The Big Freeze

News of a woodworm infestation in a museum store is enough to send chills through anyone who works with collections. Lauren Ephithite, Curatorial Assistant at Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse tells us about how she dealt with it this winter.

Woodworm is a pesky museum pest which likes to munch on things like wood and willow. In our furniture store we have lots of chairs, wardrobes, benches, clocks and baskets. All things that woodworm like to eat. So when we discovered the pests we had to act quickly to save the collections.

It was essential that we froze all items in the store to prevent the spread of woodworm and halt any damage. We cleaned each object, made sure it was suitable to be frozen and then wrapped it in acid free tissue paper and polythene. We transported the objects to the large freezer at the Norfolk Collections Centre, to be frozen at -30 degrees.

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Chairs wrapped in acid-free and polythene ready to be frozen

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Objects loaded into our freezer

We didn’t want to put these objects straight back in the store, to potentially get infested again. Instead, we made the most of being closed to the public through the winter and utilised the space in the Collections Gallery and First Farmers Gallery to store the items. When the store was completely empty we thoroughly cleaned the room and shelving. Then the race was on to move the objects out of display areas in time for February Half Term.

Not only were we stopping pest damage. We took this opportunity to photograph every item, to improve how they were being stored and to have accurate locations on the Modes database. We also took the time to review our collections, make rationalisation decisions, accessioning objects, writing statement of significances and a collections level description.

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Before

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After

We now know much more about our collections. Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse has a very important collection of vernacular or common furniture. Ordinary furniture is unusual to be in a museum collection. Many pieces have featured in important exhibitions on this topic. Most are locally made and were used by local people.

We couldn’t have done all this work without our fantastic team of Collections Volunteers. From November to February we cleaned, photographed, wrapped and froze almost 400 objects. It was a great team effort and we were supported by Dave Savage, Museum Technician, David Harvey, Conservator and everyone at Gressenhall from the Front of House team and the Learning Team.

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Have a pest infestation of your own? We can help, our freezer is available to hire. Contact Norfolk Museums Conservation and Design Services for more details.

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A Real Showstopper

Today we have the final post from Collections Management trainee and Shine a Light team-member Sophie Towne.

 

My time at the Norfolk Collections Centre has been incredible. I’ve learnt all aspects of collections management and care and have become extremely attached to the objects that I have worked with this year. Some of my personal favourites are those objects which I have written blogs on, here’s my last blog about the aircraft wing we have in store.

The Norfolk Collections Centre certainly has a marvellously eclectic range of objects; from mammoths, to canoes and aircraft wings. It is the aircraft wing that is the subject of this blog. It’s not just any old aircraft wing; it’s the oldest British metal aircraft wing in existence. With its surviving rudder section (on display at Museum of Norwich) it forms the oldest pieces of British metal aircraft structure in existence. It is truly a showstopper on tours of the Norfolk Collections Centre.

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P10-(low-res)

This extraordinary object dates from c.1919 and was made by the Norwich-based company, Boulton and Paul. The wing comes from an aircraft which was known as the P10. The all-steel, two-seater light aircraft with plastic (Bakelite-Dilecto) fuselage panels was the star of the 1919 Paris Air Show. The aeronautical journal The Aeroplane described the P10 as ‘the most advanced example of constructional thought in the whole show.’ Another contemporary magazine said; ‘[the P10] proves to what state of perfection Boulton and Paul have carried metal construction.’

Images of the P10 at the Paris Air Show in 1919:

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P10

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The company of Boulton and Paul dates back to 1797 when it was founded by William Moore, a twenty-three year old farmer’s son. The company was initially an ironmongers in Cockey Lane, Norwich. Moore died in 1839, when his business partner, John Barnard, took over leadership. In 1844, John Barnard took on a man of twenty-three, William Boulton. In 1853, another farmer’s son, from Thorpe Abbotts, started at the firm; Joseph Paul. The company successfully created stove grates, kettles and weaved wire netting. It wasn’t until the First World War that Boulton and Paul entered into aircraft construction. In 1915 the company was still making greenhouses and dog kennels but then offered its services to the war effort. . In October 1915, Boulton and Paul flew their first aircraft; the Bombay No 1 which was destined for the front line. The company quickly became experts in aircraft construction and in 1917 a separate experimental aeronautical department was opened.

The Bombay No1:

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It was from this experimental department that the P10 emerged in 1919. The P10 was not only a constructional success but also a revelation due to its new engine design which was hinged for ease of access. The P10 was never fully covered and therefore never flew; reasons for this are unknown. Its success as a prototype was unquestioned though.

