In 1837 a Broad Street chemist shop was managed by Messer’s John Wheeley Lea and William Henry Perrins, who sold their own range of in-house lotions and tonics. Like most apothecaries at the time, medicines were only part of their trade and they sold everything from rose water to flea ointment.
Legend has it that a “Gentleman of the County” asked the chemist to make up a tonic that he had encountered on his travels. Research has identified and subsequently dismissed Lord Sandys as the often-proclaimed source of the recipe, and the Gentleman in question is still as big a mystery as its contents. The chemist made up a large batch of the sauce so that they could sample it.
They found it most disgusting and confined it to the cellar. On the verge of disposing of the batch some time later, they discovered it had matured into something delicious and decided to market it.
Using their reputation for reliability, they included new samples in with their orders. It intensified the flavour of soups and spiced up meat and fish dishes, particularly if the meat was past its best.
Regular orders soon came flooding in and in a matter of years Lea and Perrins were manufacturing more of the sauce than any other product. “Worcestershire Sauce” and its phenomenal success led to new staff, premises and eventually a factory in Midland Road. The rest is history.
There were, and still are, many imitators, but the Original and Genuine Worcestershire Sauce is still manufactured in Worcester.
In the mid-nineteenth century, the talented Scottish sculptor William Brodie turned his hand to create this lifelike bust of Edward Evans. In 1830 Evans, along with William Hill, founded the vinegar makers Hill & Evans, who by 1903 had the largest vinegar works in the world, in Lowesmoor, Worcester.
William Brodie (1815-1887) was born in Banff in Scotland and became a prolific portrait sculptor who, thanks to the verity and technical skills shown in his works, became a member of the Royal Scottish Academy in 1859. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, a popular way to depict gentry, land owners, politicians and other important figures was to commission well-known sculptors to create marble, bronze and plaster busts. The Worcester City Art Gallery & Museum sculpture collection includes works by Brock, Papworth, Baily and Kirk, in addition to this bust by Brodie which is on display in the museum.
By 1851, Edward Evans was also Managing Director of the Worcester City and County Banking Company. This bust originally belonged to the Worcester Bank, along with the bust of R Padmore by Papworth and we have evidence that both pieces were loaned by the Bank for display at the Worcester Exhibition of 1882. Worcester Bank was taken over by Lloyds and they presented these busts to the gallery in 1902.
A few years ago, Worcester City Museum and Arts Council were bequeathed four portraits of the Jefferys (also spelled Jefferies) family from Kidderminster. Three of which are by the renowned pastelist John Russell RA (1745 – 1806).
Inspired by the work of his master Francis Cotes and Rosalba Carriera, whose work he collected, John Russell worked mostly in oil pastel and would smudge the outlines then add finishing details in black. In 1772, Russell wrote Elements of Painting with Crayons which is available on Google books here. In 1788 he was Elected Royal Academician and went on to be appointed Crayon (pastel) Painter to King George III in 1790. Russell charged 30 guineas for a head portrait such as this and up to £150 for full-length group paintings – prices comparable to Joshua Reynolds PRA. Works by Russell are now held in prestigious galleries across the UK including The Fitzwilliam Museum, British Museum, National Portrait Gallery and Victoria & Albert Museum, among others.
Although best known for pastel portraits, Russell was also an amateur astronomer and mathematician and used a powerful refractor along with his artistic skills to map the moon – Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery hold a wonderful example in their collection.
The earliest portrait from the collection is a pastel on paper of John Jefferies (1714 – 1785) and is attributed to John Russell (Right). John Jefferys was an affluent corn miller and leased the Kidderminster town mill. With his growing wealth, he bought Franche Hall in 1796.
Along with his son and heir, Matthew, John was among the members of the non-conformist congregation in Kidderminster who broke away become leaders of New Meeting.
The most lavish portrait from the Jefferies family collection is of Matthew Jefferies (1740 – 1814), the eldest son of John Jefferies and was created in 1775 (top). Matthew followed his father’s footsteps and took over the town mill and, building on the family fortune, became one of Kidderminster’s wealthiest residents. He purchased a number of local manor houses and built Blakebrook House in Kidderminster sometime before 1795. In 1769 a Mr Matthew Jefferies of Kidderminster was listed among local dignitaries as a ‘subscriber’ in a book of poetry by the blind writer Pricilla Pointon, which offers some insight into a possible philanthropic nature and an interest in the arts.
