Around the World in 5 Jigsaw Puzzles

By Wayne Kett

One of our current documentation projects is to complete an audit of our amazing toy collections at Strangers’ Hall. This in essence means I am literally being paid to play with toys, which I think is something my 6 year old self would be mightily impressed with.

The toy collection is extensive and covers everything from alphabet blocks to yo-yos. There are also 18 boxes containing 131 jigsaw puzzles. I recently started working my way through these boxes. I was surprised to find jigsaws puzzles from as far back as the 18th century. Being naturally curious, I utilised the font of all knowledge (Google) and discovered that jigsaw puzzles were first sold commercially in 1760 by the cartographer John Spilsbury.

His puzzles were all maps, cut along national boundaries and were intended as an educational tool.


John Spilsbury – Europe Divided into its Kingdoms (1766)

Whilst we do not have any of the original Spilsbury puzzles in our collection, we do have a selection of map based puzzles from the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The map of Europe (below) was produced in around 1810 by John Wallis a noted publisher of children’s games and based in Ludgate Street, London.


NWHCM : 1922.93.5: A Map of Europe agreeable to the latest Authorities, John Wallis (1810)

We have maps covering the rest of the world including this one (below) of Africa.


NWHCM: 1922.93.3: Africa Divided into its Several Regions, Robert Sayer (1772)

There is a vast swath of land in the middle of the continent of Africa classified simply as ‘unknown country’. It was of course before Africa had been fully explored by Europeans.

We also have maps covering the continents of Asia and North America.


NWHCM : 1922.93.2: A New Map of Asia, John Wallis (1790)


NWHCM:1922.93.1: A General Map of America, North and South, and West Indies, Robert Sayer (1772)

Closer to home we have a map featuring the counties of England and Wales. My geography skills were fully tested here as I needed to assemble this puzzle in order to get a photograph for its Modes record. With a little help, I was eventually able to slot the pieces into their correct positions.


NWHCM: 1922.93.4: England and Wales, with the principal Roads, and Distances of the County Towns from London, R.Rowe (1810)

There are sadly a few pieces missing. Is anybody able to fill in the blanks and guess the missing counties?

There are many more jigsaw puzzles in our collection. Why not have a look for yourself via our Collections online website

Follow our Collections Management department: @NMSCollMan


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An ‘Ace’ Find

By Laura Reeves

Strangers’ Hal1l is home to our Toy Collection, a fascinating and sometimes nostalgic mix of books, games, puzzles and toys. There are some absolute gems in amongst these stores, and today I want to share with you a truly ‘ace’ discovery – apologies for the terrible pun.

We currently hold over 70 packs of cards, but one deck in particular really stood out to me as something extra special. Whilst the artwork on the reverse of these late 19th century cards is undoubtedly beautiful, it’s the other side that warrants a dedicated blog post.

In this deck each card has been hand decorated, using the suit as a focal point for the drawing. Clubs are used to make faces, hearts used as hats, diamonds as watering cans, and spades as tennis rackets. Some of the drawings have writing on them as well, with a few of the hearts playing cards referring to ‘The Queen of Hearts’ poem.




‘The queen of hearts
She made some tarts,
All on a summer’s day
The knave of Hearts
He stole those tarts
And with them ran away:
The king of hearts
Call’d for those tarts,
And beat the knave full sore;
The knave of hearts
brought back those tarts
And said he’ll ne’er steal more.’

These drawings are the work of Norwich born artist Minna Watson (nee Bolingbroke). Watson was a keen painter of views and animals, some of which were exhibited at the Royal Academy of Arts between 1905 and 1926.

We might never know why Minna decorated this deck of cards, maybe they are just private doodles, a way of making a normal pack of cards personal to her or a gift for a friend. Whatever the reason behind these drawings, to have something so personal to the artist is a privilege.


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For a chance to explore our stored collections please visit our Norfolk Museums Collections website.

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All Collections Great and Small

September 2017

By Wayne Kett

Visitors to Norfolk Collections Centre are able to see some very large and cumbersome objects; a giant wooden mustard stamper used by Colmans, our two Snap Dragons, industrial machinery used by Rowntree Makintosh and even a Hawaiian Canoe. But thus far we have had little opportunity to showcase our smaller stored collections. So we jumped at the chance to acquire a couple of plan chests no longer needed by Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse following their excellent Voices from the Workhouse re-display.


