There are some objects in the archaeology store that, from time to time, make us wonder how and why they got there? Perhaps the object has a link to Worcestershire, now lost, or maybe a Worcestershire personality or event. It is a symptom of working in an institution that has been collecting since 1833 (Worcester is credited with being one of the oldest museums in the country) that occasionally links and knowledge have been lost across the decades and centuries.
Occasionally the significance of finds is clear but material has been collected in very large quantities, much greater quantities than we would collect today. Our county is not only rich in archaeology but Worcester, our county town, was at the forefront of archaeology from the mid twentieth century when the profession was still in its infancy. For some years archaeologically excavated artefacts were collected in much larger numbers than we do now and so parts of the collection suffer from an embarrassment of riches
One collection of stonework appeared to include objects that fitted into both these categories and so in line with current accreditation guidelines; we compile a list of possible objects for sampling or disposal. It is the responsibility of the specialist collection curator to research those objects in detail, to collect evidence from reports, from archaeologists and specialists who worked on the relevant excavations and to seek the input of current city and county archaeologists to ensure that any sampling will not damage the overall collection’s research and display potential. The aim is to compile a report that can be considered by the museum curatorial team and the Museum Joint Committee of local authority councillors.
In the case of our collection of stonework, our research uncovered some wonderful links and stories that had been lost and rather than suggest that the objects should be considered for disposal, our research has placed the objects right back at the heart of our collections; these include parts of stone coffins from the Westwood Nunnery, a large sandstone block engraved with a nine men’s morris board which was excavated in Droitwich and an engraved stone from Kidderminster described by Rev Richard Burton in 1890.
“There were formerly three chantries connected with the mother church of Kidderminster…. In 1305 we have the first presentation of a chantry priest to the chapel of the Blessed Mary of Kidderminster (Reg. Geynes.), which appears to have been built in the churchyard (infra cimiterium), a few yards to the east of the church. The present building was restored or built by Simon Rise in the early part of the sixteenth century, and after the suppression and confiscation of the chantries in 1549, it was used as a Grammar School. In 1848, when the new Grammar School was built at Woodfield, the chantry was improved by Lord Ward, and given back to the Church for parochial uses. On the north wall is a rude inscription : — Here lieth Simon Brotherton Belman Buried June ye 17th 1628. On the same wall may still be seen shot holes made by the bullets of the Parliamentary army.”
It is this ‘rude’ inscription that made its way into our collection and as Worcestershire saw the first and last battles of the English Civil War, we are rather pleased to discover the story of the reputed shot damage too.
Deborah Fox, Curator of Archaeology and Natural History