloody and war-torn past.

Research by Alex Bear

Badge Jacket

web Badge Jacket (c) Museums WorcestershireThis 1970s jacket was donated to Worcester City Museum’s collections by a local lecturer who has been one of the Museum’s most loyal supporters. The jacket is covered in a considerable collection of pin badges that were amassed throughout the 1970s and 1980s. The eclectic mix of badges documents everything from popular culture to political movements and local visitor attractions.

Badges celebrating music like The Jam, Culture Club and Limahl, or films such as Grease and Staying Alive, sit juxtaposed next to those made to campaign against the poll tax, to support the miner’s strike, CND (Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament) or Tony Benn’s 1981 deputy leadership campaign.

The collection also contains many badges sold by local tourist attractions during those decades when badge collecting was popular among school children. Anyone in their 40s and 50s who visited local attractions as a child will remember these old badges produced by the Severn Valley Railway, Worcestershire County Museum and Wroxeter Roman town.

Cross in Hands, 2006, by Clare Woods

Clare Woods Cross in Hands
Cross in Hands copyright Clare Woods

Worcester City Art Gallery has collected contemporary art for 150 years, building up an outstanding collection, particularly strong in landscapes. The Worcester City Museum collection, of which fine art is an important part alongside natural history, archaeology and social history, focuses on the shaping of the English landscape. Worcestershire’s landscape tells the story of England, from the geology of the Malvern Hills to the townplanning ‘rape of Worcester’ which drove modern conservation movements.

Continuing to thoughtfully collect contemporary art is important for Worcester – creative practice is constantly developing and Worcester aspires to sustain the significance and relevance of its collection to the development of Worcestershire and its county town. However the pressures on local authority budgets mean that purchases for the collection are usually undertaken in partnership. Thanks to a grant from the New Art West Midlands project, Museums Worcestershire were able to purchase the print Cross in Hands, 2006, by Clare Woods for the Worcester City Museum collection.

Clare Woods is based in rural Herefordshire having chosen the rural landscape of the West Midlands as an inspiration for her work and her family. The past few years have seen some significant exhibitions and projects for Woods including a huge piece, 125 meters long, for the Olympic Park in London in 2012. The same year, Woods completed a large panel commission for the newly built Hive library in Worcester.

Cross in Hands depicts a dense a tangle of woodland foliage and flowers, which has grown into the form of a cross. With bright, magnesium white highlights, and pitch black grounds, it has the starkness of a flash lit photograph.

The Beau Street Hoard and Chemical Cleaning

Conserving and Sharing the Bredon Hill Roman Coin Hoard: Part 3

In April 2015 our team of volunteers who were working on the very slow and meticulous mechanical cleaning of the Bredon Hill Roman Coin Hoard attended the Beau Street Hoard symposium in Bath.

The Beau Street Hoard contains an estimated 17,500 silver Roman coins dating from between 32 BC and 274 AD and was found on Beau Street about 150 metres from the Roman baths at Bath in Somerset. The coins had been buried in leather bags, three of which contained debased radiates from the 3rd century. The debased coins had been successfully cleaned chemically rather than manually using Alkaline Rochelle Salts by a freelance conservator working for the British Museum.

Talking to members of the public at Worcestershire Archaeology Dayschool
Talking to members of the public at Worcestershire Archaeology Dayschool

Our progress had been so slow using only a mechanical cleaning method that we invited Lizzie, a conservator at Birmingham Museum Trust, who had trained our volunteers, for a day to train us in how to mix and safely use the chemicals required.

Coins are soaked in a bath of Alkaline Rochelle Salts and carefully timed. Too much time in the bath can cause irreversible damage. After the soak time has lapsed, the coins are rinsed in a sequence of water baths to remove any residual impurities. This is not a process to try without specialist supervision and appropriate health and safety training, processes and equipment.

Alkaline Rochelle Salts
Alkaline Rochelle Salts

We have now moved to a system whereby all our coins are cleaned in this manner and we select the best examples to mechanically clean to display standard. The process has been radically improving our chances of getting to the end of the cleaning process.

Treasure Plus funding will also mean that we can share information on the website and blog, we can give talks to both local societies and metal detecting clubs and we can display the hoard around the county.

Supported by the Art Fund and The Headley Trust


Sixteen Years of Mechanical Cleaning

Conserving and Sharing the Bredon Hill Roman Coin Hoard: Part 2

The cleaning of the coins is a huge task. We opted to try and acquire the skills in house through specialist training by a conservator. We have a wonderful team of volunteers who have been together for years, initially with Alan Jacobs at Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service and since 2007 with the Museum Service. They have worked on a myriad of different projects and have a wealth of experience in collections care. Many of the  projects have been far from glamorous.

