Rediscovering The Angler

This watercolour, The Angler by David Cox, came into the Worcester City museum collection in 1915 as part of a large bequest from the Reverend and Mrs Sale of Holt. The Reverend Sale knew the artist David Cox personally and purchased several works directly from the Cox family. David Cox was born and trained in Birmingham and spent several years as a struggling artist teaching drawing in Hereford. He began to flourish as an artist during his 40s and by the time of his death in 1859 he was considered one of Britain’s greatest watercolourists.

This painting was lost for many years, until a selection of British watercolours were being prepared for an exhibition in the art gallery. During the move, one of the pictures suffered a crack to the glass. The broken glass was carefully removed, the picture taken from its frame and behind it was this; another picture. This was the missing David Cox picture from The Sale Bequest collection… it had been hidden for over half a century.

Wartime Christmas Cake from Stork Wartime Cookery

This Wartime Christmas cake recipe comes from the Stork Wartime Cookery Book by Susan Croft, published by the Stork margarine company in London, 1946, from Worcester City museum’s fascinating social history collection.

Stork margarine was launched in Britain in the 1920s and its fame grew during WWII, when access to items such as meat and dairy were strictly rationed. The Stork cookery service was launched to provide recipes for housewives on how to produce good food despite the rationing whilst advertising Stork products as a dairy alternative for each recipe. It also contains useful sections on “How to save your dinner if air-raids come” (hint – first turn off the cooker), how to make “Emergency Bread” if transport difficulties hold up bakery deliveries, and how to save money by using different cuts of meat such as tripe and even brains.

This recipe is relatively indulgent in comparison and much more enticing – a Christmas cake that could be sent to friends or family in the forces. Three different decoration styles are suggested depending on whether your cake is intended for a soldier, a sailor or an airman. The navy recipe comes first, ‘as befits the senior service,’ according to the recipe.

Charlie Fothergill

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”.

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.

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

Cheltenham Parade, 1920s, by David Davies (1864-1939)

David Davies was particularly interested in the transparency of paint and he often used varnish as a medium to create a luminous feel.  He even experimented with varnishing pastel sketches to give a porcelain glaze appearance.

Davies was born in Ballarat, Victoria, Australia, the son of a miner.  Both of his parents were from South Wales.

While still a student at the National Gallery Art School, he sold a painting to art collector James Oddie for a hundred guineas.  This sale enabled Davies to pursue his artistic studies abroad, and he left Melbourne late in 1890. He travelled to Paris, where he studied at the Academie Julian under Jean-Paul Laurens.

Two years later, soon after their marriage in Paris, Davies and his wife, Janet, moved to Cornwall, where they mixed with the Newlyn artists’ colony.  After a period back in Australia, they went on to settle in Dieppe where both taught to fund their painting.

Occasionally during the 1920s, Davies visited his friend Richard Heyworth in Cheltenham and they painted together.  This picture was from one of these visits and was donated to Worcester City museum by Heyworth in 1937.

Worcester Signalling the World

For sixty years, Worcester was home to one of the most important railway infrastructure companies; now all that remains of their factory is a short stretch of standard gauge railway track, leading to the Birmingham to Worcester canal.

Thomas Clunes first established his iron and brass foundry in 1857 on Cromwell Street, Worcester, adjacent to the canal. Five years later, two employees of the Oxford, Worcester and Wolverhampton Railway, McKenzie and Holland, bought a patent for an interlocking railway signal from inventor Austin Chambers. They went into partnership with Clunes to manufacture it and later improvements to the design at his Cromwell Street Vulcan Works. This was cutting-edge engineering at the time: it enabled signals and points to be changed simultaneously and thus allowed trains to manoeuver through junctions faster and more safely.

signal cabins Holland

Through this early success, they expanded their range of products and rapidly grew a global reputation for quality. This product catalogue in Worcester City’s museum collection dates to 1910 – this large volume is just section one (entitled mechanical parts) and is beautifully illustrated throughout. Several of McKenzie and Holland’s signal boxes are still in use today and are listed as historically significant.

In 1899, the company started working with the Westinghouse Brake Co and were the first to install power signalling on Britain’s railways. In 1907, the partnership fitted automatic signalling throughout the London Underground.

By 1920, the two companies fully amalgamated and the Vulcan Works in Worcester closed. The work was transferred to the factory in Chippenham, and the Worcester site has undergone several redevelopments.

Walter Holland died in 1888 and is buried in Astwood Cemetery. He was a City Alderman and his portrait still hangs in Worcester’s Guildhall.

Walter Holland

Past its use by date?

In 1864 the manager of the Aerated Bread Company began serving tea and bakery products to her customers and the tea shop was born. They became extremely popular with the middle classes, particularly women who could visit unchaperoned. The first Lyons teashop opened thirty years later and quickly expanded to a chain of 250 shops, prominent on most British high streets throughout the 20th century.

For the working classes, eating away from home meant taking your lunch to work, often wrapped in newspaper, because you couldn’t afford the time or money for a hot meal at lunchtime. The remains of this beef sandwich in Worcester City’s collection were discovered in an 1899 paper, making it now 120 years old!

Leisure trips for workers began as working conditions improved in the 19th century and bank holidays were introduced. Between the wars, picnicking in beauty spots such as the Malvern Hills became more popular and many cities created public parks such as Gueluvelt Park in Worcester.