Contemporary sketch of the P10 engine:

Page from Boulton Paul Aircraft by Alec Brew 1995 alan Sutton publishing

Boulton and Paul continued to successfully produce aircraft after the war. In 1922 they were commissioned to produce a postal aircraft. This aircraft built on the design of the P10 and was known as the P12, Bodmin. This aircraft was the largest to have emerged from the River Side works and had to be moved to the Mousehold works (shown below) in large sections; making its way slowly with men propping parts up with sticks (shown below).

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B+P hangar

The P10 spawned a generation of all-metal aircraft for Boulton and Paul and Norfolk Museums Service is very lucky to care for such an extraordinary piece of Norwich social history.

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Made in Norwich: The Story of Laurence & Scott

This week we have a guest blog from Collections Development Assistant Wayne Kett who shines a light on Norwich manufacturers Laurence and Scott and a HUGE motor that we recently moved into the Norfolk Collections Centre

By Wayne Kett

100 years ago going to work in Norwich for the vast majority of people meant making something. Perhaps you worked in Colman’s mustard factory or brewed beer in one of the big breweries, perhaps you made shoes, wove silk or worked in the printing or engineering industries. Now in the 21st century the percentage of Norwich workers employed in manufacturing is just 8%.

Images of Norwich in the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century contain a feature of the landscape long since extinguished from the skyline….. chimneys, evidence of the cities industrial past.

Jarrolds printing factory in 1951, notice how many chimneys there are in the background.

Jarrolds printing factory in 1951, notice how many chimneys there are in the background.

The subject of this blog is one of the companies that still manufacture in Norwich. This is the story of Laurence & Scott.

Why Laurence and Scott? Well a few weeks ago we were tasked with moving a large motor originally manufactured by Laurence and Scott and now part of our accessible collections stored here at Norfolk Collections Centre.

Our DC motor made by Laurence & Scott in 1910, it was used at the Daily Telegraph's Dartford Mill.

Our DC motor made by Laurence & Scott in 1910, it was used at the Daily Telegraph’s Dartford Mill.

It is incredibly heavy, thankfully moving it was eased after we managed to hoist it onto one of our re-enforced plastic pallets. Then with the aid of a pallet truck and some elbow grease we were able to manoeuvre it into place.

Laurence and Scott plaque attached to the motor.

Laurence and Scott plaque attached to the motor.

After all that effort I decided to find out why we have chosen to keep such a large and cumbersome object. To answer this I had to consider, why Laurence and Scott are so important to the story of industrial Norwich?

This story sparks into life in 1883 with another of Norwich’s great industrial innovators, Jeremiah Colman. Impressed with the new technical innovation of electricity, Colman decided he wanted lighting at his mustard factory. To complete the work he commissioned the Hammond Electric Light and Power Supply Company of Nottingham.

One of the engineers the company sent was William Harding Scott, he was obviously quite taken with our fine city as he decided to stay after the work was complete. With the help of Colman he set up his own business.

Scott had the brains, but he lacked capital, this is where Reginald Laurence joins the story. Educated at Harrow and the son of a stock broker he was saw the potential of Scott’s business and invested £6,000. From this point on they became known as Laurence and Scott.

Scott is his office (date unknown).

Scott is his office (date unknown).

Initially the company focused on electrical supply laying distribution mains and providing power. Their generating station set up in 1889 provided the city with its first electrical lighting and was situated in Stamp Office Yard next to St Andrews Street and provided electricity via overhead cables. The city council paid for lighting for the library, the local asylum and St Andrews Hall.

The company soon moved away from electrical distribution and decided to concentrate on building the electrical motors for which they would become famous. These were manufactured at the Gothic Works on Hardy Road which was opened in 1896 and is still in operation today.

Laurence & Scott, foundry, Gothic works, 1920s

Laurence & Scott, foundry, Gothic works, 1920s

When the Gothic works opened it had 7,500 square meters of work space and by 1937 there were over 3,000 employees. The company helped Norwich develop a highly skilled workforce by offering apprenticeships to school leavers, by the late 40’s they were offering 20-30 five year apprenticeships to school leavers every year.

Laurence and Scott's Gothic Works, Pattern shop, 1920s

Laurence and Scott’s Gothic Works, Pattern shop, 1920s

Scott died in 1938 just one month after the death of his youngest son. Since then there have been numerous mergers and takeovers, but Laurence and Scott are still manufacturing electric motors in Norwich operating as ATB Laurence and Scott.

