Sheila Scott by Ernest Waldron West

University of Worcester work experience student Charlotte Freshman has been researching Worcester pilot Sheila Scott for her dissertation


Sheila Scott (1922–1988), Ernest Waldron West, 1971, oil on canvas, Worcester City Museum Collection

Sheila Scott was the first British pilot to fly solo around the world in a light aircraft. In fact, she made that flight three times in the whole of her piloting career. She broke over 100 light aircraft records. She was also the first pilot to fly directly over the North Pole in a light aircraft. All of this, from a woman who took five attempts to obtain her private pilot’s license.

Scott, who was born in Worcester in 1922, had tried different career paths until she found a passion in flying at the age of 36. It was not just her private pilot’s license that she managed to acquire, but a commercial license, a night license and she also learned how to fly helicopters and hot air balloons. She made her first flight around the world in 1966. With a cheering crowd full of fans and the press, she departed from London to break her first around the world record. During the flight ,she came up against radio problems and a cut antenna among other problems. This would have startled many pilots, but not Scott. She carried on, more determined than ever. After 189 flying hours over 34 days, covering 34,00 miles, she had finally done it. She was the first solo British pilot to fly around the world in a light aircraft.

Sheila Scott went on to fly around the world solo two more times, as well as breaking many aviation records. She constantly struggled with money issues and had to sell a number of her trophies as well as her beloved plane, Myth. During one of her races, her flat in London was burgled. Amongst other things, the video camera she planned to use to record her third and final flight around the world was stolen. She never recovered from the loss of money the burglary brought her, and when she diagnosed with cancer, she had to sell even more trophies in order to be able to pay for her treatment.

She was the founder and first governor of the British Branch of Ninety Nines – association for licensed women pilots first founded by Amelia Earhart. She received the Royal Aero Club’s Gold Medal in 1972, and was made an officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1968. She also received the Brabazon of Tara Award in 1965, 1967 and 1968. She lost her battle against cancer in 1988, at the age of 66.

Behind the Scenes talks and tours 2017

garston-at-collections-centreIf you have enjoyed finding out more about our collections in storage and our curatorial expertise, you may be interested in booking onto some of our behind-the-scenes events. These take place at Worcester City Art Gallery & Museum and at the Museums Worcestershire Collections Centre. The full listing for 2017 can be found here.

The first talk, taking place on 7 February at Worcester City Art Gallery & Museum, will be a highlight of the year as Garston Phillips, curator since 1969 and a mine of knowledge, shares some of his best stories.

Worcester City Art Gallery & Museum is also the site for our series of lunchtime talks about the collection, which take place on the second Tuesday of each month (except January). A pdf download (400kb) of 2017 bite-sized talks can be found here.

We hope you will be able to join us to discover more about the work we do!

Malachite encrusted with azurite

web-malachite-and-azurite-c-museums-worcestershireWorcester City Museum has a large mineral collection which includes around 2,000 world-wide specimens, mostly collected in the 19th century. It is one of the finest geological collections in the Midlands and of great importance. The collection represents Worcestershire’s comprehensive range of local varied, interesting and in some cases, rare geology. Some minerals are of economic importance but others are just beautiful objects due to their crystal form, shape or colour.
Here is one of the collection’s brilliantly colourful ‘treasures’ of bright green malachite encrusted with crystals of dark blue azurite. Both are carbonates of copper and are usually found in the oxidation zone of copper deposits. They were originally used as a copper ore before their ornamental values were discovered. Malachite was first used as a pigment during the Bronze Age in Egypt and is also a popular polished decorative stone due to its beautiful banding patterns. Azurite was important in the ancient East as a blue pigment in mural paintings and today remains important in paint production.

Rosemary Roden Bsc, Honorary Curator of Geology

Tin plate toy train from the Tickenhill Collection

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWorcestershire County Museum at Hartlebury Castle first opened its doors to the public on 6 May, 1966. The core of the Museum’s collection was generously donated to the County Council in the early 1960s by James and Alice Parker of Tickenhill Manor near Bewdley.

The original collection, known as the ‘Tickenhill Collection’, comprised of many domestic and social history items, exploring themes of home-life and childhood, including this tin-plate toy train which dates from around 1875.

Children’s models and toys have long reflected the society in which we live and the evolution of the railways in the 19th century inspired the huge popularity of toy trains. These were the first type of modern transport to be reproduced as toys and began as wooden pull-along trains during the 1840s, before being replaced by tin-plate locomotives in the 1870s, which were often clockwork or steam-powered.

To take a nostalgic look at toys and games from times gone by visit the Childhood Treasures display in the County Museum at Hartlebury Castle and you can also see a working O gauge model train set in the Springs, Spas and Holidays gallery at the Museum.


Rachel Robinson, Manager of the County Museum at Hartlebury.

Princess Mary Gift Fund Box, 1914

princess boxIn the autumn of 1914, the seventeen-year-old Princess Mary, the third child of King George V, started a public appeal to send every serving soldier and sailor a Christmas present.

