If you go down to the woods today…

This beautiful bear can be found at Worcestershire County Museum in Hartlebury Castle, alongside a huge variety of toys that have been delighting children for generations. But this is no ordinary teddy bear. It was once part of the Tickenhill Collection, the very first special objects which were donated by the Parker family to create the original County Museum.

The bear’s maker is also something special and arguably the most famous soft toy manufacturer in the world. Margarete Steiff was a very skilled seamstress and founded her company in 1880. In 1897 her nephew Richard joined the company and bought with him a fascination with zoo animals – particularly brown bears! His aim was to make a soft toy that would capture their charm and character, leading him to create the classic bear design which is desired by collectors all over the globe.

In 1903, a buyer in America made an order for three thousand toys. The company never looked back. By 1907, Steiff had manufactured 974,000 bears, and we are very pleased that this particular one found its way into our County Council’s collection.

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.

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.

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

Prince Rupert of the Rhine

The dashing Prince Rupert was Charles I’s nephew and played an important part in the English Civil War, having made his reputation in the 30 years war leading campaigns in Europe.

In August 1642 he travelled to England with younger brother Maurice. The Order of the Garter was conferred upon him and was appointed Commander of the King’s cavalry. Rupert’s reputation as a soldier preceded him, giving him a psychological advantage over his enemies.

In the first skirmish of the war, in 1642, he routed Parliamentarian forces at Powick, just outside Worcester. But later victories saw Rupert’s hot-headed side emerge, such as at Edge Hill where he allowed his cavalry to chase beaten troops off the battlefield

In attempting to suppress a Parliamentary force in Birmingham, Rupert burned the locals out of their houses and allowed his troops to pillage the town. The town was again put to the torch the subsequent day. This was against military conventions of the time and Parliamentarian propaganda ensured that many of Rupert’s acts of war were seen as barbaric and ruthless, turning many against him and allying with the parliamentary cause.

In 1645, Rupert advised Charles to seek a treaty with Parliament after Naseby but Charles believed Rupert was plotting against him. Rupert was dismissed as Commander after he surrendered Bristol to Fairfax, the Parliamentarian General and he and Maurice were banished from England by Parliament. Rupert would eventually return to England in 1660 after the restoration of the Monarchy. He had a remarkable second career in the Admiralty, rising to command the Navy of Charles II.

Rupert was highly skilled in Mezzotint engraving and many of his works remain. His interest in military technology led to many advancements in firearms and gunpowder, including the invention of a new metal alloy. So deep was his passion that part of Windsor Castle was transformed into a state of the art laboratory and studio for his use. Fittingly, this token in Worcester City’s collection commemorating the Prince, is made of metal.