This plan chest allows us to display some of our smaller stored collections.

The first plan chest has been filled with objects and I have collated some details about each object in an information folder for our visitors. I thought it might be of interest to share this more widely via our blog………

Drawer 1

Two posters advertising Billy Russell’s ‘Grand Circus’ at the Hippodrome in Great Yarmouth, early 1960’s

GRYEH : 1983.13.15-16

The Hippodrome in Great Yarmouth was recently described as one of ‘the seven wonders of the British seaside’. It is indeed unique – The Great Yarmouth Hippodrome is the only circus left in Britain that is still used for its original purpose.

Popular acts in the 1960s included; the French Bario clown family, Gentleman Jack ‘the pickpocket’, Arno and Rita Van Bolen who performed a magic and illusion act and many others.

         Left; Gentleman Jack ‘the pickpocket’ Right; Circus performer Sue Yelding. Both photographs taken at the Great Yarmouth Hippodrome in 1963.

The Great Yarmouth Hippodrome is still entertaining locals and holidaymakers alike. Visit their website for details of their upcoming shows.

Drawer 2

Rag Rug, made from old clothing in various fabrics including tights and stockings.

NWHCM : 1974.712.1


This rag rug was made using the proddy technique. This involves prodding or poking strips of fabric through a hessian backing. Rag rugs, popular in the 19th and early 20th century, were a cheap and effective way of creating a rug by recycling old otherwise unusable materials such as old clothing.

Drawer 3

Two pine door panels, painted with designs of women in classical drapery, surrounded by fruit and flowers. These panels are estimated to be from about 1840.

NWHCM : 1962.209.3-4

These door panels were found by the donor in a builder’s yard on Park Lane in Norwich in the 1960’s. This unfortunately means we do not have any information about which property they were removed from.

Drawer 4

Brass plaque commemorating the laying of the foundation stone of Norwich City Gaol, St, Giles’ Gates, Norwich, May 31st 1824.

NWHCM : 1970.28         9

Construction of the new city gaol was completed in 1828 at an expense of £50,000. Prisoners from the city Bridewell (now the Museum of Norwich) were transferred to the new gaol on the 18th February 1829.

Jail or Prison?

Since the 14th century the county prison had been at Norwich Castle, this was where the more serious offenders were housed.

From 1597 until 1826 the city gaol was opposite the Guildhall, before moving to its new site at St Giles Gate in 1829. The city gaol was for minor offenders and those awaiting trial.


Plan of the new city gaol (designed by Phillip Barnes)

Brass plaque, formerly attached to the City walls, 19th Century.

NWHCM : 1980.272


Work begun on the city walls in 1297, but construction was not complete until 1343. The walls were 3ft thick and 20ft high, with battlements. In front of the walls was a bank and a ditch, measuring 25ft deep and 60ft wide.


At the time of this photograph (1957) the area behind this section of the city wall contained the Mackintosh factory, producing chocolate and confectionery. It is now the home of Chapelfield shopping centre.

13It was beyond the capabilities of the authorities to maintain law and order everywhere, but within the city walls their power could be exercised more easily.

Taxes, levies and tolls were due to be paid for many different reasons. The city walls restricted the movement of goods and people, allowing the authorities to ensure they gathered the correct taxes and tolls.

Over 800 years after their construction the city is still defined by its walls. Despite the wall only surviving in fragments, it still persists as an invisible demarcation of what is inside the city and what is outside.


Rectangular brass plate with white enameled lettering, listing the subsidiary companies of Norvic Shoe Co Ltd, 1950s. 14

NWHCM : 1995.130 

Norvic Shoes started in 1846 and grew rapidly, manufacturing and selling women’s shoes to a global market.

During the 20th century they faced increasing competition, particularly from North America. This forced them to concentrate on the domestic market and led them to broaden their product base and begin manufacturing men’s shoes.


Ladies black leather Derby shoe manufactured by Norvic – NWHCM: 1982.441.304


Hand lasting at Norvic factory, 1954

In the 1960’s they were still capable of producing 30,000 pairs of shoes a week at their Vulcan Road site in Norwich. However following the loss of a large Russian contract the firm went into sharp decline. The company was finally closed by the courts in October 1982.

Van Dal Shoes

Norwich is famous for manufacturing shoes. In fact in the 1930’s over 10,000 people were employed in the shoe industry. That’s 15% of the workforce!

