In Commemoration – Nuneaton Charter Day 1907

I’m really looking forward to our next Hands on History session on Saturday 18 March, which explores objects from the museum collections created specifically to commemorate events of local and national significance.

An object I am excited to share with our visitors is a booklet produced in 1957 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Nuneaton Charter Day, which took place on 28th September 1907.

Nuneaton Charter Day Golden Jubilee Booklet 1957

Nuneaton Charter Day Golden Jubilee Booklet 1957

Nuneaton Charter Day marked the merger of Nuneaton and Chilvers Coton into a single municipal borough, which Edward VII granted by charter in 1907.

The first page of the booklet presents a Jubilee message from The Worshipful Mayor of Nuneaton, Councillor Robert Wilkinson and announces that the 1957 Charter Day Celebrations will include a Civic Exhibition.

Nuneaton Museum and Art Gallery’s founder, Edward Ferdinand Melly, appears in the booklet, which includes photographs and dates of office of Nuneaton Mayors from 1907 to 1957. Melly served three terms of office as Mayor of Nuneaton from 1908 to 1909, 1909 to 1910 and 1927 to 1928.

A page of Nuneaton Mayors from the Nuneaton Charter Day booklet including Edward Ferdinand Melly

A page of Nuneaton Mayors from the Nuneaton Charter Day booklet including Edward Ferdinand Melly

Also of interest, is a photograph included in the booklet which shows damage caused to Melly’s home in the 1941 Nuneaton air raid.

Photograph in Nuneaton Charter Day booklet showing air raid damage to Melly's home in 1941

Photograph in Nuneaton Charter Day booklet showing air raid damage to Melly’s home in 1941 (bottom)

The booklet details the formation of the George Eliot Fellowship in 1930 and recounts that a garden design competition held in 1951 by the borough Council resulted in the creation of the George Eliot Memorial Gardens.

The Museum Access Assitants look forward to sharing this and many other fascinating objects with you from 11am to 4pm on Saturday 18 March in the Picture Gallery.We hope to see you there.

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What is it like to volunteer in the museum stores?

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Volunteer Julie working on a plate that belonged to the Stanley family.

Julie has been volunteering to help with our collections audit for over a year. She has worked on a wide range of objects in store, looking at everything from world cultures to social history objects. Here she shares the recent work she has been doing to help accession a fascinating group of objects into the Museum collection.

“Volunteering to help with accessioning objects in the stores at the Museum has been very interesting. I have come across many unusual, interesting, rare, weird and wonderful objects.

It has been like opening Pandora’s Box, to find out what’s inside each one.  I have come across objects from all corners of the earth. The collection surprises and intrigues me, and I’ve wondered how the objects have made it to this Museum in the centre of England, miles away from where they belonged.

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Julie uncovered Reginald Rowley’s fascinating experiences in the Second World War.

Every week I come to the stores and pick a box off the shelf and wonder what I will find.  My latest find has been of great interest, as it has been a collection given to the Museum by the brother of a local man, Reginald Rowley.

Reginald Rowley wrote an account of his time during the war. He was a young man at the start of the Second World War, and joined the Territorial Army.  As soon as war broke out he became a regular soldier and was sent to France, and then to Belgium to fight.  It was here he was captured and sent to a Prisoner of War camp in Germany.  He had many photos taken in the camp, showing boxing tournaments and plays put on by the prisoners to entertain themselves.  The collection contains letters between Reginald and his cousin Doreen who was back in Nuneaton. Reginald wrote in a diary a full account of the march the Germans took them on over several days as the Allies were approaching towards the end of the war.

A glimpse into Reginald Rowley’s journal kept in 1945 as he was marched away from advancing Russian troops.

A glimpse into Reginald Rowley’s journal kept in 1945 as he was marched away from advancing Russian troops.

Reginald was interested in local history and writing, and in particular he had a great interest in the Stanley family, writing many articles and collecting photos and memorabilia.  One item was a plate (see photograph above) with an image of a woman in the centre, which after a bit of research I discovered to be Maria Octavie Stanley, Reginald Stanley’s wife.”

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Designer and Maker

Join us on Saturday 18th February for a Hands on History session when we look at the role of the Designer and Maker and the commitment and passion each have for their art.

One of the objects we will share with you is this pen and ink mood board for the cover of Punch magazine  by Nuneaton born cartoonist Noel Ford.

Noel Ford is a nationally acclaimed, award winning cartoonist whos work has appeared in many newspapers and publications over the past forty years.

It wasn’t until the age of thirty-three that Ford became a full time cartoonist, creating cartoons for publications including Private Eye, Morning Advertiser and Punch Magazine.

Punch Magazine was renowned for its witty humor and satire, providing a platform for artists and writers to comment on political events, alongside aspects of everyday life.

This mood board gives us a great insight into how a cartoonist works and develops his ideas. Mood boards like this are used by many designers to document their early stages of planning & development.

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Come and explore this and other objects this Saturday at our Hands on History event. No need to book, just drop in! Camellia and I look forward to seeing you in the Picture Gallery from 11.00am until 4.00pm.

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The Four Seasons

January’s Hands on History session reflects on the year ahead, taking as its theme the seasons of spring, summer, autumn and winter. Each season will be represented by an amazing object from the collection!

