How sculpture is made

This week, we are really excited to be opening our first ever exhibition of sculpture from the Museum’s collection.

A sculpture is a three-dimensional form. It is generally considered to be something unique that has been created to be visually artistic rather than having a practical function. Sculptures are very diverse. They are often made from hard materials such as stone or metal, but can be produced from almost anything: wood, glass, clay, ice, sand and even food! Sometimes sculptures are carved, sometimes they are modelled, assembled or cast using a mould.

For today’s blog, I thought I would explore some of the techniques that have been used to create the sculptures in our current exhibition.


Carving is when tools are used to shape a material by scraping or chipping portions away from it. It is a ‘subtractive’ technique as material is removed rather than added to create the sculpture. The material being used to make the sculpture must be solid enough to hold a form when pieces have been removed but soft enough for areas to be scraped away. Stone and wood are popular materials for sculptural carving.

This carved head from Africa is made from a wood called ebony which has a mirror finish when polished.


Soapstone has been carved to create this sculpture of an Inuit hunter from the Arctic region.



Clay is soft and versatile and can be modelled into different shapes. It can be dyed before sculpting or can be glazed afterwards to create different coloured finishes. Sculptures made from clay must be fired in a kiln to make them stronger – though there is always a risk that they might break in the kiln.

This sculpture, by local artist Jo Connell, consists of 3 modelled ‘pebbles’. The artist often uses coloured pieces of clay and marbles them together before sculpting them.

Jo Connell sculpture


Assembling is when pieces are stuck, or attached, together to create a sculpture. This donkey’s cart has been assembled from small pieces of wood. It is a tourist piece, thought to be from Palermo in Sicily.



Casting is a method of producing one or more copies of a sculpture. The original sculpture is carved or modelled as usual and then covered with a moulding material which sets hard when dry. The mould is then separated, to release the original sculpture, and further sculptures can be created using the mould. This technique is especially useful for making master casts for subsequent reproductions in metal or plastic.

This sculpture ‘Life’ by local artist, John Letts, was cast in resin (a type of plastic) using a mould. The surface has been finished in bronze.


Bronze casting has been used to produce this Gautama Buddha from Thailand.


Please do come and see these sculptures, and more, in our exhibition which is now open at the Museum.





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Chapters XV11-XV11 Dairying a source of “worrit”.

Wooden butter pats and decorative moulds for making butter.
Wooden pats and decorative moulds for making butter.

When I read that Nancy is advised to begin dairying by her sister Priscilla I immediately brought my 21st century attitudes to bear.  I considered the difficulty of women of a certain class, finding pastimes to fill their hours particularly in the absence of motherhood.  I knew that Eliot herself had been put to work in her mothers dairy an occupation she continued after her mother’s death so was not surprised that such a pastime might be used. .  Indeed rumours circulated that one of Eliot’s hands was larger than the other as a result of the physical labour of making cheese. In Adam Bede; Eliot lovingly describes Mrs Poysers Dairy;

The dairy was certainly worth looking at: it was a scene to sicken for with a sort of calenture in hot and dusty streets-such coolness, such purity, such fresh fragrance of new-pressed cheese, of firm butter, of wooden vessels perpetually bathed in pure water; such soft colouring of red earthenware and creamy surfaces, brown wood and polished tin, grey limestone and rich orange-red rust on the iron weights and hooks and hinges.

In Silas Marner; Priscilla feels that the ‘worrit’ the dairy will produce will distract Nancy from her deeper sadness. But is there something more than the idea of absorbing labour at play here?  Certainly Eliot references the hit and miss nature of butter and cheesemaking when she discusses ‘conquering the butter’.  Chees in particular could be variable in its quality at the time this novel was set.  Josiah Twamley’s book on dairying in 1787 sought to ensure that cheese became more reliable in its quality.  As science began to take an interest it became clear that it wasn’t just the breed of cow or its feed that were deciding factors in quality that the temperature and humidity at the time of making also had an impact.  To overcome this the women, and they were mainly women, needed experience to alter their methods accordingly.

Picture of Griff House back door
Black and white photograph of Griff House, the back door.