Sadly almost all of these companies have either closed or moved their manufacturing operation overseas.

However the Florida Group are still manufacturing shoes under their Van Dal brand in Norwich. They are the last remaining traditional ladies shoe manufacturer in the UK.

Drawer 5

Model of Claud Hamilton, locomotive and tender, 1910

NWHCM : 1952.37


The Claud Hamilton class of steam locomotives were operated locally by Great Eastern Railway (GER).

These locomotives were used on the express services between Norwich and London. The Norfolk Coast Express route was especially popular, this allowed Londoners a taste of the Norfolk seaside, setting off from Liverpool Street and going all the way to Cromer.


A Claud Hamilton leaving March station in August 1958

When the railways were nationalised in 1948 there were still 117 Claud Hamilton’s in operation. However their decline was swift – the 1955 modernisation plan sought to bring the rail network up to date and it recommended a switch to diesel trains. The last Claud Hamilton was withdrawn from service in 1960 and sadly none have survived.

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To learn more about NMS collections – Visit our Collections Website

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The West Runton Mammoth

May 2017 

We are very excited to announce the launch of a series of guided tours of the world famous ‘West Runton Mammoth’ with Dr David Waterhouse (Senior Curator of Natural History).

Initially these will be held on two dates during 2017 (Wednesday June 7th and Monday August 14th), but we hope to add many more dates in 2018.

Tickets can be booked online – West Runton Mammoth tour tickets 


Norfolk Museums Service, Senior Curator of Natural History, Dr David Waterhouse and former Teaching Museum Trainee Lauren O’Grady, with the right tusk and a portion of the skull from the West Runton Mammoth.

Before Woolly Mammoths roamed the plains of Ice Age Britain, there was an even bigger mammoth on the scene. In fact, Steppe Mammoths (including the West Runton Mammoth) may have been the largest elephant species to have existed.  At over four metres tall, the West Runton Mammoth stood taller than a double decker bus, and when alive weighed twice as much as a modern African Elephant. This mammoth dates from the Cromerian Stage (around 700,000 years old), and is the oldest and largest mammoth skeleton to have been found in the UK. Join experts from Norfolk Museums Service as they reveal the fascinating story of this extinct giant in its purpose-built research facility at the Norfolk Collections Centre*.

*Norfolk Collections Centre is located on site at Gressenhall Farm & Workhouse (NR20 4DR)



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The Life of William Henry Everitt

By Wayne Kett

In the past I have written blogs about iconic Norwich companies and famous people from our fine city, but this blog is about an ordinary Norwich man called W.H Everitt.

The images below show an upholsterers tool box and assorted tools, they are from the Museum of Norwich‘s reserve collection. The label on the box indicated it was owned by W.H Everitt and that he worked for a company called Boswells. I so often wonder who used the objects in our collections and what their lives were like. With this thought in mind I set out to discover all that I could about W.H Everitt.



W. H. Everitt’s toolkit (above) and his tools (below)



W.H. Everitt certainly valued his tools as he had marked his initials onto every last one of them. That or he had some light fingered colleagues.

The first thing to say is the W stands for William. I need only look as far as Modes (our object database) for this information.

It was fairly easy to start compiling information about Boswell’s, the first mention I found was in 1869 (although their story may go back further). W.M Boswell was listed as a carver and gilder with businesses on Exchange Street and Magdalen Street. Using various directories (such as Kellys Directory of Norfolk 1904) I was able to follow the business from 1869 – 1912 with premises in various locations across Norwich. The functions of the business were listed variously as carver and gilder, cabinet maker, print seller, artists colourman, furniture van proprietor, antique dealer, paper hanging warehouse, print-sellers, picture frame makers, looking glass manufacturers and yes upholsterers.

I discovered that for a time they occupied St Ethelbert House near the Cathedral.


Norwich, Tombland, St Ethelbert House, early 20th c.

Nothing I discovered about Boswell’s told my anything new about William Everitt, so I changed course. I had another line of enquiry. I had noticed alongside his tools we had a box containing some paperwork belonging to William. The Modes record mentioned wallets, business cards and intriguingly details of travel to Paris. This required a visit to the Museum of Norwich where the documents were stored.

