Priest Holes and Plotting at Hindlip Hall

web-hindlip-hall-c-museums-worcestershireHindlip Hall is one of Worcestershire’s strongest connections to the story of the notorious failed Gunpowder Plot of the 5 November 1605.
This sketch dating from 1810 is believed to be by Thomas Pennethorne, who recorded many Worcestershire buildings and scenes during the first quarter of the nineteenth century. Hindlip Hall was demolished by fire just four years later in 1814 and rebuilt by Lord Southwell. It is now the Headquarters of West Mercia Police.
Up until its destruction, the house had an unfavourable reputation, having been built by Catholic Recusant John Abington whose family became wrapped up in both the Babington and Gunpowder plots. His son Sir Thomas added eleven expertly concealed priest holes throughout the house to hide Catholic priests, who were threatened with severe punishment for not adhering to the Anglican doctrine.
After the events of the 5 November, many of the plotters fled to the Midlands, pursued by Sir Richard Walsh, the High Sheriff of Worcestershire, who eventually caught four Jesuit priests who were suspected of involvement in the plot at Hindlip Hall in January 1606 after twelve days of searching the property.

Worcester Official Guide, 1951

This vintage Worcester Official Guide book, adorned with a beautiful mid-twentieth century illustrated cover featuring Worcester Cathedral’s Edgar Tower, could be purchased for 2’6 in 1951. It was published by Littlebury Press, a print works that employed hundreds of people in Worcester and was based in The Commandery for 70 years, before the Grade I listed building became a museum.

A foreword by H. M. Morris, who was the Worcester City Mayor from 1950 – 1951, proudly states that ‘There is little you will not find in Worcester in whatever direction lie your interests and however diverse they may be. Within our boundaries are the oldest and newest, both in architecture and industry.’

The book goes on to highlight that 1951 was the three hundredth anniversary of the Battle of Worcester and the two hundredth anniversary of the founding of the Porcelain Works, as well as being the centre of the Three Choirs Festival that year. Inside, a ‘Survey of Worcester’s Industries’ highlights the gloving and porcelain industries alongside adverts and photographs of factory workers from the time.

There are also sections focusing on The Commandery and its former significance as the 1651 Battle of Worcester Royalist headquarters, and the Museum of the Worcestershire Regiment, described as ‘one of the finest collections of its kind under the British Isles’, which can now be found at Worcester City Art Gallery and Museum.

Dainty Knitted Undies

This magazine, Weldon’s Practical Needlework No. 229 ‘Dainty Knitted Undies’ is one of the more unusual paper items from the Worcester City museum collection. Originally published in the late 1930s, the booklet contains 14 pages of vintage undergarment knitting patterns, also referred to as “Beautiful Beneaths”, including bedjackets, camiknickers, vests and pants, adorned with plenty of fancy stitches, crochet trims as well as information about ‘ways to wash your woolies’.

Continued developments throughout the thirties increased the prevalence of man-made fabrics such as rayon and nylon, in addition to the technique of cutting on the bias (on the cross-grain) which allowed more stretch in undergarment fabrics. These changes meant that the popularity of knitted underwear waned, and such garments started to take on a more modern look which, thanks to the introduction of the silk-like rayon, were probably a lot more dainty than this publication’s patterns.

The Worcester City museum collection includes a number of 20th century paper items such as crafting patterns, fashion magazines, bound volumes of sheet music and collectable vintage encyclopaedias. Over the past few years, Museums Worcestershire has been digitising more of its stored collections in order to bring more of its hidden or forgotten stories to the public.

The Guild in the Garden

These rabbit garden sculptures from the Worcestershire County museum collection were designed and created by the Bromsgrove Guild of Applied Arts.

The Bromsgrove Guild was founded in 1898 by Walter Gilbert, and employed highly skilled Arts and Crafts designers and artists. Their garden statuary, such as the garden rabbit sculptures, was highly sought after. The Bromsgrove Guild collections at Worcestershire archives and the County Museum are the finest reference documentation held anywhere of the Guild’s output.

Apart from these smaller works, the Guild was also responsible for many unique and nationally important public pieces. Most famous of these are the Buckingham Palace gates. Other work included the Liver Birds at the Royal Liver Building in Liverpool, the trim on both RMS Queen Mary and the Lusitania, and plaster ceilings at the Royal Naval College at Dartmouth.

F.J Cock’s Sewing Machines

Sewing machines were one of the first machines to enter the family household and during the 19th century they came in a large array of distinctive shapes as manufacturers sought the ideal design. This model from the Worcester City collection was used in Worcester’s renowned glove-making industry during the early 20th century.

At the turn of the century sewing machines were starting to look more alike – partly influenced by the success of the Singer sewing machine. The foot pedal, called a treadle, succeeded the former hand-cranked models. The treadle took a while to catch on in Britain, where it was seen as an unladylike movement and bad for the ankles, but would have made larger-scale production significantly easier.

Early machines were beautifully decorated, and this one has a dark finish with contrasting golden floral designs on the base, the arm and the wheel and an unusual sailing ship motif on the base. One theory is that machines were associated with industry and engineering, so the ornamentation made the sewing machine feel more appropriate in a domestic setting.

F. J. Cock was a distributor with branches in Birmingham and Coventry. He sold many ‘badged’ machines which were models made by other manufacturers but specially labelled for the shop or department store that sold them.

This machine is mounted onto a treadle table with cast iron sides that read “Cocks” and has no model name on the arm or company trade-mark revealing its maker. However the central decal of a schooner (sailing boat) at sea reveals it as the ‘Original Victoria’ made by the German firm Mundlos & Co., manufactured from 1896 onwards.