However as Nicola Verdon’s paper from 2006 also reveals, women were not just the labourers and experts in these enterprises they were the managers and controlling intetests in these dairying ventures.  This transforms a picture of domestic duty to one of entrepreneurship and active financial contribution. Taken in this light Priscilla maybe talking about the ‘worrit’ of running a business rather than purely domestic distraction.  Indeed Priscilla who manages her father’s farm, speaks of her need to return home as her employee the dairymaid who is distracted by romance and not as invested in the success of the dairy may waste milk.  The dairy therefore is a genuine and realistic solution offered by Priscilla to the lack of a role in Nancy’s life.

Source: Women and the dairy industry in England c1800-1939 by Nicola Verdon, Profesor of Modern History, History Subject Group Sheffield Hallam University. at XIV International Economic History Congress, Helsinki, Finland August 2006

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Results from our Visitor Survey

Thank you to everyone who completed our survey about returning to visiting the museum.  It’s really helped us to finalise our plans for re-opening.

Overall, most people wanted to see limited capacity at the museum and they also wanted to see pre-booking.  So when we open next Tuesday people will be asked to pre-book for an hourly slot.  We will keep numbers very limited and only increase them when we are confident that visitors will still be able to social distance effectively.The responses also showed that people were keen to have a one way route to follow so we have created that.  We are also ensuring that there will be hand sanitising stations at the front desk and by the lift. 

To meet peoples expectations about extra cleaning we will have one team member cleaning frequently touched areas for 30 minutes each hour.  We will also have someone permanently stationed at the toilets ensuring that they are cleansed regularly throughout the day.  It will be only one person or household in the toilets at any one time to assist with social distancing.  If you want to find out more please visit the FAQ page which is part of this blog.

In terms of extra content in the gallery, QR codes have been added to some of the displays providing extra content as this was something people wanted to see.  For younger visitors there are bunnies hidden around the building for them to try and spot.

As we know some of our regulars are still shielding we will continue to provide new features on facebook, instagram and on this blog.

We will continue to monitor government advice along with visitor feedback to ensure we bring everyone our best and safest service.

Once again many thanks for all your feedback!

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The First Mary Berry, Meet Elisabeth Raffald.

One of my favourite objects in the collection is a cookbook. It is called, “The Experienced English Housekeeper, For the use and ease of Ladies, Housekeepers, Cooks and &c” and was written by Elizabeth Raffald. Ours is the eighth edition and it was published in 1782 a year after her death.  Although it wasn’t the first recipe book ever published it was remarkable in many ways.

In my own home I have the same cookbook as my mother used to teach my sister and I to bake,”English Electric Cooker Book”.  The first thing I ever baked was from the book. Its pages are stained but I keep it all the same.  Which maybe why this cookbook survived to find its way into the museum’s collection.

Probably the oldest cookbook in existence is the Yale Tablets, these are 4 clay tablets and they include a recipe for meat stew. Recipes developed, as people travelled to new places, discovered new ingredients and new cooking methods were discovered. The first cookbook in English was “Forme of Cury” which was written by the chefs of Richard II in 1390. These first collections of recipes were for Kings and the wealthy, it took time for books of recipes to be created for everyone.

Elizabeth Raffald was born in 1733 in Doncaster. She was to have a remarkable career as a writer, entrepreneur and benefactor whilst raising her family. Unfortunately her husband was a suicidal alcoholic which added to her challenges. She was 15 years old when she went into domestic service. She worked her way up finally becoming Housekeeper to the Warburton baronets at Arley, Hall, Cheshire. On her marriage she moved to Manchester setting up a catering business, followed by an employment agency. She also set up a shop and cookery school before turning to writing.

Her book the Experienced English Housekeeper became a must have. It was an unusual cookbook for that time in that the recipes were all her own ideas. The book is credited with the invention of the wedding cake called Bride cake, as well as the first written down recipes for crumpets. She didn’t confine her writing to cooking she created the first trade directory for Manchester. She also worked with surgeon Charles White to produce a manual for midwifery. It was published, but not in her name, its thought her husband sold off the rights. The manual would have been of particular interest to Elisabeth who gave birth to nine children. Elisabeth also invested in two local newspapers. However her husband’s illness led to the family often being in debt meaning they had to sell off their various businesses. Elizabeth died of a spasm at the age of 48, it was thought to have been caused by overwork. 

