Lea and Perrins – The Original and Genuine

In 1837 a Broad Street chemist shop was managed by Messer’s John Wheeley Lea and William Henry Perrins, who sold their own range of in-house lotions and tonics. Like most apothecaries at the time, medicines were only part of their trade and they sold everything from rose water to flea ointment.
Legend has it that a “Gentleman of the County” asked the chemist to make up a tonic that he had encountered on his travels. Research has identified and subsequently dismissed Lord Sandys as the often-proclaimed source of the recipe, and the Gentleman in question is still as big a mystery as its contents. The chemist made up a large batch of the sauce so that they could sample it.
They found it most disgusting and confined it to the cellar. On the verge of disposing of the batch some time later, they discovered it had matured into something delicious and decided to market it.
Using their reputation for reliability, they included new samples in with their orders. It intensified the flavour of soups and spiced up meat and fish dishes, particularly if the meat was past its best.
Regular orders soon came flooding in and in a matter of years Lea and Perrins were manufacturing more of the sauce than any other product. “Worcestershire Sauce” and its phenomenal success led to new staff, premises and eventually a factory in Midland Road. The rest is history.
There were, and still are, many imitators, but the Original and Genuine Worcestershire Sauce is still manufactured in Worcester.

Bust of Edward Evans (1789-1871) by William Brodie

web-edward-evans-sculpture-c-museums-worcestershireIn the mid-nineteenth century, the talented Scottish sculptor William Brodie turned his hand to create this lifelike bust of Edward Evans. In 1830 Evans, along with William Hill, founded the vinegar makers Hill & Evans, who by 1903 had the largest vinegar works in the world, in Lowesmoor, Worcester.

William Brodie (1815-1887) was born in Banff in Scotland and became a prolific portrait sculptor who, thanks to the verity and technical skills shown in his works, became a member of the Royal Scottish Academy in 1859. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, a popular way to depict gentry, land owners, politicians and other important figures was to commission well-known sculptors to create marble, bronze and plaster busts. The Worcester City Art Gallery & Museum sculpture collection includes works by Brock, Papworth, Baily and Kirk, in addition to this bust by Brodie which is on display in the museum.

By 1851, Edward Evans was also Managing Director of the Worcester City and County Banking Company. This bust originally belonged to the Worcester Bank, along with the bust of R Padmore by Papworth and we have evidence that both pieces were loaned by the Bank for display at the Worcester Exhibition of 1882. Worcester Bank was taken over by Lloyds and they presented these busts to the gallery in 1902.

worcestershire-exhibition-1882-catalogue-william-brodieGarston D Phillips

Gloves made by Dents for Christian Dior, late 1950s

“Day or night, gloves will always provide you with a splash of colour” Christian Dior.


For centuries, Worcester was THE centre of the British glovemaking industry. We know that its history as a leather-making town goes back to Roman times and with the arrival of the Dents glove factory in 1777, it became world famous for its wares. By the twentieth century, fashion houses were commissioning Worcester firms to make their gloves. One firm, Milore, worked with several young fabulous designers including Zandra Rhodes and Manolo Blahnik before he became more famous for his shoes beloved of celebrities.
These gloves from the Worcester City collection were made by Dents in Worcester late in the 1950s, just as the fashion for gloves changed to wrist-length rather than the longer and more formal-looking.
Christian Dior had exploded onto the fashion scene in 1947 with his feminine ‘New Look’. This collection made a sensation and rejuvenated post-war Paris. Each dress was made from a luxurious 20 metres of fabric, very different from war-time restrictions.
Dior was a shrewd entrepreneur as well as a designer. He quickly opened a ready-to-wear boutique on Fifth Avenue in New York and expanded their range so that a woman could buy every piece of clothing – including gloves – she needed just from Dior. He also trained Pierre Cardin and Yves Saint Laurent, with YSL going on to design the collection and taking it to even more radical styling after Dior’s early death in 1957.

Worcester’s long relationship with Parliament

Worcester was first represented at a national parliament in 1372 by John Atte Wode, a local landowner. At the time, parliaments were called irregularly by the King and were principally a way for the monarch to raise taxes.

Between 1386 and 1885, the City of Worcester was represented by two parliamentary members and they include many names that left their mark on the city and the country. Perhaps the greatest legacy is from John Somers, Worcester’s MP in 1689, a Worcester lawyer who was the Attorney General and the architect of the UK’s Bill of Rights which sets out the authority of the British Parliament, the freedom of the election process and the limits of the monarch’s power. This document directly influenced the wording of the American Declaration of Independence.

From the 1770s, MPs professed a political party allegiance and from this early time the Worcester voters supported Conservative, Liberal and Whig candidates. At the 1997 election, the term ‘Worcester Woman’ was created by pollsters, describing a swing voter more interested in a prospective MP’s message than their political party; Worcester residents have been voting this way for at least two centuries.

web-peter-walker-and-family-from-1983-election-leaflet-c-museums-worcestershireThe Worcester City museum collection includes political leaflets from all parties from the mid-C19th to the modern day. These leaflet photographs from the 1983 election were published by Peter Walker who was Worcester’s MP from 1961 to 1992. Peter was followed into parliament by his son, Robin, the city’s current MP and smaller star of these pictures!