There were three separate wallets each containing various paper ephemera and then a mostly blank diary. I would go through these in detail later, but first something else had caught my eye, a photograph……


William Henry Everitt

This is a photograph of William Henry Everitt. I never expected to see what he looked like, this was definitely an added bonus!

I worked my way through the paper documents contained in the wallets and I scanned the pages of his diary, I also used the information I had gathered to search ancestry websites. Here is as much of William Henry Everitt’s life as I am able to piece together…..

William Henry Everitt was born in Norwich in 1864, his father was also called William Henry Everitt. That is as much as I can tell you about his family, his mothers name eluded me. In 1878 at the age of just 14 years old William was apprenticed to Lucy Boswell to train as an upholsterer.


William’s apprenticeship indenture papers.


The terms of the apprenticeship includes the following commitment:

‘Fornication he will not commit, nor matrimony contract; Taverns, Inns and Alehouses he will not haunt; at Cards, Dice and Tables, or any other unlawful Games he will not play.’

This seems an unduly harsh set of limitations to place on a young person. I wonder whether he stuck to it or not?


William was to be paid 3 shillings a week for the first year of his apprenticeship, rising 1 shilling per year until the seventh year when he would receive 9 shillings per week. 

It is clear William came from an impoverished background. His apprenticeship papers make reference to the Boys Hospital, this was a charity ‘for the keeping and bringing up and teaching of very poor children’. The charity was established following the death in 1617, of former mayor of Norwich Thomas Anguish. Presumably William was a beneficiary of this charity.

At age 20 William was living at 103 Stafford Street, Heigham, Norwich. I cannot say for sure whether he was still working for Boswell’s. However he was certainly available for odd jobs on the side – as this letter dated July 2nd 1885 attests.


Letter addressed to William

The handwriting is difficult to read, as far as I can translate here is a transcription of the letter….

‘Dear Willie, I want to have my bedroom papered and should like you to do it, if you can manage it. Aggie? Thinks it would be ready by diner time on Friday………… but you could get the old paper off the coving before. Please let me know tomorrow whether you can do it and if you can let me have some paper for choice. I hope your mother is better, please remember me to you mother, yours sincerely Elizabeth S Stone’

All pretty mundane, which makes me curious why it survived? I suspect, Elizabeth Stone was a person of some significance to William, though I have been unable to discover the nature of their relationship. The tone of the letter is very familiar and friendly, and the very fact he kept a letter he received at the age of 20 seems to support this suspicion.

This  newspaper cutting found in one of his wallets contains details of the funeral of Agatha Stone (a local philanthropist). A search thorough the Norfolk Record Office online archive confirmed that Agatha and Elizabeth Stone were sisters.


Why a tradesman had such a close link with two seemingly wealthy sisters remains unclear.

In his mid-twenties William set out on a journey to Paris. His destination was the Exposition Universelle, a worlds fair held in Paris between May and October 1889. The fair left a indelible mark on the Paris skyline in the form of the Eiffel Tower, which was constructed as the entrance to the fair.

Program for the Exposition Universelle – William kept various other souvenirs relating to his trip

I cannot be sure of his reasons for attending the Exposition Universalle,  but he kept a diary so I can relay some of what he got up to during his trip.


His handwriting as you can see is very difficult to decipher.

Sunday 22nd September 

‘Visited exhibition. At 1pm ascended Eiffel Tower. 2:30pm sent postcards from top of tower to England. Visited some of the sights of Paris at night.’

Monday 23rd September

‘Drive round Paris. Visited La Madeleine, Paris, the tomb of Napoleon palace royal…….. ascended the Arc de Triomphe, visited the cemetery 3,000,000 bodies, 109 acres of land’

Tuesday 24th September 

‘Drive to Versailles via Parc de St Cloud Park and mansion, 22,400 acres of land. Had photograph taken in the park palace de……. Visit palace of Versailles, visited porcelain manufacturers.’


A business card for the Hotel Longchamp, presumably one of the places William stayed during his trip.

Wednesday 25th September 

‘Visited Notre Dame and the morgue? Visited the Pantheon ….. took train in the evening.’

Thursday 26th September

‘Took boat to zoo gardens, back by boat to St Cloud. Took bus to exhibition, heard Edisons phonograph*. Left Paris for Dieppe at 9 o’clock, left Dieppe for Newhaven by boat at 1 o’clock – rough passage and waves washed the deck all the way.’

* Thomas Edison attended the Esposition Universelle to showcase his phonograph. The very first device that enabled the recording and reproduction of sound.

