Hands on History – It Pays To Advertise

Join us on  Saturday 15th October  when you can get hands on with objects from the Museum collections which follow the theme of product advertising.

We will go back in time to compare and establish the development of advertising over previous decades and see how much the advertising world has changed. From black and white to colour, from reading all about it to seeing all about it on the television screen, we will have on display a variety of products, packing samples and advertisements that you may recognise, even today, including Gillette, Horlicks, Mcdonald’s & OXO.

Below is an example of  two wartime advertisements  promoting two different brands through text and illustration.

Both advertisements were published on Thursday March 15th 1945, a few months prior to the end of the Second World War and in the newspaper that claimed to be ‘The advertising media that gets results’, the Midland Daily Tribune.


Gillette in Battledress implies that even everyday toiletries had a part to play in aiding the armed forces! Here the Royal Navy is associated with the brand.  Gillette has been associated with soldiers since the First World War when they produced razors for soldiers to carry in their kits.


Horlicks was also an important product carried by soldiers at home and on the front lines during the First and Second World Wars due to its high calorie count and its non-perishing packaging. The phrase ‘When Horlicks is scarce, don’t forget that many have special need of it’ implies both its popularity and its significance during wartime, contributing to the recovery of wounded soldiers as well as sustaining those working in heavy industry.

Both prints present an emotional and patriotic perspective in advertising and the ability for advertisements to link with wider events.

We look forward to seeing you in the Picture Gallery on Saturday between 11 am – 4pm, and finding out what advertisements you remember and if they had an influence on the items you bought.


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The story of the Nuneaton Bus Disaster, 1924

blab-imageOver the summer we displayed a series of local stories in the Blab exhibition and asked visitors for their feedback. Our visitors told us that one of the stories they found most moving was the story of the Nuneaton Bus Disaster, which occurred on 30 August 1924.

Seven people died in the Nuneaton bus tragedy on the Cock & Bear bridge. Most of the victims came from Stockingford.

When the 14 seater omnibus ran low on fuel the driver stopped to re-fill the tank. A huge flame burst, burning the driver and causing him to spill some of the fuel.

This fed the fire and flames spread quickly, engulfing the bus. People rushed to the back to leave the bus, but the vehicle was crowded and many were trapped inside.

Herbert Rollason, a miner and father of eight died saving others including his wife, a neighbour’s daughter and her friend. Walter Smith saved his wife and baby son but died alongside his five-year-old daughter.

Although the fire brigade attended quickly, all that remained of the bus afterwards was its frame. The fire was so hot it melted the coins passengers were carrying. Some of the dead were identified by their jewellery and wounds suffered in the First World War.

Nuneaton’s tragedy shocked the nation. As a result, the maximum number of people allowed on buses everywhere was reduced to make sure all passengers could reach the emergency exit.

The story of the Nuneaton Bus Disaster will be displayed again in Blab 2 (15 October-11 December) alongside new stories from the borough’s history. Your feedback on these displays will help us decide which stories to tell in the Local History Gallery. Come along and tell us which stories are most powerful to you!

Blab is part of the Creative Museums project led by Battersea Arts Centre and funded by Arts Council England.


As we prepared to display this story we uncovered more objects in our collection relating to the bus disaster. Nuneaton born artist Charles Jacombs (1876-1926) was involved in the 1924 bus tragedy. He survived but was left with a damaged heart, which eventually led to his death two years later.

'Cock Bear Inn, Wash Lane, Nuneaton' by Charles Jacombs (1923)

‘Cock Bear Inn, Wash Lane, Nuneaton’ by Charles Jacombs (1923)

Our collection contains several oil paintings by Jacombs including ‘Cock Bear Inn’. Painted in 1923 it depicts the pub that gave the site of the bus disaster, the Cock & Bear bridge, its name.


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What are you devoted to?

Our next Hands on History session, on Saturday 17th September will explore the theme of ‘Devotion.’ On display will be a variety of objects that each tell a different story and establish how devotion can be found in love, friendship, loyalty and family.

One of the objects we will share with you is this beautifully carved African twin statuette from the Yoruba tribe, one of Africa’s largest ethnic groups located in southwestern Nigeria. The tribe is renowned for its high twinning rate, however due to genetics many of the twins are born early and do not survive infancy without the aid of modern medicine.

African Twins Statuette Staight On


Through ritual & tradition the tribe believe twins have special supernatural powers and produce unique wooden statues to commemorate and replicate the lost twin. The inanimate statue is treated as though alive; dressed in clothing and jewellery, ritually washed in herbs and presented with refreshment each time the mother goes to eat.

African Twins Statuette. Face

This tradition now exists only in Yoruba, where the devoted mother maintains the statue on a domestic altar and continues to look after the child she has lost. Although this story is incredibly sad, there is true beauty in the ritual, where by commemorating the child good fortune is brought to the family and also to the children the mother may have in the future.

African Twin Statuette. Right

Not all devotions are so sad many are filled with joy. We are all devoted to something and we would love to hear about the devotions you might have!