 

The Matchless Vesta

web-vesta-tilley-costume-c-museums-worcestershireVesta Tilley was one of the most successful performers of her era. She was a Music Hall singer, comedienne and is most famous for her male impersonation routines. These fine examples of Vesta Tilley’s stage costume are from the Worcester City costume collection.

Born on the 13th of May 1864 on Commandery Row (now Dent Close). Baptised Matilda Alice Powels at St Peters Church Worcester.

‘I was born in Worcester, England, that charming city (poor proud and pretty) with its beautiful cathedral on the banks of the Severn where daily life is a constant reminder of the charity and benevolence of our dear country…’

Matilda (Vesta) was the second child of 13 and daughter of William Henry Powels, an entertainer, a singer, a dancer and a multi-instrumentalist. He performed in places such as the Railway Well in St Martins, The Navigation which is now the Salvation Army building, and later the New Concert Hall in Corn market. Matilda accompanied him in his act as “The Great Little Tilley”.
As she grew, male impersonation became the main feature of her act and she adopted the name Vesta Tilley. She met with huge success in London and toured nationally. She was also one of the few British Acts to succeed in America.

At the outbreak of World War I, Vesta was 50 years of age, and transformed her act to raise morale, funds and recruitment into Britain’s Armed Forces. With new acts such as “Jolly good luck to the girl who loves a Soldier, Vesta became known as “England greatest recruiting sergeant”. One evening in Hackney led to so many recruits being enlisted, that they were comically termed the “Vesta Regiment”.

After 50 years on the stage, Vestas Husband Sir Walter De Frece encouraged her to retire. With much regrets she put on her final, 2 year sell-out tour. She filled venues in all major British cities and toured the provinces. She was presented with The Peoples Tribute which she is suggests contained nearly two million signatures.

Vesta retired to Monte Carlo where she lived until she was 88. On a trip to see London, the city in which she made her name, she passed away. She was buried in Putney Vale and in her will, left 10 000 pounds to each of her living siblings and their children. Vesta Tilley was one of the most unique, and talented individuals of her generation and is an inspirational individual. She conquered the stage, and the hearts her audiences, with her abilities and great generosity, and it is Worcester that can claim her as its own.

Fine examples of Vesta Tilley’s stage costume and a collection of her letters and personal ephemera, including the “Peoples Tribute” are preserved by Museums Worcestershire, and Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service at the Hive.

Thomas Woodward (1801-1852) sketches for his painting The Battle of Worcester

web-woodward-studies-for-battle-of-worcester-c-museums-worcestershireThe tradition of carrying flags into battle dates back thousands of years, although it was the Roman army and the European wars of the Middle Ages that made rallying behind a flag part of battle strategy. The flag or colour became the command point for each regiment and the way a commanding general could identify placement on the battlefield. Battalions were trained to arrange themselves in relation to the colour and to reorganise from there when the battle became chaotic.

As battle tactics changed and the armies moved to khaki in the field, the use of colours in battle became more of a threat than a strategic advantage. The practice died out for the British Army during the Boer War and official policy changed in 1891. Other countries were still carrying flags into battle in WW1 and even WW2.

By the end of the Civil War at the Battle of Worcester in 1651, both sides were exhausted – the Parliamentarian army had reportedly jogged in their shirtsleeves to make the journey at speed – and knew that organisation and motivation on the battlefield would be essential, something that Cromwell’s New Model Army excelled at. The Royalist Scots troops used white field signs and so Cromwell ordered his army to wear nothing that was white. King Charles spent the early stages of the battle in Worcester Cathedral’s tower where he would have been watching the placement and struggle of each regimental colour across the city and the floodplain to the south.

This sketch from the Worcester City museum collection by Thomas Woodward (1801-1852) was made in preparation for his great painting The Battle of Worcester. In his finished painting, three colours fly over the churning battle. Although Victorian painters tended to romanticise the experience of war, Woodward captures the chaos it must have been at the Battle of Worcester.

Workman’s Van – The Road Mender’s Living Van

The workman’s van is part of Worcestershire County Museum’s Transport Collection and is on permanent display at Hartlebury Castle. It is classed as a ‘Living Van’ and much like the Gypsy Caravans in our collection it was designed to act as mobile accommodation.

Similar to the Shepherd’s hut which was transported out onto the Downs so that the Shepherd could remain with his flock in lambing season, the road mender’s van allowed some temporary shelter for those repairing the county’s highways.

Steamrollers or steam powered road rollers, were first used in the county in 1897 and made the process of flattening out road surfaces far more efficient. It took time for workers to transport these large and slow moving engines out from the depot and it was often more practical to leave them near the worksite until the job was complete. Road menders would then use the van as a temporary accommodation until returning the steamroller to base.

A van could be expected to house up to three workers and usually included a cast iron stove used for cooking and providing heat. The van would have contained cooking utensils and bedding as well as washbowls to provide the workers with a home away from home.

As steam engines were replaced with faster diesel ones, road rollers became more efficient and easier to move and the use of workers vans began to decline.

Toy Cart

web-garston-with-toy-cart-c-museums-worcestershireThis 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.
web-toy-cart-with-owner-in-1907-c-museums-worcestershireThe 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

Smoking Concerts

smokingconcert001This 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.