Friday 27th September

‘Left Newhaven for London at half past, arrived in London at 10 o’clock, rode about London by bus all we could. Visited the Niagra Fall grand site similar to battle of varraville in Paris.’

Foreign travel was uncommon in the 19th century especially for a humble tradesman. To have climbed the Eiffel tower in its first year of existence and to have been one of the first people to hear recorded sound certainly makes for an eventful trip!

At some point in the years following his Paris trip William married a woman called Edith (unsure of her maiden name). In 1894 he celebrated the birth of his first son (William), another son followed (Walter) and then in 1897 a daughter (Lydia). At this time he still resided in the fine city of Norwich, however he was soon to depart.

By the time of the 1901 census William and his family had moved to Humber Road South in Beeston, Nottingham. His job title was listed as Time Keeper at a foundry. He worked for the Beeston Boiler Company which was known locally as ‘The Foundry’.

The 1911 Census has him living at 53 City Road, Beeston, Nottingham and his occupation as Iron Foundry Store Keeper. Another son Frank George Everrit was born in 1905.


He later moved to Bramcote Road judging from this amended business card.

Although William and family left Norwich for Nottingham around the turn of the century, it is clear he had reason to return to Norfolk, perhaps to visit family? It seems he stayed in the Black Horse in Scarning near East Dereham.


William had a couple of these business cards among his papers. William Binden was landlord of the Black Horse between 1924 and 1939 which indicates that William Everitt was still returning to Norfolk some two decades after he first left.

Sadly from here the trail goes a little cold, I am unsure what form William’s life took in the following decades. However I can tell you a little about his politics, he appears to have been a lifelong Conservative.

Among William’s papers were these election notices promoting the conservative candidates in the 1885 parliamentary elections. William would have been 21 at the time of this election. Harry Bullard won a seat in parliament, but Samual Hoare was not so fortunate losing out to Liberal candidate Jeremiah James Colman.

Between the years 1912-1926 William was the chairman of the Rushcliffe Conservative party association. This is a Nottinghamshire branch of the conservative party.

The final certainty I can share with you is that William Henry Everitt died in 1932 at the age of 67. His death was reported in the Nottingham Guardian on the 20th January 1932.


From humble beginnings, it seems that William was able to make a good life for himself, I hope it was a happy one.

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Please take the time to visit the fantastic Museum of Norwich


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Strangers, Undertakers, Pepys and Spies

By Jamie Everitt

What links these four things together? Perhaps one of my favourite objects in the Norfolk Collections Centre, the enigmatic silk press. Let us find out how.

Press full view

Norwich was once the most important cloth manufacturing town in Britain. Daniel Defoe, visiting in 1723, claimed that there were 120,000 textiles workers employed there. Although this was probably an exaggeration, there is no doubt that textiles were the backbone of the city’s trade for centuries.

In medieval times Norwich was renowned for its worsteds, a fine fabric made from combed wool. The name derives from the village of Worstead about 12 miles north of the city which, along with nearby Aylsham and North Walsham, first developed the trade in the 12th century. Carefully selected wools were prepared with a wool comb, a fearsome-looking instrument which had to be heated before use.

Wool comb

A wool comb from the collection of the Museum of Norwich

The combing process removes the shorter fibres leaving only the longer, which are at the same time straightened and aligned parallel with each other. This enables a fine thread to be spun, which can be knitted or woven into tailored garments including hosiery. Woollens, on the other hand, retain the natural ‘crimp’ or curliness of the wool and make a much coarser yarn, usually knitted up as garments such pullovers or woven to make blankets and similar cloth.

A great impetus to the development of the Norwich textile trade came from the ‘Strangers’, Flemish Protestant refugees fleeing religious persecution in the Dutch Netherlands. The authorities of Norwich first invited thirty master weavers arrived along with their families to settle in the city in 1565 to help bring prosperity back to its failing textile industry, and this pioneering group soon turned into a major influx. By 1582 the Strangers made up a third of the population of Norwich. Despite this rapid change in the city’s make up, they seem to have been well-received by the majority of the inhabitants. No doubt this was due in a large part to incomers and native inhabitants sharing the same religion, although the Strangers had their own churches and flavour of Protestantism – in 1585 there were three ministers for the Flemish community. Equally important, perhaps, was the fact that their industry and skill brought a return of prosperity to Norwich. Many settled in and helped rebuild the area north of the Wensum (‘Norwich over the water’) which had fallen into ruin after a disastrous fire in 1507.