To find out more about Elizabeth Raffald, a society dedicated to her has its own website,

The Cookbook, was very popular although by modern standards there is a lack of detail in the recipes. Indeed Mrs Beeton who is far more well known now, used some of Elizabeth’s recipes. To publish the book Elizabeth gathered subscribers who would pay for their edition in advance so she would have the money to fund the costs of publication. The eighth edition includes directions for nearly 900 dishes including fish ponds and many which focus on techniques like pickling to extend the life of food. She also included the recipes for confectionery that she sold in her own shop. I thought I would include three recipes for people to try at home, a recipe for raspberry drops to carry in the pocket, one of how to stew peas with lettuce and finally  how to make fishponds.

 To make Raspberry Drops.

Take the juice of raspberries or red currants, add as much treble refined sugar beaten and finely sifted as will make it into a thin paste, drop them upon a fine cap paper with a teaspoon, dry them before the fire, the next day take them off and keep them in a glass jar, it will preserve the flavour.  They are a great ornament to a desert.

To Stew Peas with Lettuce

Shell your peas, boil them in hard water with salt in it, then drain them in a sieve, the cut your lettuces is slices, and fry them in fresh butter, put your peas and lettuces into a tossing pan with a little good gravy, pepper and salt thicken it with flour and butter, put in a little shred mint, and serve it up in a soup dish.

To Make a Fish Pond

Fill four large fish moulds with flummery ( a sweet dish made with beaten eggs, milk sugar and flavourings), and six small ones, take a china bowl and put in a half a pint of stiff clear calf’s foot jelly, let it stand till cold, then lay two of the small dishes on the jelly, the right side down, put in half a pint more jelly, let it stand till cold then lay in the four small dishes across one another that when you turn the bowl upside down  the heads and tails may be seen, then almost fill your bowl with jelly and let is stand until the next day; when you want to use it set your bowl to the brim in hot water for one minute take care that you do not let the water go into the basin, lay your plate on the top of the basin ad turn it upside down, if you want it for the middle, turn it out upon a salver, be sure to make your jelly very stiff and clear. 

We would be really interested to hear and see if you try any of these creations!


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Milk Memories

My one claim-to-fame is that a very young Sean Connery (the actor) used to help my Great Uncle on his milk round in Scotland!

It means that I tend to notice news stories about milkmen.

In recent years, milk delivery has been sharply on the decline. There are now more local shops and supermarkets to buy milk from and people have fridges to keep their milk fresh. In 1970, 99% of the UK’s milk was door-delivered, last year it was less than 5%.

However, things have changed dramatically this year. The Coronavirus Pandemic has meant that many people are returning to having their milk delivered. The UK’s largest milk and groceries delivery service added 25,000 customers to their books in the first week of Lockdown in March. It’s good times for the milk delivery service again!

So, with milk on my mind, I thought I would focus today’s blog on the role of these little tokens in milk deliveries of the past. Does anyone remember them?


Tokens like these, produced by the Co-operative Society, came into use after the First World War. Customers went into their local Co-op store and exchanged real money for tokens worth the same amount.

These particular tokens are from the Nuneaton Co-operative Society and you can see this is printed on them. There were Co-op branches all over the borough including in Nuneaton, Bedworth, Attleborough, Stockingford, Whittleford, Bulkington, Arley and Weddington. There was a particularly large store in Queen’s Road, Nuneaton, that sold everything from groceries to televisions and gentlemen’s suits. The horses that were used to pull the milk delivery carts were kept at the Co-op Farm in Tuttle Hill, Nuneaton.


The pre-paid milk tokens were either handed to the milkman as he made his delivery rounds or, more usually, left outside on the doorstep with the empty bottles. The token said on it how much it was for – these tokens are all for 1 pint of milk.

The advantage to this system was that no cash was exchanged and no change had to be given. It was safer for milkmen if they didn’t have to carry large amounts of money around with them. It was lighter too and milkmen could deliver more quickly without having to sort out cash at each stop. You only put out vouchers when you needed milk which meant the milk wasn’t wasted.

Another advantage of buying the pre-payment tokens was that your purchase would also go towards your ‘dividend account’ at the Co-op. The Co-op was (and is) a ‘mutual’ society which basically means it is owned by its members and pretty much anyone can join. The ‘dividend account’ was a sort of early loyalty bonus which was paid to members of the Co-op at certain intervals. The amount of tokens bought was recorded in your share book each time.