The most recent artwork in the collection by Russell is an 1805 oil on canvas portrait of Matthew’s younger brother, Thomas Jefferies (1742 – 1820) (Right). Thomas was a goldsmith and worked from Cockspur Street in London.
Russell is known to have travelled Worcester in 1780 and Kidderminster in 1788, then returned to Worcester and Kidderminster in 1781. But the dates we have (1775 and 1895) do not correlate with these and suggest that the sitters may have travelled to London to have their portrait taken. Thomas Jefferys (1717 – 1785), one of John’s three brothers was a cartographer and map maker to King George III, perhaps Thomas Jefferies met John Russell due to their overlapping cartographic interests and was introduced to Thomas’ brother John’s family? Or as John Russell was also a devout Methodist, perhaps his own and the Jefferys family’s non-conformist beliefs brought them together?
These portraits are not only a beautiful collection of works by a significant artist but also offer a fascinating insight into the financial, social and cultural gentrification of this Kidderminster trade family.
Artworks Accepted by HM Government in lieu of Inheritance tax and allocated to Worcester City Council for display at Worcester City Art Gallery and Museum, 2010
“Day or night, gloves will always provide you with a splash of colour” Christian Dior.
For centuries, Worcester was THE centre of the British glovemaking industry. We know that its history as a leather-making town goes back to Roman times and with the arrival of the Dents glove factory in 1777, it became world famous for its wares. By the twentieth century, fashion houses were commissioning Worcester firms to make their gloves. One firm, Milore, worked with several young fabulous designers including Zandra Rhodes and Manolo Blahnik before he became more famous for his shoes beloved of celebrities.
These gloves from the Worcester City collection were made by Dents in Worcester late in the 1950s, just as the fashion for gloves changed to wrist-length rather than the longer and more formal-looking.
Christian Dior had exploded onto the fashion scene in 1947 with his feminine ‘New Look’. This collection made a sensation and rejuvenated post-war Paris. Each dress was made from a luxurious 20 metres of fabric, very different from war-time restrictions.
Dior was a shrewd entrepreneur as well as a designer. He quickly opened a ready-to-wear boutique on Fifth Avenue in New York and expanded their range so that a woman could buy every piece of clothing – including gloves – she needed just from Dior. He also trained Pierre Cardin and Yves Saint Laurent, with YSL going on to design the collection and taking it to even more radical styling after Dior’s early death in 1957.
This beautiful dish is a firm favourite with visitors to our collection stores and has been displayed often in exhibitions about Tudor or post medieval Worcester. It dates to the sixteenth or seventeenth century and was found during excavations in Sidbury ahead of the construction of City Walls Road in the 1970s.
This type of pottery was produced in Hanley Swan in Worcestershire from the late thirteenth to the early seventeenth century in a multitude of different forms (or shapes) and by the time this dish was manufactured, this Malvernian pottery was exported across a large area to the south of Bristol and along the coast of South Wales.
This particular pot is a chafing dish, a portable vessel which was designed to take hot coals or charcoal and was used for the preparation of foods that needed to be kept warm or cooked gently at the table. Metal chafing dishes are also known such as one found in a chest on the wreck of the Mary Rose, used by a barber-surgeon for heating up irons, pitch or wax.
This object’s appeal, though, lies in its unusual appearance: its six large teeth, interspersed with smaller white examples, its applied and pierced decoration, the ring hanging from one of the handles and its vivid orange glaze.
Mummified animals were common finds in ancient Egyptian tombs and were shipped back to Britain in their hundreds in the nineteenth century by travellers and collectors. It’s thought that they may have been placed in tombs for a number of reasons; as a source of food for the afterlife, as a favoured pet or most likely as a symbol of a particular deity. In ancient Egyptian religious art, characteristics of Gods and Goddesses were often represented by an animal and so the animal was often used to symbolise the deities. So great was the need for these mummified animals that an entire industry arose around their breeding and mummification.
This mummified rat came into the collections of Worcester Museum in March 1851 as part of a collection of ethnographic and antiquarian items which included two hands from the mummy pits at Memphis and a pigtail taken from a disgraced Chinese man. The collection was gifted by Henry Smith Parkes Esq, a diplomat with the British Government who served as a minister to Japan, China and Korea during his career.
The rat is carefully wrapped in strips of linen with the limbs and tail wrapped separately to the main body. The collection also includes a mummified crocodile and two Ibises, one wrapped and another unwrapped.
Worcester was first represented at a national parliament in 1372 by John Atte Wode, a local landowner. At the time, parliaments were called irregularly by the King and were principally a way for the monarch to raise taxes.