Aside from worsteds Norwich also had an important silk industry for many years and the Strangers were instrumental in that too. It was they who are believed to have introduced the drawloom to Norwich. The drawloom is used for pattern weaving in silks and linens. It requires two operators: a weaver, and an assistant known as the ‘draw boy’, who works the figure harness. This harness controls each warp thread separately and thus enables complicated patterns to be woven.

Flemish weavers specialised in silk ‘mixed goods’ (i.e. a mixture of silk and other yarns) for which Norwich came to be famous in the 18th century. It is probably no coincidence that bombazine was first made in Norwich in 1575, shortly after the Strangers arrived. Bombazine was originally made with a silk warp and worsted weft, and was to become a Norwich speciality. Samuel Pepys had at least two suits made from the material. His diary entry for 25 June 1666 reads “This being the first day of my putting on my black stuff bombazin suit, and I hope to feel no inconvenience by it, the weather being extremely hot” (Pepys’ desire to look fashionable clearly overcome any thoughts of practicality), while on 30 May 1668 he records “Up, and put on a new summer black bombazin suit, and so to the office”. Perhaps the fabric for his suits was woven in Norwich?


Black bombazine became much favoured for mourning wear in the 18th and 19th centuries, but fell out of fashion by the beginning of the 20th century. Another Norwich speciality was crape, which was also associated with mourning wear – crape hat bands are still worn by some undertakers to this day. Like bombazine, crape had a silk warp and worsted weft, but it differed in being ‘crimped’ to give a ridged appearance, rather like crepe paper. This finish process could be done in a number of ways: it might be woven into the fabric but it could also be pressed into it.Bombazine

Samples of Norwich ‘treble bombazine’. Note the dense and very flat, matte finish. From a pattern book of Bolingbroke, Jones & Co, 1889-90. Costume & Textile collections NWHCM : 1966.661.27

Mourning crape

Sample of Norwich mourning crape from the Costume & Textiles collections.

And so, in a roundabout fashion, we come to our silk press. A massive contraption rather like a cider press, with heavy oak uprights and cross beams, 6ft 8in (203cm) high and 4ft (112cm) wide. From the upper beam a heavy, suspended iron screw thread holds a solid oak block just large enough to fit inside the cast iron tank; the end of the screw has holes for a pole to be inserted, which would enable great leverage to be exerted onto the block in the tank. This tank originally sat on the lower cross beam, but it is so immensely heavy (although it is not large, four people have difficulty in moving it) that for reasons of health and safety, as well as the safety of the press itself, it is now stored at its foot. So massive, indeed, is the press that it is firmly strapped to the wall – over the years it has warped a little and no longer sits quite as flat on the ground as no doubt it once did, and it would crush someone if it ever fell on them. When we move it, it is securely strapped to its pallet.

What was it used for? The short answer is we are not really sure. It was donated to Norwich museums in 1923 and is described in the accession registers as a ‘silk press’ but there is very little information beyond this.

The finishing processes in the old silk industry are not well documented, but one possibility is that it was used for making ‘watered’ silks. This is a finish where the fabric is folded and then pressed under great pressure, usually heated at the same time, to create a rippled, wave-like pattern also known as moire (pronounced ‘mwah’ or ‘mwah-ray’). Ironically, the pattern is easily destroyed by water, so the cloth can never be worn in the rain. It is partially pressed into the fabric and partially the result of the way light is reflected off the compressed fibres. Nowadays the pattern is created by ribbed rollers, but in the 18th century or early 19th century, which is when our press is thought to have been made, it is more likely that it was created by folding and pressing dampened fabric between hot metal plates.

Watered silk

Close up of a purple watered silk bodice, 1880s. Costume & Textile handling collections NWHCM : 1966.183.13.1

Certainly the tank still contains a number of thick, perforated metal plates. These were perhaps interleaved with the fabric and then great pressure applied by means of the screw. The bottom of the tank is also perforated and the insides have vertical grooves, perhaps to allow water to be squeezed out. But it is all something of a puzzle. Why is the tank so heavy? The sides are ⅞ inch (22mm) thick – was this to restrain the great pressure? (Unlikely, since most of the pressure would have been in the vertical plane and there was ample room to allow any trapped water to escape.) Or was it somehow heated, perhaps with charcoal, the thickness of the iron being to retain the heat between batches of material? But there is no sign of any burning on the wood. Perhaps it was simply too difficult to cast the iron any more thinly.