“I want you now to help me to send a Christmas present from the whole of the nation to every sailor afloat and every soldier at the front. I am sure that we should all be happier to feel that we had helped to send our little token of love and sympathy on Christmas morning, something that would be useful and of permanent value, and the making of which may be the means of providing employment in trades adversely affected by the war. Could there be anything more likely to hearten them in their struggle than a present received straight from home on Christmas Day?

“Please will you help me?”

The total eventually subscribed amounted to £162,591 12s 5d, most of this coming from thousands of small gifts sent by ordinary people from all parts of the United Kingdom. It was enough to send more than two million gifts.

The boxes contained a variety of items such as tobacco, chocolate and writing materials. This example has survived and was donated to the Worcester City museum collection.

A Partridge and a Pear Tree

web Partridge and Pear Tree (c) Museums WorcestershireAs Christmas approaches traditional songs & carols will echo throughout the land, none more than “On the first day of Christmas my true love sent to me…” finishing with the chorus ending of “…and a partridge in a pear tree.”

Worcester City Museum has long been noted for its rich and varied natural history collection. From its early days of the 1830s right up to the present it has amassed thousands of specimens.

Here we have the Grey or Common Partridge, a rapidly declining native game bird. Like the other counties of England, Worcestershire has seen their numbers rapidly decrease in the last 50 years or so. This late 19th century specimen comes from the collection of Robert Fisher Tomes of South Littleton and is just one of many that have a South Worcestershire provenance.

The timber sample of a pear came to us from H. Munro, a forester on the Witley Court estate. The pear is symbolic to Worcestershire not only appearing on the county and city crest, the famous Worcester Black Pear tree, but also in the cultivation of Perry pears and the dessert varieties we find on our table today.

Garston D. Phillips

Death Mask of Oliver Cromwell

Shortly before the decisive Battle of Worcester on September 3rd 1651, Oliver Cromwell, the Commander of the Parliamentary army during the English Civil War, went into Perry Wood where he was seen to meet an old man. An argument took place between Cromwell and the old man, during which Cromwell was heard to say, ‘This is but for seven years; I was to get 21 years.’ Cromwell then returned to his men saying, ‘Now the battle is ours!’. The Parliamentary side went on to be victorious, Worcester was almost destroyed and Britain was no longer ruled by a monarch.

Seven years later to the day, on September 3rd 1658, Cromwell died. The conspiracy theory was widely spread that Cromwell sold his soul to the devil that day in Perry Wood for a victory at Worcester and seven more years of life.

After his death, a wax mould was made of Cromwell’s face which was used to make several plaster death masks including this one on display at The Commandery, before Cromwell was buried with much ceremony.

web Cromwell Death mask (c) Museums WorcestershireWhen Charles II was restored as King in 1660, Cromwell’s remains were exhumed. They were dragged through the streets of London, hanged at Tyburn, and then Cromwell’s head was placed on a spike above Westminster Hall where it remained for more than 25 years.

Medieval Winkle Pickers from Cathedral Square


These stunning examples of complete leather medieval shoes were found in the autumn of 1965 when emergency excavations were being carried out by the Worcester City Archaeological Research Group in the area soon to be Cathedral Square.

The building of the Giffard Hotel was underway and Henry Sandon, who later became known for his work on Antiques Roadshow and at Worcester’s own Museum of Royal Worcester, had been given permission to visit the site daily to inspect whether contractors had come across anything of archaeological interest.

The tops of two medieval wells were found and arrangements were made to excavate them along with cesspits and rubbish pits found in the same area under the supervision of the University of Birmingham’s Phillip Barker.

Quantities of preserved leather shoe soles, offcuts and fragments were found along with these shoes which had been made some time in the later fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries.

This wonderful collection includes a child’s ankle boot with a rounded toe, fashionable side lacing pointed ankle boots for adults and the most interesting of all, a ‘winkle-picker ‘ shoe which was stuffed with moss that has been identified as a type commonly found in small rivers, streams and ponds. The moss was stuffed into the toe of the shoe to keep its stylish pointy shape.

Anglo Saxon Jewellery

web Anglo Saxon Jewellery (c) Museums Worcestershire150 years ago, in 1866, Anglo Saxon remains were discovered at Upton Snodsbury. They were found in what was thought to be an Anglo Saxon cemetery by labourers digging for gravel. William Ponting, a grocer, with a business on the High Street in Worcester, reported in the Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of London that the artefacts were deposited along with human remains in a trench 30 feet long.

The artefacts included around 130 amber beads, saucer brooches, square headed brooches and a cruciform brooch as well as spear heads, a sword, and two quartz ‘spindle whorls’. The iron weapons and spindle whorls had initially been discarded and considered to be modern. They had to be hastily retrieved from the workmen’s’ cottages in the village when the mistake was realised and were later exhibited alongside the brooches and beads at the Royal Archaeological Institute. The gravel quarry went on to offer up Ice Age remains too, such as a tooth of a Woolly Mammoth (Elephas primigenius), but by the spring of 1866 when Mr Ponting returned, the gravel quarry was closed. A selection of the finds remain in the Worcester City museum collection.