Between 1386 and 1885, the City of Worcester was represented by two parliamentary members and they include many names that left their mark on the city and the country. Perhaps the greatest legacy is from John Somers, Worcester’s MP in 1689, a Worcester lawyer who was the Attorney General and the architect of the UK’s Bill of Rights which sets out the authority of the British Parliament, the freedom of the election process and the limits of the monarch’s power. This document directly influenced the wording of the American Declaration of Independence.
From the 1770s, MPs professed a political party allegiance and from this early time the Worcester voters supported Conservative, Liberal and Whig candidates. At the 1997 election, the term ‘Worcester Woman’ was created by pollsters, describing a swing voter more interested in a prospective MP’s message than their political party; Worcester residents have been voting this way for at least two centuries.
The Worcester City museum collection includes political leaflets from all parties from the mid-C19th to the modern day. These leaflet photographs from the 1983 election were published by Peter Walker who was Worcester’s MP from 1961 to 1992. Peter was followed into parliament by his son, Robin, the city’s current MP and smaller star of these pictures!
Vesta Tilley was one of the most successful performers of her era. She was a Music Hall singer, comedienne and is most famous for her male impersonation routines. These fine examples of Vesta Tilley’s stage costume are from the Worcester City costume collection.
Born on the 13th of May 1864 on Commandery Row (now Dent Close). Baptised Matilda Alice Powels at St Peters Church Worcester.
‘I was born in Worcester, England, that charming city (poor proud and pretty) with its beautiful cathedral on the banks of the Severn where daily life is a constant reminder of the charity and benevolence of our dear country…’
Matilda (Vesta) was the second child of 13 and daughter of William Henry Powels, an entertainer, a singer, a dancer and a multi-instrumentalist. He performed in places such as the Railway Well in St Martins, The Navigation which is now the Salvation Army building, and later the New Concert Hall in Corn market. Matilda accompanied him in his act as “The Great Little Tilley”.
As she grew, male impersonation became the main feature of her act and she adopted the name Vesta Tilley. She met with huge success in London and toured nationally. She was also one of the few British Acts to succeed in America.
At the outbreak of World War I, Vesta was 50 years of age, and transformed her act to raise morale, funds and recruitment into Britain’s Armed Forces. With new acts such as “Jolly good luck to the girl who loves a Soldier, Vesta became known as “England greatest recruiting sergeant”. One evening in Hackney led to so many recruits being enlisted, that they were comically termed the “Vesta Regiment”.
After 50 years on the stage, Vestas Husband Sir Walter De Frece encouraged her to retire. With much regrets she put on her final, 2 year sell-out tour. She filled venues in all major British cities and toured the provinces. She was presented with The Peoples Tribute which she is suggests contained nearly two million signatures.
Vesta retired to Monte Carlo where she lived until she was 88. On a trip to see London, the city in which she made her name, she passed away. She was buried in Putney Vale and in her will, left 10 000 pounds to each of her living siblings and their children. Vesta Tilley was one of the most unique, and talented individuals of her generation and is an inspirational individual. She conquered the stage, and the hearts her audiences, with her abilities and great generosity, and it is Worcester that can claim her as its own.
This intriguing object takes us back to the very early years of the Worcester museum service and the gentlemen naturalists and antiquarians who founded the Museum of the Worcestershire Natural History Society, which later became, Worcester City Museum.
Jabez Allies was one such antiquarian who collected during the first half of the nineteenth century and donated much of what he came upon to the Museum of Worcestershire Natural History Society.
It was Allies who presented this object, found in a quarry in the Teme Valley, at a meeting of the Royal Archaeological Institute in December 1849. In the Institute’s Archaeological Journal of 1844 it is described as, “….supposed to be of the early British period, formed of a green coloured stone, and found six feet below the surface in a gravel bed at Lindridge. It is a kind of chisel, or possibly it may have been used as a flaying-knife. At one end there are two perforations, and a third hole drilled only partly through… It was presented to the Museum of the Worcestershire Natural History Society, by Rev. Thomas Pearson, of Witley.”
We now know this wonderful object in the city collection probably isn’t a chisel or a knife but a Bronze Age bracer, or archer’s wrist guard used to protect the wrist. It was a high status object, bound to the wrist with straps and formed from a rock that, at its closest, can be found in Central Wales. At some point in antiquity the object seems to have broken. It lost its perforations at one end and has been reworked into its present unusual form, perhaps to become a pendant or amulet but certainly an enigma to the antiquarians of the nineteenth century and beyond.