This delightful green and red children’s toy cart dating from 1907 was the very first item that I accessioned. I started work at Worcester City Art Gallery and Museum in August 1969. Even after all these years I still remember it vividly today. On my third day of work, I was approached by an elderly gentleman and members of his family. He told me of a green and red toy cart he had since his birthday in 1907 and enquired if we would like it.
Without hesitation I accepted it gladly – this was my first donation and I was so proud. All my colleagues and bosses were very pleased with me and I went home a very happy boy indeed.
For many years, the cart was part of a permanent toy display in the children’s room of the then folk museum in Tudor House in Friar Street. Today it is stored in the city’s reserve collection.
The gentleman who donated the cart was Mr S. Leslie, of Grimley in Worcestershire. In the photograph he can be seen sat in his cart.
Garston D Phillips
Collections Ambassador , Museums Worcestershire
In 1981 86 silver coins, buried in a salt glazed stoneware bottle, were found beneath the pantry floor of a cottage in Ham Green, Redditch. The hoard was declared Treasure and acquired by Worcestershire County Museum Service
The hoard provides a typical picture of the coinage being used in England in the middle of the seventeenth century and contains mainly shillings and sixpences, alongside two contemporary forgeries, from the reigns of Phillip and Mary (1554-58) through to coins of Charles II dating to 1661-2. It is likely then that the coins were hoarded in the early years of the reign of Charles II and it appears that the neck of the pot the coins were hidden inside had been broken in order to fit the largest coins through it.
The coins span an exciting and turbulent period in the history of our County including the First and last Battles of the Civil War, the execution of Charles I, the escape of Charles II from Worcester in 1651, and his restoration to the throne less than ten years later.
One halfcrown of Charles I struck around 1644-5 and marked with a ‘W’ depicting the mint (probably Worcester) is the product of one of a number of emergency civil war mints established by the Royalists during the Civil War to ensure that they were able to pay for their military and logistical needs at a time when the circulation of currency was compromised. A similar mint had also been established at Hartlebury Castle, the home of the Bishop of Worcester.
We’ll never know what the reason for hiding these coins were, some ten years after the Battle of Worcester and the end of the English Civil War but the stories that the coins tell are fascinating nonetheless.
Reference: Besley, E. Redditch Treasure Trove, Transactions of Worcestershire Archaeological Society, 1986
Some of the most fascinating objects in the museum collections come from places all over the world. They arrived in the collection due to explorers and travellers gathering trinkets and objects of curios during the 19th century. One such object is the Pounamu Toki or the Greenstone Adze from New Zealand. These adzes were used as a tool for daily work as well as being employed in ceremonial form.
We have several in the collection but unfortunately, none of them contain their handles. However, they retain much meaning for the Maori’s, as Greenstone is known as the God Stone. They are imbibed with mysticism and power. Greenstone is a sacred material and rare. It occurs naturally in the South island of New Zealand and is found in several areas and has been discovered in rivers as boulders or pebbles or washed up on the coast.
Maori myth and legend is attached to the greenstone and its origins. The Ngati Waewae tribe tells of a legend about a fearsome Taniwha (sea monster) and a beautiful princess kidnapped by the Taniwha. The princess eventually gets turned to greenstone on the riverbed. This myth tells how the greenstone was created.
Registrar, Museums Worcestershire
This article was written by David Prince who took part in Museums Worcestershire work experience programme in 2016. He discovered a fascinating collection of invitations to events known as “smoking concerts” across Worcester in the late 19th century.
Popular especially during the Victorian period, smoking concerts were a method of entertainment for gentlemen only. They started out as only available to the higher classes of society but gradually lower classes were allowed to attend. Often musical performances, the event was suitable for men to gather and have conversations and debates, usually about politics. They would also drink, dine and smoke, listening to the newest musical forms of the era as well as take part in the entertainment themselves.
Smoking concerts were regular occasions held across Worcester. Whilst many were held at local inns, hotels were also where the event could take place, such as the Lansdowne Hotel in Lowesmoor. Both the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Edinburgh favoured these events at the time.
There were numerous types of smoking concert too, mainly depending on social status. Private aristocratic societies as well as smoking concerts for the armed forces provided entertainment.
David Cox was born in Birmingham in 1783 and during his life he moved to London, then Hereford and back to London before moving back to Birmingham in 1841. As well as moving across the country he also frequently took trips to paint in wales or across Europe throughout. It is therefore unsurprising that people taking long, often arduous journeys were a frequent subject in his evocative landscapes.
His travellers and journeymen are often shown crossing vast landscapes and facing tough weather conditions, highlighting how small and vulnerable people are in contrast to the great powers of nature.