Nineteenth century ice skates

Winter: nineteenth century ice skates

Symbolising winter is a pair of nineteenth century ice skates made of iron, which are unsurprisingly, very heavy. These ice skates would have been fitted to the boots or shoes of the wearer and have an adjustable mechanism to fit them correctly. This pair, made for an adult skater, are marked with an ‘L’ and ‘R’ for left and right and with the number 12 indicating their size.

Ice skating isn’t a new sport! At the bottom of a lake in Switzerland, a pair of ancient ice skates, thought to have been worn circa 3000 BC, were discovered. Made from the leg bones of large animals, these skates were tied to the feet of the wearer using leather straps laced through holes made in each end of the bone.

The word ‘skates’ originates from the Dutch word ‘schaats’. In Holland, skating dates back to the 1300s, where it was used as a means of transportation over the frozen canals. In the mid-seventeenth century, during his exile in Holland, King Charles II was captivated by ice skating. On his return, he helped introduce it to this country, where it soon became popular.

In England, the first artificial, mechanically refrigerated ice rink was built in 1876. It was situated near to the King’s Road in Chelsea, London and named The Glaciarium.

Please join us for a journey in objects through The Four Seasons on Saturday 21 January from 11 – 4pm in the Picture Gallery. Look forward to seeing you there!

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Keep Dancing: The amazing career of a local stage star

Jean Daniel in wearing her ENSA uniform. Photograph taken in Paris, 1944.

Jean Daniel in wearing her ENSA uniform. Photograph taken in Paris, 1944.

In late 2016 the Museum acquired a new addition to its collection, a large framed handkerchief with embroidered autographs of some of the stars of the stage from the last century. Names include Gracie Fields, Jimmy James, Elizabeth French, Eamon Andrews, Bertha Williams and the Lantry Trio among many others.

The autographs were collected by Nuneaton resident Jean Daniel (1926-2016) over the course of her remarkable career. Jean Daniel, nee Raynor, performed in her first professional pantomime aged 12 with the Coventry Babes in 1938. During the Second World War she was posted in Paris with the Entertainments National Service Association (ENSA) where she helped to provide entertainment for British armed forces personnel. In her early career Jean was a Tiller Girl, performing at the London Coliseum.

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Jean danced in London with the Tiller Girls.

Jean’s career took her around the world on cruise ships but she continued to perform and contribute to the cultural life of the Borough. Jean performed in plays in Nuneaton, sometimes alongside her husband Ken, ran Miss Raynor’s Dance School and helped with the Festival of Arts. When Jean worked alongside a famous performer she would ask them to sign the handkerchief. These autographs were later embroidered, we believe by the artist Vera Hodgkinson, a friend of Jean’s.

Jean died aged 90 in 2016. We were very touched that she wanted the scarf to be given to the Museum and hope that it will evoke memories for those who see it. We would be interested to hear from anyone who has memories either of Jean or of attending Miss Raynor’s Dance School. Please email Becky at becky.harvey@nuneatonandbedworth.gov.uk.

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Do you remember Miss Raynor’s Dance School?

Photographs courtesy of Josephine Birch.

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Unveiling our new George Eliot acquisition

Earlier this year we asked you whether you thought we should bid at auction for an object relating to George Eliot (‘To collect or not to collect’). We were really grateful for the feedback we received and are pleased to report that we were successful at auction. The new display will be unveiled on Friday 16th December to coincide with the 136th anniversary of the author’s death next week.

The object we acquired is a beautifully crafted and intimate sculpture of what is believed to be George Eliot’s left hand. We purchased it using visitor donations. The intricate, white marble sculpture depicts Eliot’s left hand resting on a cushion, which is entwined with a flowering plant. It has been incised ‘George Eliot’.

It is thought to have been made shortly after Eliot’s death on 22nd December 1880 as part of the Victorian tradition of remembering the dead through artworks, sculpture and jewellery known as memento mori.

We were struck by the detail of the sculpture when you look at it close up and feel it is a very moving and personal object. We would like to say thank you for the generosity of our visitors whose donations made this acquisition possible and hope that you enjoy the new display. We think it provides an exciting new opportunity to explore the personality and life of an inspiring Nuneaton born woman.

The sculpture will be on display for members of the public to enjoy from Saturday 17th December in the George Eliot Gallery.

Find out more!

If you would like to find out more about the Victorians and their relationship with death you might be interested in January’s lunchtime talk ‘Death and the Victorians’. The talk will take place on Friday 20th January, 12:30pm. Places are free but booking is essential. Please call the Museum on 024 7637 6158 for more information.

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Time travel through the sharing of objects!

During our next Hands on History session on Saturday 17th December we will go on a journey through the decades as we will share with you a selection of objects used to capture and record time from the museums collection, without which it may have been impossible to recollect these moments at all.

On display will be clocks, cameras, lantern slides, photographs and much more, including this beautiful Swiss calendar pocket watch, dated 1910.

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The white enamel clock face has roman numerals and three calendar dials, one each for the month of the year, date of the month and day of the week.

The larger blue, forth dial circle is used to depict the phases of the moon. This lunar addition means the watch has more than one purpose and is able to tell us more than the current time. This is referred to as a complication.

The moon, sun and constellations were once the only means of tracking the passing of time. This watch is a perfect reminder of how our method of recording time have changed and progressed, putting into question what methods may be used in the future?

Please join us in the Picture Gallery between 11am to 4pm.

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