During World War One, 38,000 women volunteered for the Voluntary Aid Detachment units both at home and overseas, assisting medical staff with the treatment and care of sick and injured soldiers. Many of these women had never worked before and as VADs they worked long shifts that often involved dirty and hard manual labour.
Most VAD nurses had no relevant experience when they first began, but gradually added to their knowledge and skills and were duly awarded badges or stripes indicating their proficiency in sanitation, first aid, bandaging and dressings.
VAD nurses were required to either hand sew or pay for their own uniforms to be made.
Despite the often messy nature of their work, the VAD uniform was expected to look pristine and had to be worn according to strict regulations, both inside and outside of the hospital. Nurses often got in trouble for accessorizing with earrings and purses.
The VAD uniform pictured was transferred by the British Red Cross from the Balfour Museum of Red Cross History in Hampshire and is now part of the Worcestershire County Museum Collection. It can be seen in A Happy Convalescence: Hartlebury Castle’s History as a WWI Voluntary Aid Detachment Hospital at Worcestershire County Museum at Hartlebury until autumn 2018.
A Happy Convalescence is part of the Worcestershire World War One Hundred project. Funded through the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), Worcestershire World War One Hundred is one of the largest programme of events across England commemorating the First World War, involving cultural and heritage organisations County-wide through until 2018.
This is a model of an agricultural steam traction engine. Agricultural engines worked on farms from the late 19th to mid-20th century, hauling loads and powering other forms of agricultural equipment such as a threshing drum.
The traction engine was a revolutionary design, as it was able to move under its own power, rather than the engine being towed from farm to farm by a team of horses.
The model is freelance in nature as it incorporates many of the workings of a full-size traction engine, but is not modelled on any particular design.
Steam engines typically burn coal to heat the water and generate steam, however the scale model would have run on methylated spirits or a form of gas as this is easier to control in small scale.
The model includes some typical features of a traction engine such as the straked rear wheels. Strakes (referring to the strips of metal fitted parallel to one and other on the back wheels) helped engines to gain grip in wet or muddy conditions.
The engine in the Worcestershire County museum collection is likely to have been made by a model engineer, but now requires some work before she is able to steam again.
Barney Hill, volunteer researcher and steam engine enthusiast
Thomas Habington was arguably one of Worcestershire’s rebels. He was a member of a staunch Catholic family from Hindlip Hall near Worcester and was involved in two of the most famous Catholic plots to unseat the reigning monarch, the Babington Plot of 1586 and the Gunpowder Plot of 1605. For the first he was imprisoned in the Tower of London for six years and for the second he was condemned to death.
Through family connections his sentence was reduced. Habington was arrested for sheltering Jesuit priests at Hindlip and indicted in London, but was spared by the influence of his brother-in-law, Lord Monteagle. Over the next forty years he studied, parish by parish, the history of the county up to the opening of Elizabeth’s reign. He spent his time researching and writing and is believed to have been Worcestershire’s first historian. It’s likely that his books and papers were stored within the chest that bears his initials and the date, 1605, in roman numerals.
The chest has been restored, with support from the Kay Trust, and parts of it dated by dendrochronology to a tree which was felled in the sixteenth century. Research by Stephen Price, Worcestershire Archaeological Society Curator, has traced the history of the chest further. Thomas wrote in a letter, during the civil war, that he had buried the chest in the woods at Hindlip Hall to protect the contents from soldiers. The chest may also be one of those mentioned in two eighteenth century inventories of Hindlip. In 1814 the hall was demolished and the chest was rescued by Dr Peter Prattinton of Bewdley. The chest is now in the care of Worcestershire Archaeological Society.
The Stuart Kings greatly enjoyed all the ceremonies of the monarchy and they believed their entitlement to wear the crown and other honours of state were a privilege given direct from God. Needless to say, this became an important point of debate and disagreement during the English Civil War.
The English Crown – St Edward’s – had reputedly been used by every English monarch since William the Conqueror in 1066. After the execution of Charles I, Oliver Cromwell ordered the crown and associated regalia be broken up, with the jewels sold off and the precious metal used to make coins. The Crown of Scotland, however, was used to crown Charles II before the battles of Dunbar and Worcester and then survived the rest of the Interregnum (when England was a republic and had no monarch) by being secretly buried. When Charles II was restored as King in 1660, he ordered that St Edward’s Crown be recreated. The Crown of Scotland, thus now the oldest surviving British crown, still appears at special occasions in Scotland such as the opening of the new Parliament building. Its permanent home is Edinburgh Castle.
The Worcester City museum collection includes a set of drawings of the regalia of the Stuart family, of which this characterful picture is one.
This beautiful cream-coloured dress dates from around 1770 and has some exquisite features despite its fragile state. Gorgeous sprays of honeysuckle and lilac are delicately embroidered to the bodice and sleeves.
The dress is made from ‘Spitalfields’ silk, which refers to the industry which arose in East London in the 16th century, when the French Protestant Huguenots fled persecution to London, and many skilled weavers and experts in sericulture (silk farming) settled in the Spitalfields area.
Objects like this dress, which resides in the Worcestershire county costume collection, must be stored, handled and conserved very carefully to ensure that the collections continue to be accessible in the future, and many costume items are stored in purpose-built pods with humidity-controlled heating.
Special dusting guidelines advise avoiding tools such as brushes, which can cause damage, and carefully checking areas for loose threads before performing any cleaning.
William Blizzard Williamson arrived in Worcester with his family in the early 1850s. He started a small business in Lowesmoor manufacturing a wide range of articles in sheet steel and tinplate.
In 1858 Williamson built a new factory called The Providence Works. They made all sorts of items ranging from trunks, hatboxes and cutlery trays to fine showpieces, with specialities including ballot boxes and judge’s wig boxes.
He was succeeded in 1878 by his sons, William and George, who could see the potential of using tins for storing products and keeping them fresh. During the 1800s, William developed the ‘lever lid’ tin, the standard container used for products such as paint, custard powder and treacle. George invented the ‘cutter lid tin’ for cigarettes and tobacco.
In 1890 George formed a limited company called G.H. Williamson and Sons Ltd, but it was his son G.E. Williamson who saw the potential of using mass production techniques and set up a new canning factory in Worcester. In 1930 he became director of a group of several independent tin-plate manufacturers, who called themselves Metal Box.
Williamson’s money helped construct a brand new open-top canning factory that produced millions of metal cans from Perry Wood in Worcester.
This helmet from the Worcester City Museum collection is a perfect example of what many soldiers, particularly in the New Model Army, would have worn into battle during the English Civil War. Known as a Morion, this helmet would have been worn primarily by pikemen.
The Morion was an ideal helmet to be worn by infantry who would have had to engage enemy cavalry.
The wide brim protected the wearer’s shoulders and face from any downwards sword strike, which could come from a mounted enemy soldier.
The ridge that runs along the top of the helmet both protects the wearer by deflecting the blunt force trauma of a strike away from the cranium; but it could also be used as an offensive weapon to strike the enemy should the wearer become disarmed in hand to hand combat.
While the ridge itself is in no way sharp, repeated strikes against an opponent’s head using the helmet as a bludgeon would be fatal.
This 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.
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.