In the early nineteenth-century, watercolour painters were expected to exercise tight control in their artworks and follow of precise techniques. Like his contemporary of J W M Turner, the rough, loose finish of this painting and other works by Cox marked him out as an unconventional and even controversial artist.
This painting was done on rough wrapping paper rather than traditional watercolour paper, which would have made it harder to capture precise detail, but helped Cox to explore the textural qualities of a dramatic, stormy day.
Worcester City Art Gallery and Museum is lucky to have a large collection of watercolour paintings by one of the nineteenth century’s greatest landscape painters David Cox, thanks to the Sale Bequest that came to the museum in 1915.
During the English Civil War period, all soldiers, cavalry and infantry carried swords, although most soldiers of the Civil War were not trained in swordplay to any degree. Many of the swords were made in Germany, and this one features a stamp which indicates that it was possibly made in Hamburg or Hanover. Swords such as this one may have been used by either side during the period, as basket-hilted swords had already been around since the sixteenth century. The protective ‘basket’ was initially a simple design, but as time passed they became increasingly ornate and decorative.
This sword from the Worcester City museums collection was thought to have been used at the Battle of Powick Bridge on the 23 September 1642. Although some skirmishing had occurred throughout the country before this point, this battle was the first major cavalry engagement of the English Civil War. Powick Bridge was a victory for the Royalists in 1642, but there was another clash at the same location nine years later before the Battle of Worcester on 3 September 1651, after which the Royalists had to abandon their position and retreat, leaving the Parliamentarians to advance towards Worcester.
These two Spirit Jars were bought by Worcester Museum in the early 1900s from Edward Gerrard & Sons, a taxidermist and specialist in preparing animal skeletons for educational displays.
Gerrard was working at the British Museum in 1850 when he set up his business, which became a sizeable firm with an extremely diverse output, supplying schools with zoological specimens, as well as making educational anatomical models and even producing furniture made from animal feet, such as rhinoceros umbrella stands.
This hog’s head and cat’s paw would have been purchased to complement the specimens Worcester Museum already has in the Challenger Collection which were collected in the 19th century from some of the great ocean basins. They were on display for many years until the late 1950s.
The specimens were mounted on glass slides and preserved in surgical spirits, industrial methylated spirits or sometimes alcohol. These jars still contain the original spirit, which can dry out if the seals wear away. They have been injected with dyes to show up the veins, and are certainly not objects for the fainthearted.
There is more information about this fascinating business in Edward Gerrard and Sons, A Taxidermy Memoir.
If you would like to see objects such as these, look out for our behind-the-scenes tours on our events pages.
When I was first getting to know the Museums Worcestershire art collection, there were many names I knew, as well as many artists I’d yet to discover. One of these was Harry Williams Adams. Adams was born in Worcester in 1868 and worked as a decorative artist in the Royal Worcester Porcelain Factory for eight years, studying at the Worcester School of Art in the evening, before leaving to study in Paris and travel in Switzerland. After returning to the UK, Adams worked from a studio in Pierpoint Street. Perhaps drawing on his experiences whilst traveling in Switzerland, he became a master of depicting vast wintery landscapes.
Because of its size, Wintertime, Malvern is difficult to move for display so it is cared for in the art store and this is where I first discovered it. I was immediately impressed by this accomplished and evocative painting of British Camp, a place that for me holds fond memories of chilly childhood walks during the Christmas holidays. Although he is perhaps not the best know artist from Worcester, I think that Adams’ ability to capture the character of this iconic local landscape makes this one of the greatest artworks in the collection.
The Challenger Collection is a range of important specimens collected in the 19th century from some of the great ocean basins. These were collected to investigate the physical and biological conditions of the seas.
HMS Challenger was a ship that set out from Portsmouth in December 1872, carrying naturalists, chemists and a vast amount of equipment in order to gather and process the specimens on board as they travelled. Before setting out the ship was altered to accommodate laboratories, drying facilities and chemical chambers in order for the scientists to conduct their work.
The scientists collected samples dredged from 360 stations, each station bearing a number to show the location. They also recorded depth, surface temperature and chemical composition of the sea water.
On the ships’ return, the specimens were handed over to the British Museum, who then distributed them to other museums around the country, in order for everyone to benefit from the information gathered. At Worcester Art Gallery and Museum we have around 23 of the specimens, some of whose locations are from the southern Indian Ocean and the Atlantic.
Recently, work has been conducted to bring the entire Challenger collection together online. An inventory was completed with images so that they are accessible to everyone who would like to see this wonderful collection in its entirety. You can view it here: