A Lost Generation

This photograph in Worcester City’s collection shows the triumphant HJ George, romping home as winner in the Open Half-Mile, at the Worcester Royal Grammar School’s 1915 sports day.

For ‘open’ events, all students were allowed to participate, with the younger boys being given head starts based a sliding scale in yards. George, being in his last year at the school, started from ‘scratch’ (without any advantage).

The school magazine tells us that for the annual sports day on 20 May, 1915 “the weather conditions were splendid and the events were keenly contested”. Although it mentions the event was held quietly “owing to the War”, it was not until several editions later that the magazine starts to list pages of casualties. A year into the First World War, the enormous impact it would have on this generation of young men was still ahead.

In the Half-Mile (Open) George, running from scratch, covered the course in good style, and had little difficulty in obtaining first place. Bakewell (scr.) was second, with Maund (10 yds.) and Johnson (10 yds.) third and fourth respectively.”

George also came second in the Open Quarter-Mile, and Woolfe House was particularly pleased that through his efforts they managed to beat School House in the Grammar School’s cricket tournament that year. Cyril Hemus from School House and George opened the batting for the school cricket team and most sporting matters saw them up against each other. Hemus won many of the 1915 annual sports track and field events, and had also won the school heavyweight boxing and the fives competition that year. He scored a perfect 115 points in the 1915 Officer Training Corps shooting competition.

Both boys would join artillery regiments after leaving school – George to the Royal Garrison Artillery and Hemus initially to the Artist Rifles and then to the Royal Field Artillery. George was wounded in early 1918 but survived the war, coming back to the school’s annual sports day in 1919 to take fourth place in the 220-yard old boys’ race.

Hemus was never able to take up the scholarship he won in Natural Sciences at Brasenose College, Oxford. He died of wounds sustained in action in France in March 1918 and was awarded the Military Cross “for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. When the Battery was in action and being subjected to a most intense gas-shell bombardment, his courage and coolness were most marked, and by constant supervision he ensured that all gas masks were kept adjusted with the result that no casualties were caused owing to gas”.

Life-saving history: World War One Gas mask

There were a number of early inventions designed to aid and protect the ability to breathe where gas, smoke or other poisonous fumes existed – from a medieval plague doctor’s bird-beak-shaped mask filled with herbs to primitive respirator contraptions used by miners from 1799, but it was the introduction of chemical warfare that necessitated a vast improvement in gas masks.

The first use of chemical weapons was in Ypres, France, when German soldiers used chlorine gas on April 22, 1915, to attack the French. In these early days, all soldiers could really do was cover their mouths with socks or rags soaked in urine to help fight against its effects which included burns, temporary blindness and it could even cause the lungs to dissolve.

The ‘P helmet’ gas mask is an early mask and was issued by the British Army later in 1915. This particular example from the Worcestershire County Museum collection was worn by the Vicar of Eastham during the war.

Shedding light

2000 years ago in Asia, beautifully crafted paper lanterns began to feature in spiritual and seasonal celebrations. These beautiful and delicate painted shapes were not only intended to illuminate but to use light to decorate and celebrate a festival. Sky lanterns were an evolution of the paper lantern and allowed the energy of the flame to float the lantern high into the air. The practice was adopted by the west and paper lanterns have been used throughout Europe and North and South America in religious and seasonal festivals such as Christmas.

In 7th Century Europe, Pope Boniface IV established All Marty’s Day, to honour the Christian martyrs. In the 8th Century, Pope Gregory III moved the celebration to 1 November and encouraged the celebration of All Saints and Martyrs. All Saints, or “All Hallows”, gave rise to All Hallows Eve, the evening before a religious holiday, which eventually became simplified to “Halloween”.

The modern Halloween that we celebrate today is very much inspired by the North American festivities, including the carving of pumpkins into jack o lanterns, as well as trick or treat and the dressing up as spooks and monsters.

This historic papier mache lantern in the Worcestershire County collection is the culmination of nearly 2000 years of history; a Christian holiday, an Asian decoration and a western twist. It hangs in the toys and dolls gallery at Hartlebury Castle.

A proud chocolate history

Fry’s was the oldest chocolate firm in the UK, and produced the first mass-produced chocolate bar at their factory in Bristol. This Edwardian label from Worcester City’s collection shows how the company used its history as its advertising.

But did you know Worcester too had a chocolate factory to be proud of?

Cadbury’s bought a WW1 cartridge factory from the government in 1921. It was ideally situated for transport to their headquarters and main factory in Bournville, being alongside both the railway and the canal in Blackpole, Worcester. At first it was a packaging factory, making wooden boxes and tin canisters but a few years later it started processing nuts and making marzipan for the chocolate firm.

Cadbury’s was famously a quaker-owned firm, with the Cadbury family strongly believing in the importance of providing good facilities for the workforce. In 1926, a reporter from Berrows Journal described the site:
“The buildings are tastefully arranged, there are pleasant gardens, broad walks and fine playing fields providing accommodation for cricket, football, tennis and bowls. Appropriately enough, the members of the cricket club wear chocolate-coloured caps and the football team’s colours are also chocolate.
“There is a fine fire station and the latest model fire engine, with a staff of capable firemen who know their job. Messrs Cadbury have done everything possible to better the lot of their workpeople at Worcester.”

During WWII the factory was again used to produce munitions. The number of workers swelled during this time and a passenger station Blackpole Halt was installed to make the factory easier to get to.

In the 1960s the Cadburys factory at Blackpole should have risen to prominence. It was the site chosen to make Cadbury Cakes, but permission was refused to construct a new larger factory on the Worcester site and so it never managed to become a main factory for the company.

Cadburys merged with Schweppes in 1971 and the cake business was sold off with the loss of 680 Worcester jobs, the majority of them women. The factory at Blackpole closed and now forms part of the retail park site.

Buried Treasure and Medieval Love

Intriguing discoveries of archaeological items can happen while metal-detecting, gardening, walking across fields or playing in the mud.

Since 1997, Museums Worcestershire has collaborated with the British Museum and Birmingham Museums Trust to host the Portable Antiquities Scheme, which records archaeological artefacts and coins discovered by the public. The scheme has recorded over 15,000 finds from Worcestershire, dating from the Stone Age through to the Post-Medieval period.

One find which has caused much excitement recently is a medieval silver brooch, found in the Rushock area by metal-detectorist Scott Heeley. As Mr Heeley suspected the brooch was made of a precious metal and more than 300 years old, he reported his discovery via the local Schemes’ Finds Liaison Officer. Under the Treasure Act of 1996, museums are given the opportunity to purchase such finds, often requiring challenging fundraising projects to secure grants and donations, but in this case the finder and landowner kindly donated the brooch to Museums Worcestershire’s permanent collection. For museums, donations like this are a wonderfully generous gesture and the brooch will forever be a legacy for future generations to enjoy.

The brooch dates from the late 1200s to mid-1300s, and is most likely a romantic gift which demonstrated the depth of the suitor’s love. It is silver with gilding, in the form of a circular frame with a miniature sword-shaped pin pivoted on the edge. The outer face of the brooch is decorated with punched annulets and the rings may represent hawthorn flowers, which are associated with love and are a common symbol of this period.

Georgian Garments and Austen-era Attire

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a waistcoat.

Clothing and fashion were very important to both men and women during the Georgian period. It is well known that women would wear corsets to slim their waists under their elaborate silk dresses, but perhaps less known that some men, including George IV, also wore them to make them look trimmer and give the illusion of manly muscles.

This beautifully embroidered late-18th century jacket, from the Worcestershire County Collection, would perhaps have been worn over such a corset to give the wearer a more fashionable silhouette. Although we do not know who it belonged to, it is easy to imagine the owner wearing it to a sumptuous ball, paired with the tight breeches, colourful waistcoats, ruffled shirts, stockings and ornately buckled shoes that were popular at the time.

The Gift of Time

This clock was manufactured by Worcester local Fredric Manning, and it once hung in the reception of the Museum and Library in Foregate Street. It is wound by hand, which was historically a job for the clock-winder employed by the Corporation of Worcester, who worked his way through the city and ensured all clocks in public buildings kept the correct time.

The clock predates the Museum and Library, which was opened in 1896, as it was originally presented to the Public Library over 10 years earlier in 1881 after it merged with the Charles Hastings Museum of Natural History. The Library had hit some financial difficulties and so the City Corporation decided to amalgamate the two services and make their stores of knowledge available to the public under one roof. This “gift of time” demonstrated Worcester’s commitment to services for its citizens and is a sentiment we share today at Museums Worcestershire.

Malvern Hills, 1940s by Charles Ginner (1878-1952)

This oil painting of the Malvern Hills from Worcester City’s collection demonstrates artist Charles Ginner signature style: the use of a small, regular touch of thick paint, a method that can give his paintings the appearance of densely worked embroidery. It also makes them very hard to photograph as the light bounces off the textured paint surface: like many impressionist paintings, this feels so much more alive when seen ‘in the flesh’.

Ginner was born in Cannes, France.  In 1904 he began to study painting at the Académie Vitti under Paul Gervais.  Unfortunately, Gervais disliked Ginner’s bright palette so much that the student was obliged to leave.  He settled in London in 1910 and became a founder member of the Camden Town Group which also included Duncan Grant and Walter Sickert.

In 1914 Ginner published a manifesto which advocated looking at nature with a more studied eye, the use of solid pigment, and the influence of Cezanne, Van Gogh and the Post-Impressionists.  His paintings became more concerned with accurately observed form and he turned his attention from interiors to landscapes.


Weights and Measures

England has had standard measures against which all trade must measure up for more than a thousand years. Originally the ‘standards’ were kept in London and Winchester, but later it became the responsibility of each local council.

These weights and measures were the standard held by the City of Worcester and are now in Worcester City Museum’s collection. Some have checkerboard marks showing that they were used to check other weights. Worcestershire’s Trading Standards Officers now use digital measures to ensure we are given fair amounts in shops and pubs.

The Weights and Measures Act established the Imperial standards in 1826 (which set the base measures as the foot, the pound and the second), although the need for standards was so important to fair trade that it was included in the Magna Carta.

The UK started to move towards metric measures when it joined the European Economic Community in 1973, but still uses a mixture of standards under UK-specific legislation. Beer and cider, for example, must still be sold by the half or full pint.

‘There shall be but one measure of wine throughout the realm, and one measure of ale, and one measure of corn, that is to say, the quarter of London; and one breadth of dyed cloth, russets, and haberjects, that is to say, two yards within the lists. And it shall be of weights as of measures’

Magna Carta, 1215