Press tankThe cast iron tank with perforated plates

Whether it was even used for silks is unknown, despite its identification. The dimensions of the tank are 23½ x 18 inches (60 x 46cm), the same width as a standard Norwich worsted cloth. So it might have been used for worsteds, or silks, mixed fabrics, or any of them as demand required. Cloth finishing was a separate but allied trade to weaving and while a finisher might specialise in one kind of work it is possible they could have turned their hand to other pieces if trade in their speciality was slack.

The press would have represented a huge investment for someone in oak, iron and labour. Objects like these were simple and easily repairable – ours has two wrought iron straps around the upper cross beam where it has split, perhaps testament to the forces it was subjected to. And they were so massively constructed they lasted literally several lifetimes. It could have been used economically long after more efficient industrialised machinery was introduced elsewhere.

Press straps

The wrought iron straps, added to pull together the upper cross beam. Note how the pressing block has also split along its length, near the back of the photograph.

But it was the Industrial Revolution which spelt the end for the Norwich textile industry. Slow to catch on to the new methods, a huge blow was dealt when Michael Greenwood, a skilled Yorkshire weaver, was sent to spy on the manufacturers of Norwich in an early example of industrial espionage. He fathomed their secrets of weaving bombazines and crapes and introduced their methods to Halifax in 1819, but with one crucial difference – the Yorkshire fabrics were produced on power looms. The handloom weavers of Norwich could not compete and by the end of the 19th century the Norwich textile industry had almost died out.

Only more research from experts in the field will tell us the true history of this puzzling but impressive object.


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Norfolk Collections Centre – Deep Clean

November 2015

The Norfolk Collections Centre covers an area a little over 800m2 and provides us with approximately 3,645m3 of storage space. We store a vast array of different objects meaning the job of collections care is no simple task. To help meet the collections care needs of these objects, we have launched an annual deep clean, the first of which took place over five days in September.

We started where the need was greatest, the roller racking in Store 1. This predominantly houses large social history objects from the Museum of Norwich’s collection. We were fortunate to secure the assistance of Norfolk Museum Service’s Teaching Museum trainees who made up the bulk of our workforce. In turn the deep clean was set up as a training exercise which enabled participants to learn new skills and gain additional knowledge.


Roller-racking in store 1

As each pallet load was brought down from the roller racking, the objects were condition assessed. Issues such as cleaning, repackaging, identification of surface dirt and pests and current suitability for pallet storage were addressed. In addition, everyone was made aware of the potential presence of hazardous materials in collections, such as asbestos or mercury.

Layers of dirt and dust, as well as being disfiguring, attract moisture and can encourage pest attack. Dust and dirt can also be abrasive and even acidic and can contribute to corrosion on metal surfaces. The longer it is allowed to remain on objects, the more bound to the surfaces and difficult to remove it can become. So careful cleaning of objects and even each pallet, is an important process of collections care.

Brushes and museum vacuum cleaners with HEPA filters were employed to remove the loose surface dust and debris. Where the dirt was more ingrained and needed a bit more persuasion, different grade brushes and/or use of aqueous or solvent cleaning were used. A conservator was on hand to evaluate and advise. The aim was not to clean objects up to display standard, but to remove the worst of the loose material and to take the opportunity to check for condition and deterioration.


Teaching museum trainees; Morgan and Lawrence object cleaning letters from the main sign at the now defunct ‘Youngs Crayshay and Young’ brewery. 

Repacking some of the larger objects of irregular shape required some careful thought, and we had to be sure that each object was buffered to prevent abrasion and damage. When required, a packaging strapping machine was used to secure the base of more robust, heavy objects to their pallets. This is especially important when moving these larger objects, sometimes at height with a forklift.

By the end of the five days we had processed 40 loads (pallets) and cleaned over 200 individual objects. In addition documentation was improved— each object now has a photograph attached to its object record along with an accurate location.

This first deep clean was an incredibly valuable exercise enabling us to make a significant improvement to the long-term care of the collections. Its success is due to the hard work and enthusiasm of everybody involved. So a big thank you to all those that helped.

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