Why do you think the tokens were different shapes? The tokens changed every time the price of milk increased so that customers paid the correct amount. If you had some old tokens, you simply made up the difference in price with small change. Early tokens were made from different coloured metals including iron, brass, copper, bronze or aluminium, and had a variety of different shapes over time.

Later milk tokens were manufactured from plastic and their colour changed when milk prices increased. Here’s a green plastic milk token from the Nuneaton Co-operative Society.


Different milk tokens were also issued for milk that was free or available at a reduced price. These were printed with ‘1 Welfare Pint’ or ‘Free Milk’, for example. Families with pre-school children got free milk tokens. Coupons from a book were exchanged for the tokens instead of cash.

Online, I have found some great stories about the Co-op milk tokens. One lady remembers that the tokens would often blow away in high winds! Her dad made a special box which he attached to the railings to hold the empty bottles and the tokens. A former Co-op milkman remembers that customers often left their milk tokens inside their empty bottles. In winter, he had to bring the bottles home to pour warm water in them because they had frozen in the bottom!

Other tokens could also be bought in Co-op stores for delivery of other food items such as bread, and even coal. These also said what they were for and the amount on them. These tokens are from the Nuneaton Co-operative Society and were for 1lb and 2lb loaves. These tokens were also issued in different colours as bread prices increased.


The tokens gradually fell out of use, but they were still used by the Co-op in some areas as late as 2006.

We would love to hear if anyone has memories of using these Co-op tokens for the delivery of milk, bread or other groceries.





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Hands on History Labour of the Land

Continuing our series of Digital Hands on History posts, we’ve decided to take a step back and give you the full Labour of the Land experience you will have missed out on in March. It seems especially fitting, now, given the amount of time we’re getting to spend on our own back gardens! Be sure to let us know about the fruits of your labours both now and in the coming months. For now, though, please enjoy some more of our more agricultural objects.



These images depict ploughs. The plough is a tool used to turn over soil in order to prepare the ground for planting. The process of turning the soil brings nutrients up closer to the surface while also burying weeds and previous crops so that they decay. In its most basic form, the plough is a large, sharpened, angled blade that is attached to a wooden framework allowing it to be held in the rear by a human ‘driver’ and attached in front of the blade to a single or team that pulls the whole system forward. The earliest ploughs were pulled by people, but the transition to draft animals occurred relatively early. Oxen were the earliest and only replaced by horses and mules later when developments in harnessing made this possible (more on this with another object).

The first of these is a small model of a plough that originally comes from the Middle East. About 24 centimetres in length, it is made mostly of roughly carved wood although the blade of the plough is sharpened iron. The handle bar is set directly above plough blade. It is hitched to another piece (which would presumably attach to a yoke) by a pair of wooden pegs.

The second is a photograph of a plough in use. This plough, in particular, has a pair of extended poles as handles and also includes a wheel in front of the plough blade for ease of pulling. It is driven by a  pair of draft horses.


This object is the piece we would need to plough with horses rather than oxen. This is a horse collar, and comes to us from Morris Farm in Bedworth. It is oval in shape, 58 cm tall and 35 cm wide, designed to fit around the neck of a horse. It consists of a wooden frame covered with leather and padding for comfortable wearing. The leather is smooth and worn in some places, but still possesses a pleasing leather smell. The horse collar distributes drag weight more evenly, allowing the horse to pulling using its whole force, and importantly takes pressure off of the horse’s windpipe. Horses in these collars were considerably more efficient than oxen, both in terms of their pulling potential and because they had greater endurance. The plough, especially pulled by horses, became a key component in increasing food production and freeing up parts of the population for non-agricultural specialisation.


Going back to North Africa, we have this wonderful object – a skin scraper. This object is larger than you might initially suspect from a cursory glance at this image. It is a crescent-shaped iron blade (still sharp!) about a third of a metre in length. It is socketed onto a ‘T’ shaped, carved wooden handle, the junction of which is supported by wrapped animal skin. Morocco is well known for its leather production and this would be accomplished with the help of this tool. A blade like this is utilised in the leather tanning process for scraping clean the skins that will be soaked, treated, and dried as they are turned into leather. Given its shape, this object would likely be held in an upright standing position, pointing down, and pushed away from the body and downward across a stretched out piece of animal skin.