Laurence and Scott were responsible for many innovations and made significant contributions including:

  • Development of electrical motors that could be used in extreme conditions.
  • Scott developed…..accumulator switches, automatic cut-outs, starting switches and a patent automatic fuse.
  • It was a Laurence and Scott motor that drove the tunnelling machine that dug out the UK side of the channel tunnel.
  • Not only did they supply the navy with electrical motors during World War One, but they also converted part of their operation to manufacture shells. By the cessation of hostilities it was estimated Laurence and Scott had produced £1 million worth of shells for the war effort, producing approx 250 shells a day.
  • During World War Two they developed switchgear for submarines, controllers for tank landing craft and continued to supply the Navy with electric motors.
  • After the war Laurence and Scott begun supplying power plants up and down the country. They continued to supply the Navy, including the supply of electric propulsion motors for the Trident submarines that carry our nuclear arsenal.
  • Scott ever the innovator invented a two-phase traffic signal unit which was then manufactured by Laurence and Scott. This was an example of one of the very first traffic light systems ever used.
This traffic signal unit manufactured by Laurence and Scott forms part of the Museum of Norwich's collection. It was first installed at the Unthank Road and Colman Road junction.

This traffic signal unit manufactured by Laurence and Scott forms part of the Museum of Norwich’s collection. It was first installed at the Unthank Road and Colman Road junction.

An advert for the Laurence and Scott traffic control equipment, among its boasts are that it does not interfere with wireless reception.

An advert for the Laurence and Scott traffic control equipment, among its boasts are that it does not interfere with wireless reception.

To find out more about Laurence and Scott and the rest of Norwich’s industrial story why not visit the Museum of Norwich.

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Unlocking hidden gems: A trunk fit for a queen

By Sophie Towne

We have had another marvellous discovery at the Norfolk Collections Centre in the form of an ornately studded leather trunk.

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For several months we (the Shine a Light team) had passed this chest on the roller racking. We were mostly preoccupied with re-packing fireplaces and fire screens and constructing early 20th century wardrobes. Nevertheless we noted that this trunk must be something special but it had to wait in line for its turn to be audited like everything else! All objects are equal here at the Norfolk Collections Centre whether you’re a toilet or an aeroplane wing! Finally it came to the trunk’s day of reckoning. The accession number was jotted down and checked on MODES (our collections database). So imagine our surprise to find out from the object records that the chest in question dated from the 17th century and once belonged to Queen Catherine of Braganza shown in the portrait below, wife to King Charles II.

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Catherine of Braganza was born on 25th November 1638 and became Queen of England (Queen Consort) in 1662 upon her marriage to Charles II. Norfolk Museums Service has a cushion cover commemorating the union. Catherine came from the noble House of Braganza which became the Royal House of Portugal when her father was crowned King of Portugal in 1640 following a rebellion over Spanish rule in Portugal.

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Catherine had some difficult times during her life in England. She was a devout Roman Catholic in a Protestant country and came under considerable pressures because of her religion. She was subjected to attack by the inventors of the ‘Popish Plot’. Accused of ordering her servants to murder Sir Edmund Berry Godfrey (what a fabulous name!) and wrongly accused of conspiring to poison the King. She was forced to stand trial in June 1679 but she was protected by the King who was steadfast in his loyalty to his wife (despite his philandering). Charles II was a notorious womaniser yet he stayed devoted to his wife despite her apparent inability to produce an heir and calls for him to divorce.

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Certainly Queen Catherine had a most fascinating, yet little known and researched, life. She lived through the plague of London and the Great Fire of London in 1666. She has also been credited with popularising the custom of tea drinking in Britain. Imagine what might have been stored in this trunk in the 17th century or what it might have witnessed in Catherine of Braganza’s rooms.

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The hinged trunk is made from wood with a leather facing adorned by a brass-studded design covering its entirety in a swirled pattern. The lid of the chest is initialled with ‘K.R.’ with a crown above. It is an ornate chest with detail even on the pull handles of the drawers. It has a large central lock opened with an amazing embellished key which reveals a plush red lining inside. It is surely a trunk fit for a Queen.

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So did Catherine of Braganza have any Norfolk connections which might explain her trunk ending up here? Well, she did visit Norfolk in 1671 when Robert Paston hosted Charles II and Catherine at Oxnead Hall. The trunk itself was donated to the museum in 1992 from the then owners of Hautbois Hall in Norfolk. I’m sure the trunk looked right at home in the Tudor manor house!

After Charles II’s death in 1685, Catherine spent many years attempting to live quietly at Somerset House, London. She finally returned to Portugal in 1699 where until her death she took over the care and education of the young Prince John of Braganza who was to become King John V of Portugal. Evidently she left her exquisite trunk behind in Norfolk.

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Sleigh bells ring… Are you listening?