As a team, they had initially begun cleaning, marking and upgrading the packaging of Worcester City Museum‘s collection of human remains following the publicIMG_1506ation of DCMS Guidelines on the Care of Human Remains in Museums. They also reboxed small finds from Worcester’s large excavations in the 1970s, 80s and early 1990s at Deansway, Sidbury and Blackfriars. Finds are mounted in plastozoate which are set into crystal boxes with a handy little length of linen tape underneath the plastozoate so we can easily pull the objects out of their box with minimal disturbance. The silica, Stewart boxes and humidity strips have all been replaced.

In 2012 the largest assemblage of medieval roof tiles ever found in Worcester were discovered unexpectedly during roofing work on the garden wing at The Commandery. Our volunteers cleaned, weighed, measured, photographed and catalogued the whole assemblage and passed the data back to archaeologists for publication. The find was significant because Worcester is unique in having a system of tile stamping in this period. In effect it represents an early form of building control. The thatched roofs of the City were a major fire hazard and in 1467 the city ordinances introduced compulsory tiling, stating that

‘for the prevention of fire neither wooden chimneys nor thatched roofs shall be allowed thenceforward; by midsummer’s day next coming, the wooden chimneys should be replaced by brick or stone, and the thatched roofs by tiles’

Our volunteers recorded around 20 maker’s stamp patterns on 150 tiles. Around 20 further tiles were collected and recorded that were marked with tallies or showed animal prints

In 2012 we worked on a collection of plaster statues from the personal collection of Walter Gilbert, the founder of the Bromsgrove Guild. The statues had been on loan to Worcestershire County Museum for many years but had recently been donated by Walter Gilbert’s family. The statues were scheduled to be used in an exhibition at Worcester Art Gallery and Museum called Edwardian Elegance. Our volunteers worked over the weeks of summer 2012 using soft brushes and museum vacs to clean them for display.

Volunteers being trained by Lizzie in mechanical cleaning techniques
Volunteers being trained by Lizzie in mechanical cleaning techniques

Another collection of Bromsgrove Guild material chosen for display in our Edwardian Elegance exhibition came from the Regent Palace Hotel off Piccadilly in London. Painted windows crafted by the Bromsgrove Guild were returned to Worcestershire after removal from the building. They were covered on one side with a century of grime and our volunteers spent weeks cleaning them carefully with cotton buds. The glass is on display at Worcestershire County Museum.

So, In Autumn 2014 our volunteers began their training, funded by the Art Fund Treasure Plus Scheme, in cleaning copper alloy Roman Coins with Lizzie from the Staffordshire Hoard Project at Birmingham Museum Trust. She taught our volunteers, over three days, how to remove 1700 years of Cotswold mud.

The coins are late 3rd century radiates and have very little silver content, thus the results were never going to be spectacular.  This was something we only realised with time. It was a huge learning curve for everyone and involved learning to work comfortably using microscopes and scalpels. The mud was ‘caked’ in a solid film on the coins and involved careful use of the scalpel to remove the film whilst not damaging the surface of the coin and exposing the copper material underneath.

To loosen/moisten the mud, acetone was applied using cotton buds prior to the use of the scalpel. Initially each volunteer completed one coin a day and although they improved on the tally in time, it was still a very slow process. One of our volunteers calculated that if we didn’t speed up it would take us 16 years to complete our work.

Our breakthrough came in April 2015 when we attended a Symposium in Bath and heard about the conservation work which had been taking place on the Beau Street Hoard.

Supported by the Art Fund and The Headley Trust

Snow White’s map

7 dwarves mapThis unexpected discovery in the Worcestershire County museum collection enables us to retrace Snow White’s actual steps to the house of the Seven Dwarfs.

It’s slightly surprising to see that she was so close to the other Disney Princesses Belle and Rapunzel without realising. Who knew those dangerous and mysterious woods were so small?




This picture, An Ancient Mappe of Fairyland, Newly Discovered and Set Forth, was drawn and published in 1917 by Bernard Sleigh (1872–1954), an English mural painter, stained-glass artist, illustrator and wood engraver. Sleigh became part of the Bromsgrove Guild in 1897 and he was a member of the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists between 1923 and 1928.

Mappe Fairyland

The real story of the map is stranger than any April Fools joke: as a young man, Sleigh suffered a serious illness, due to a growth in his middle ear, which though repeatedly treated, became badly infected, eventually leading to the recommendation that his teeth be removed. Following this procedure, he lapsed into unconsciousness. With his life in the balance, he endured a trepanning operation into his brain and, although he recovered, for the rest of his life he began to suffer vividly-coloured visions. The visions always took place in a palette of red and green, clearly translated into this drawing.

In the same year as the publication of the Mappe of Fairyland, two young girls, Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths created the first of the hoax Cottingley fairy photographs. Rather embarrassingly for him, they were endorsed by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, in an article on fairies published in the 1920 Christmas issue of the Strand Magazine.