We look forward to seeing you in the picture gallery on Saturday the 17th September from 11.00am until 4.00pm.

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Inspired by George Eliot’s Boots

Our August object handling session, examines two items from our collections, which respond to the theme: Dress to Impress. One of the objects we shall share with our visitors at the session is a beautiful pair of cream, kid leather ankle boots that belonged to George Eliot.




In addition to being an Access Assistant at Nuneaton Museum, I am a published poet. I recently, wrote a new poem inspired by these boots. I read the poem as part of my set at Writers in Warwickshire Festival at Astley Castle in June with George Eliot looking over my shoulder!




I would like to share the poem with our blog readers. The poem uses George Eliot’s original name: Mary Ann Evans. In the poem, I imagine that Mary Ann chose the boots for her honeymoon in Venice with John Cross, her second partner. Her previous partner, Henry Lewes, whom she lived with for 24 years but never married because he was already in an open marriage, died in 1878. George Eliot married John Cross, twenty years her junior, in 1880, the year of her death.

Mary Ann Evan’s Honeymoon Boots

Kid leather, milky and silken as butter
churned by Mary Ann in father’s dairy,

in God’s dairy, where her turning hand
broadened in the occupation of prayer.

From the Red Deeps, the brown canal,
where ivory boots could never fare well

to London drawing rooms, Regent’s Park,
in slender steps, still dewy from the pond.

Gingerly, Mary Ann tried on second love
like a new pair of boots with skin the hue

of a manuscript in candlelight, laid out
for her last chapter: a younger man’s love.

She bade goodbye to her unmarried status
as Venice beckoned and her trousseau,

unabashedly, revered the latest fashions.
Her offbeat get-ups of the past cast off.

She came from the town where ribbons
were woven, from the farm where pats

of butter were moulded and on the tips
of her bridal toes, she wore silk rosettes

that flourished like fine curls of butter,
floated atop the cream like water lilies.

by Camellia Stafford




Kayleigh and I look forward to seeing you for our object handling session Dress to Impress in the Yellow Gallery on Saturday 20 August from 11 – 4pm.

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Baby’s first shoes

This week I’m sharing items from one of our latest acquisitions, a collection of five pairs of baby’s shoes.

2016-10-2The shoes were worn by Duncan Claridge who was born in Nuneaton in 1949. They date from the late 1940s and early 1950s. Duncan’s aunt was a seamstress and it’s possible that she made some of his first pairs of shoes.

2016-10-32016-10-4It was only in the 1940s that today’s norm of pink for girls and blue for boys began to gain popularity and it took some to become widespread. Before this it was common for boys to wear pink shoes, such as those belonging to Duncan. The design and style of the blue shoes decorated with small flowers and a button fastening also have a long history, resembling those worn by Victorian children.

To care for these new acquisitions I’ve padded the shoes out with acid free tissue paper, which helps to re-create and preserve their shape. The leather shoes have also been treated with Renaissance wax to condition and protect them.

We think the shoes are a lovely reminder of childhood and life growing up in the Borough in the 1940s and 1950s. We’ll look forward to sharing them with you in future displays!


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School’s Out!

It’s the end of a very productive year working with our local schools and colleges!

Film and Media students from King Edward VI College worked with an animation artist to produce our fantastic ‘Little Brother’ stop motion film.  You may remember this featured in our ‘Protest’ exhibition and drew praise from teachers and visitors alike.
We rounded our year of school projects off in June with a very successful visit by pupils from Arc School, Old Arley. In this project pupils were invited ‘behind the scenes’ to investigate objects in our stores that have an industrial or architectural link. Taking inspiration from the objects they were then tasked to produce a piece of artwork back in the classroom.
So, as another school year ends and the summer holidays begin, we are already hard at work planning more school projects in the autumn. Thank you to all the teachers, pupils and students for your enthusiasm and creativity which makes all our projects very special!IMG_6440

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Let me share with you an object that speaks of Crime & Punishment. . . .

Whilst searching in the Museum store in preparation for out next Hands on History session, Kayleigh, one of our Access Assistants came across this crystal.


“This colourless oval caught my eye as it reflected the light so beautifully. Beside it was a transcript of an original letter, composed by Mr H. Evans a Superintendent based in Nuneaton, without which I would not have known the crystals purpose or significance, particularly in regards to Crime & Punishment in Nuneaton during the early 1900s.


The transcript reads;

‘This crystal was found on a gipsy which was used by her for fortune-telling and was at Law Courts Nuneaton on July 1920’.

The act of fortune-telling involves the prediction of future events and aspects of a particular sitter’s life. Unfortunately we do not know the name of the fortune-teller to whom this crystal belonged but we have discovered that the crystal was confiscated from them and they were evicted from Nuneaton.  At this time the acts of fortune-telling, astrology and spiritualism were deemed punishable offences under the ‘Vagrancy Act’ established by Parliament in 1824.”

Join Kayleigh and Camellia at the Museum & Art Gallery from 11am – 4pm on Saturday 16th July, where they will share with you more objects, exploring their association with both Crime and Punishment.

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