By Sophie Towne

Something a little festive for you. Have you ever wondered what real jingle bells sound like on Santa’s sleigh? Of course you have! And if you haven’t I bet you’re wondering right now! Well today you have the answer. Click on the link below to hear what sleigh bells from the 1800s sound like:

The bells in the video are known as a triple sleigh bell set which were donated to the Museum of Norwich in 1931. The bells date from approximately 1800. They would have attached to the harness of a horse (or reindeer) pulling a carriage (or sleigh) and would alert people and animals that there was a horse coming.

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These kinds of bells are also known as conestoga or hame bells. Hame bells relate to the hame or harness of a horse where the bells would be attached. Conestoga refers to the type of horse which would pull a particular type of wagon while wearing bells. In the 1800s horses wearing these triple bells would probably have been those nearest the wagon, while horses in the middle wore four bells and those at the front wore five. So it looks unlikely that Rudolph would wear these since he’s in the lead, perhaps more like Dancer or Vixen.

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These kind of sleigh bells may also be the reason we have the saying ‘I’ll be there with bells on’. During the 1800s if a wagon got stuck and was freed by another passing team the liberators could be rewarded with a set of bells from the wagon they had rescued. Therefore it became an issue of pride for horsemen to arrive ‘with bells on’ to show they had completed a successful journey. Who knew these little jingle bells had such a broad history.

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Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas from the Norfolk Collections Centre!

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Rehoming a Lion-Horse

By Sophie Towne

Some time ago at The Norfolk Museums Collection Centre we unearthed a carved bracket in the shape of a horse. At first we were unsure of his species and a popular Twitter and Facebook guessing game commenced where you gave suggestions as to whether he was a lion, a horse, a dog, a lamb or a mythical hybrid. He’s a rather sweet little thing with a curly mane and fringe as well as a long swishy tail and furry legs.

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We updated his records and found out that he was indeed a horse and what is more we managed to track down his original location. So the detective work began again…

From a bit of research, and some help from our Curatorial Consultant, Helen Renton, we found out that he once graced the top of a staircase at Strangers’ Hall in Norwich. We have actual proof of this from a postcard showing the inside of Strangers’ Hall in the 1930s. Our Lion-Horse, as he affectionately became known at the Norfolk Museums Collection Centre, can just be made out almost in the middle of the postcard near the bottom of the large stairs.

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We mentioned this fact to Cathy Terry, the curator at Strangers’ Hall, and it was decided that our Lion-Horse should no longer live at The Norfolk Museums Collection Centre but return home to Strangers’ Hall. So a few weeks ago his travel papers (object removal forms) were completed. He was wrapped in acid free tissue and waved goodbye to the Collections Centre where he had slept for so long and began his journey to Norwich to return to his rightful place. Perhaps when you visit Strangers’ Hall in the future you’ll be able to see the Lion-Horse once more gracing the bottom of the staircase where he belongs, welcoming visitors to the museum.

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The Mystery of Colin the Dragon

We recently had half-term activities happening around the site at Gressenhall. It was also a first for us here at the Norfolk Collections Centre, we had activities in store!

This was an exciting new opportunity for us to open the store to a new audience of families and children and get our visitors to experience the collections in a different way.

But for those who didn’t manage to come along here is an online trail…

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This is Colin our Collections Centre Snap Dragon

Colin’s mum and dad are being looked after by our conservation team. Colin is trying to find a way to get them home. What can you find to help him?

One of Colin’s parents in our conservation lab

We are going for a tour around the Norfolk Collections Centre, looking at some of our objects

Choose which object you think will help Colin…

You walk into our store and there is an object on your left, what is it?

fire ladder

Not sure that Colin thinks this would help, but it might be useful if the dragons start breathing fire. What object is next as we go around the store? You turn right past the fire ladder and towards the racking. The first object you see on the floor…….

Sweeper

Colin’s parents are being cleaned in our conservation lab, they don’t need this sweeper. The object above the sweeper and on the racking looks more like something you can travel in….

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Remember we have to fit two snap dragons in and not just Colin, what’s on the left further along the racking, this looks a lot bigger….

Canoe 1

Don’t think dragons are happy travelling by water, what is that behind you?

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That tricycle looks a bit too difficult to ride, especially for two dragons. Turn to your right and move further along the store, past our printing presses and towards our brewery section …

platform truck

Not sure that dragons and beer go well together. Turn around and walk past our Bullards Brewery sign, turn right and you are looking down the other side of the racking, past the piano and you are now looking at …

Canoe 2

Another water based jaunt is not what we are looking for. Go around to the left and at the far end of the store up against the wall, what can you see?

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What will you use to help Colin get his parents back into the store?

We hope you enjoyed this little virtual walk around the collections and we hope to be open again soon

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