Keeping with the theme of bladed animal product processing materials, we move onto this object, a set of blade shears that come to us from Church Farm in Bedworth, used for removing the wool from sheep. In composition, it is a pair of sharpened blades facing one another (similar to scissors) and connected by their tang to a loop of metal which acts as the pivot point. Applying pressure to the tangs pushes the blades together, cutting the material between them. Hand shears like this are utilised in places without easy access to power and thus unable to utilise machine shears or locations with colder temperatures as blade shears leave some wool on the animal and allow it to retain more of its warmth. A good shearer can process a sheep with a set of blade shears in about two minutes.


Once you have your wool, however, it still takes some steps before it is ready to be made into a nice jumper. Enter this object, a wool comb, likely coming to us from somewhere in the Atlas Mountains. It has a line of ten long, sharp metal spikes attached to a wooden handle. Used in pairs, these tools are used to separate out different kinds of strands of wool: hard, long, and straight fibres and shorter crinkly fibres. Each kind of fibre is used in the production of different yarns with different weaving properties. A bit of wool is started on one comb and, through the process of running the other comb through the wool, the fibres are pulled off and formed into loose sheets, bringing them one step closer to their final form.


Now we shift our focus to milk production. This is a small glass milk bottle from Callendar Farm Dairy in Nuneaton. It would have been used to store milk and be delivered to recipients in the local area. This particular specimen was found in its donor’s shed, but now it gets a new life of helping inform us about Nuneaton’s past.


Our last object for today is a beautifully carved wooden milk bottle which was produced and used by the Swazi people in Southern Africa. It is ovoid in shape with three evenly spaced legs and a rounded handle attached on top of a lid which completes the top of the egg shape. The smoothed black wood is carved with a pattern of interconnected triangular patches of rows of diagonal lines. These bottles were used to store milk and, in some cases, acted as vessels for the fermenting of milk.

We of course hope that you found some or all of these objects fascinating and would love to hear from you which ones most excited your interest. We’re keen to hear from you if you have any knowledge of your own concerning these objects; we always enjoy hearing and learning from our community.  Until next time we hope you’ve enjoyed this Hands on History blog.

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The Lost Castles of Weddington and Sudeley

Did you know that two castles once existed in Nuneaton?

Weddington Castle was built by Thomas, Marquis of Dorset as a fortified residence. In 1491, he enclosed the entire manor of Weddington, turning the land over for cattle and turning out over 60 tenants who had homes on site.

In 1730, there were four farmhouses and the castle in the manor. It must have been rather quiet as even in 1901 there were less than a hundred people living there!

In March 1916, at the height of the First World War, the lease of Weddington Hall, as it was then known, was secured by Councillor Edward Melly. A well known local philanthropist, Melly had purchased land to create Riversley Park and was already building the Museum & Art Gallery.

Melly was keen to establish a Red Cross Hospital for wounded soldiers. He paid for much of the equipment that the hospital needed himself so that it could become operational quickly. In 1916 when it opened, the hospital was caring for 42 patients. By 1918 this had risen to 364.

Weddington Hall was demolished in 1928 to make way for a housing estate.

Weddington Hall VAD Hospital 1916

Sudeley Castle once stood where the Griff Roundabout is. Until the 1700s it was actually known as Griff Manor House. The site belonged to the Sudeley family who were wealthy landowners in Gloucestershire.

Sudeley Castle was built around 1300. It was made of of stone and timber with a moat surrounding the building.


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Silas Marner, Chapters 13 and 14 “Wonder and Reflection” by Sarah Barnette

Image Courtesy of Lee Allen.

Wonder has long been regarded as the emotion underpinning all of humanity’s greatest achievements. It makes us think, ask questions, and try to answer them. It propels us forward. Religion, science, and art each stem from our capacity for wonder and its related psychological states: curiosity, bewilderment, awe, contemplation, surprise, joy, delight. In Ancient Greece, wonder was recognized as the source of our love of wisdom and capacity for thought. For Plato and Aristotle alike, philosophy would not be possible without it.

