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.



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.


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


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.


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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Shopping in the Borough – a story told through photographs

This week one of the small displays in the Blab (Landing Gallery) will explore the Borough’s retail history.

A short film will show photographs from our collection taken of shops in Nuneaton and Bedworth. The photographs provide a fascinating glimpse into how the towns used to look and the changing nature of shopping in Britain. Some shops have disappeared from our streets but others are still recognisable today. Here are a couple of our favourite photographs from the film.

Nuneaton Market Place, 1920s.

Nuneaton Market Place, 1920s.

Shopping in Bedworth, 1970s.

Shopping in Bedworth, 1960s-1970s.

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A treasure in our stores

Last week in the Blab exhibition we presented the story of the train crash of 1975.

On 6 June 1975 a sleeper train travelling between London Euston and Glasgow derailed on its journey here in Nuneaton. Six people were killed and 38 people were injured.

The crash took place just before 2am. The train entered a temporary speed restriction too fast. There had also been a faulty light on the railway line as the train travelled towards Nuneaton.

This story was on display in the Blab for a week. During this time we collected feedback from visitors to help us decide if this is a story we should tell in the Local History Gallery. The story of the train crash was really well received so we placed it in the Blab’s story vault for safekeeping.

We were pleased that the story of the train crash resonated with visitors but we also had a problem. We didn’t think we had any objects in our collection that could help us to tell this story in the Local History Gallery.

Then, quite by chance, we discovered a real treasure in our stores. Our volunteer Marion was working on our ongoing collections audit when she came across an old sign from Nuneaton Railway Station. We believe it dates from the mid 20th century but would be interested in receiving more information about it.


Most museums have a documentation backlog and with the help of volunteers we are working hard to clear ours. The sign is a fantastic object but has probably never been accessioned so we weren’t aware of it. We now have a bit of research to do before we accession and catalogue the sign to make sure visitors can enjoy it in future.

The Nuneaton railway sign has been added to the story vault and will be on display on the Landing Gallery until 11 December 2016.

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