The ‘Sabre-Toothed Easter Bunny’

This little rabbit was collected in Worcestershire in the 1970s and sent to Wollaton Hall in Nottinghamshire to be taxidermied before becoming part of the Worcestershire County Collection.
His unfortunate tooth problems make him an interesting specimen to study, which led to him being nicknamed in the local papers in the 1970s the ‘Sabre-toothed rabbit’.
Rabbits’ front teeth have to be aligned very precisely, so that they grind together and remain at a practical length. The skull at the back shows a set of normal rabbit teeth.
However, when incisor malocclusion occurs the teeth do not naturally wear down and grow constantly, making it difficult for them to eat. The skull in the foreground came from this rabbit, and shows the effects of malocclusion.
As a result, this rabbit would have become unable to carry out any cabbage-stealing (or Easter chocolate deliveries) and would have sadly had to go hungry.

Saint George and the Art Deco Dragon

This striking sculpture of Saint George and the Dragon is a work by Donald Gilbert, who was the son of the founder of local arts and crafts group, the Bromsgrove Guild.

Walter Gilbert founded the guild in 1894, producing decorative ironwork in an old foundry in Bromsgrove. He expanded his business, acquiring other skilled craftsmen, until he was taking orders for lamps, doors, stained glass windows and other decorative items from all over the English speaking world, including design and production of the gates of Buckingham Palace.

Gilbert was a flamboyant man, who wore a yellow tie and drove a yellow-wheeled gig (a small, horse-drawn cart).

As they expanded, they took over a former police station in Station Street as a wood-working shop, with drawing and designing offices, iron and bronze foundries, a stained glass studio and other workshops in adjacent buildings.

His son Donald Gilbert was born in 1900 and, after training at the Birmingham Central School of Art, became a talented sculptor in the new ‘Art Deco’ style.

The photograph is from the Bromsgrove Guild archive in the Worcestershire County Museum collection. There are some works, such as stained glass, on display at the County Museum at Hartlebury, and if anyone is interested in doing further research connected with the Bromsgrove Guild archives they are welcome to get in touch by emailing

Mammal Bones Conservation

Over the next year, Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service and Museums Worcestershire are working on a Heritage Lottery funded project to celebrate Worcestershire’s Ice Age past through exhibitions, events, blogs and workshops.

As part of the project, conservation work is being carried out on some of the earliest items that came into the Worcester City collection.

No.128 Bos / bison skull and horn cores from Bricklehampton.

Ice-age conservation

This specimen was in several pieces (see image below). It had clearly been put together in the past with glue and plaster of paris, with a wooden dowel inserted into the left side of the skull and into the left horn core, held with plaster. The plaster had given way.

The edges of breaks were consolidated with Paraloid B72 consolidant and then pieces were glued back together with Paraloid B72 adhesive. The wooden dowel was re-used as support is required for the large, heavy left horn core. Once the adhesive had set, plaster was applied around the dowel inside the horn core. NB there is a metal rod acting as a supporting dowel in the tip of the right horn core. Large cracks were filled with plaster of paris. All plaster was painted to closely, but not perfectly, match the surrounding bone so that an expert eye can tell where the gap-filler is.

Ice-age conservation2

Above, the repaired specimen with the plaster unpainted. Below, with the plaster painted.

Ice-age conservation3

No.173 Taurus primigenius horn core from Eckington.

The proximal end of this horn core was in several pieces. Many could be relocated, but not all.

The edges of breaks were consolidated with Paraloid B72 consolidant and then pieces were glued back together with Paraloid B72 adhesive. Once the adhesive had set, large gaps were filled with plaster of paris to provide additional strength and robustness to the specimen. All plaster was painted to closely, but not perfectly, match the surrounding bone so that an expert eye can tell where the gap-filler is. One piece of bone in this bag does not belong to this specimen.

Ice-age conservation4 Ice-age conservation5

Above left: the specimen before repair. Above right, the specimen after repair.

No.143 Bison priscus limb bone from brickyard

Ice-age conservation6This specimen was in two pieces, where an old repaired break in the mid-shaft had failed. Old glue was removed with a scalpel, the edges of the break was consolidated with Paraloid B72 consolidant and then the two pieces were glued back together with Paraloid B72 adhesive.


All the specimens were inspected to see what further conservation work was required. As the surfaces were generally quite friable and fragile, only limited cleaning could be undertaken. This consisted of using an airbrasive unit utilising compressed air laced with a small amount of sodium bicarbonate powder, followed by cleaning with just compressed air. A few vulnerable friable areas were consolidated with Paraloid B72 but this was kept to a minimum so as not to adulterate the specimens.

Thanks to Nigel Larkin for this report.

The Green Man medieval roof boss

wooden square roof boss in the shape of a faceThis medieval roof boss which came from St Andrew’s Church, Worcester is decorated with the face of a ‘Green Man’ emerging from leafy foliage.

Roof bosses are ornamental protrusions from the ceiling which appear at the intersection of rib vaulting. In St Andrew’s there were a number of bosses depicting the Twelve Apostles and the Annunciation, alongside many foliage bosses.

The Green Man is associated with the arrival or rebirth of spring in many cultures and is commonly depicted in English folklore as a nature spirit. Despite its outwardly polytheistic associations, this verdant character is frequently found in churches, cathedrals and abbeys across Europe.

Originally a medieval, probably 12th century church, St Andrew’s was demolished in 1949 as it was believed to be structurally unsound, and the tower and spire is all that remains. It’s known locally as the ‘Glover’s Needle’ because it was sited close to Dents Glove Factory and was the parish church for many glovemakers. This part of Worcester was densely packed with slum housing, now all cleared away and instead housing Copenhagen Street car park and the Heart of Worcestershire College.