We have already seen Silas moved to moments of reflection by his bewilderment. It starts with the disappearance of his gold. His powers of reflection begin to revive in the Rainbow in Chapter 7. Surrounded by the men of Raveloe, Silas is cautioned about accusing the innocent and he responds with a mixture of thoughtful consideration and distress: “‘Yes, yes – I ought to have thought. […] only,’ he added, lifting up his hands to his head, and turning away with bewildered misery, ‘I try – I try to think where my guineas can be.’” At the close of Chapter 12, we left Silas holding the child with a “dreamy feeling” that she “was somehow a message come to him”. There is mystery in her appearance and in Silas it “stir[s] fibres that had never been moved in Raveloe – old quiverings of tenderness – old impressions of awe at the presentiment of some Power presiding over his life.”

In Chapters 13 and 14, George Eliot presses this emotion further, experimenting with what it signifies and what it can achieve. For one thing, it is humbling. It brings us to a new starting point as we grapple with the shallowness of our existing knowledge. Silas tells Godfrey, “It’s a lone thing – and I’m a lone thing. My money’s gone, I don’t know where – and this is come from I don’t know where. I know nothing – I’m partly ’mazed” (Chapter 13). Dolly reiterates this in her own fashion, too, when Silas makes the same remark to her:

Ah, […] it’s like the night and the morning, and the sleeping and the waking, and the rain and the harvest – one goes and the other comes, and we know nothing how nor where. We may strive and scrat and fend, but it’s little we can do arter all – the big things come and go wi’ no striving o’ our’n. (Chapter 14)

Dolly’s imagery here and Silas’s way of expressing himself with the same words twice (“My money’s gone, I don’t know where – and this is come from I don’t know where”) all speak, I think, to the form of a spiral. Day and night, sleeping and waking, rain and harvest – these things are tied directly to the rotation of the Earth, which spins on its axis as it orbits around the Sun. The Earth, in fact, trails a spiral in its wake as it moves through space. Silas’s comment, moreover, encloses its own coil. It is partly repetitive – “I don’t know where” is spoken twice and forms a kind of syntactical axis – but there is also a circular movement in it: the money has gone while the child has come.

This brings us to the openness and momentum wonder stimulates. Wonder may be a humbling emotion, but after it dumbfounds us, it motivates us. In Chapter 14, we see Silas wanting to learn from Dolly all that he can about raising a child. He may not know where she came from, but he can learn how to care for her. And acceptance of this responsibility brings its own series of revelations and rewards. Dolly’s words of advice in Chapter 14 about caring for the child speak especially well to the ways in which children “ravel” us back into the fabric of society. The child will need “’noculation” from the doctor; a christening from the parson; shoes from the cobbler. As Silas goes about his business in Raveloe, Eppie attracts everyone’s attention, man, woman, and child alike: “the child created fresh and fresh links between his life and the lives from which he had hitherto shrunk continually into narrower isolation.” Meanwhile, Silas’s resurfacing memory shows how children link us to the past just as much as to our immediate surroundings. Spending so much time outside with Eppie rather than at his loom, Silas begins to collect herbs again. He remembers his deceased mother and sister, both named Hephzibah, or Eppie, and he names the child after them both. Hephzibah, a Bible name, also evokes Silas’s past life at Lantern Yard, but the forward-movement is still palpable. Hephzibah means my delight is in her and, in his wondering relationship with Eppie and resulting links to the people of Raveloe, Silas’s previously lost trust in man is restored.

Eliot, in many ways, is displacing the usual association between wonder and religion with the connection between wonder and children, which, if one is open enough to a child’s influence, makes wonder and its benefits catching. Godfrey, in Chapter 13 as he turns away from seeing Molly’s body for himself in Silas’s stone hut, is confronted by a quiet domestic scene with the child, and the wonder a child can inspire, at its heart:

He turned immediately towards the hearth, where Silas Marner sat lulling the child. She was perfectly quiet now, but not asleep – only soothed by sweet porridge and warmth into that wide-gazing calm which makes us older human beings, with our inner turmoil, feel a certain awe in the presence of a little child, such as we feel before some quiet majesty or beauty in the earth or sky – before a steady glowing planet, or a full-flowered eglantine, or the bending trees over a silent pathway.

The narrator does not tell us if this is, in fact, what Godfrey feels. We can surmise what we will. Although, I would hazard that dread, fear, regret, selfishness, and “duplicity” delimit our receptivity for wonder. For Silas, in contrast, Eppie “re-awaken[s] his senses with her fresh life” and “warm[s] him into joy because she had joy.” The “soft warm curls” Silas feels when Eppie first comes to his hearth and the “golden curls” Dolly kisses as she bathes Eppie both show that the awe-inspiring, cosmic spiraling of the planets is within our reach.

The opposite of wonder, of course, is habit. In the novel, Eliot has slowly been building up a distinction between our propensity to habit and our capacity for emotions that foster reflection. The narrator carefully notes whenever a character’s thinking is habitual, as in the case of Nancy’s thoughts about Godfrey “rush[ing]” through her mind “in their habitual succession” at the start of Chapter 11. Mentions like this one are suggestive of an enclosed circle, of insularity and of repetitiveness without axis or orbit. The same image is strongly represented through Silas’s previous relationship with his gold: “The gold had kept his thoughts in an ever-repeated circle, leading to nothing beyond itself; but Eppie was an object compacted of changes and hopes that forced his thoughts onward” (Chapter 14). With children, as well, there is not only the wonder we may feel from observing them or looking at the world through their eyes, but there is also the constant break-up and replacement of habits as children grow. Silas is meditative as he listens to Dolly in the beginning of Chapter 14 and thinks on all of the unexpected aspects of raising a child. Because the child will grow – “like grass i’ May, bless it – that it will”, as Dolly exclaims – it means Silas will face a constant need to learn, adapt, and grow alongside Eppie’s changing abilities, needs, and wants.

Eppie’s growing propensity for mischief is Silas’s first hurdle when it comes to this, and I think his inability to punish Eppie could also be attributed to the wonder and mystery at the heart of their relationship. The line that gets me the most in Chapter 14 (and I speak as a mother of two children under the age of four) is the description of the home Silas makes for Eppie: “So Eppie was reared without punishment, the burden of her misdeeds being borne vicariously by father Silas. The stone hut was made a soft nest for her, lined with downy patience.” Wonder has this ability to conjure our best selves. If we could all keep a wondering (and wonderful) view of the world and each other before us, how much might this spur us on to new heights of humility, patience, and reverence?

Sarah Barnette

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A Good Time for a Deep Clean

We are really looking forward to the Museum re-opening in the not too distant future.

But in the meantime, we have been able to take advantage of our current closure to press on with our deep cleans.

Deep cleaning in a museum is basically cleaning a gallery or room really well. It goes beyond the general daily cleans. It includes vacuuming, dusting and careful cleaning of all nooks and crannies, behind false walls, furniture, display cases, text panels, and objects and artworks on display.

There are a number of reasons for doing this.

The most obvious reason is that the galleries then look extra clean and fresh for our visitors.

However, deep cleaning also plays an important role in our system of ‘Integrated Pest Management’ as an activity that helps to discourage pests. Pests, such as insects, like to live in warm, humid and dirty conditions. Dirt, dust and other dead insects can provide them with a food source for both living and breeding. We do not want pests in the Museum as some of them can damage our collection. By managing our museum environment – including regulating relative humidity, temperature and dirt – we can successfully produce unfavourable conditions for pests.

Additionally, dirt and dust are very abrasive. If they build up on Museum objects, they can cause the surface of an object to deteriorate over time.

We aim to deep clean every gallery and store at the Museum at least once a year. We usually carry out our deep cleans during quieter periods – and this is definitely the quietest period we’ve had for a very long time!



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Melly Mini Blog 2. Melly the Builder

Welcome to the second mini blog relating to stories about the founder of Nuneaton Museum & Art Gallery, Edward Melly.

In 1893 Edward Melly was involved in the building of 70 miner’s cottages in Bermuda Village at £100 each. These were for workers at Griff Clara and Griff No 4 pits.

One of the houses was to be set up as a Reading Room so he clearly had an interest in literacy and education of his workers. He also made provision for allotments, a sports field and a children’s playground there, again reflecting his interest in healthy recreation.

Did you know….?

Edward trained as a coal mining manager at the Nunnery Colliery in Sheffield. He was brought to Nuneaton to manage the Griff Colliery in 1882.

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