Wednesday, May 28, 2014

What can we do in the rain?

Don't stay home just because the weather is dreadful! There's plenty happening to keep you busy, despite the rain.

We have both bookable and drop-in activities for families:


Sherlock Bones
Wednesday 28th May
Wakefield Museum and Learning Zone
Suitable for ages 6 -11
11am - 12:30pm and 1:30pm - 3pm
This is your chance to be an archaeologist and a detective all at once! You can tell all sorts of things about someone from their skeleton. We’ve got some life-size (replica) skeletons for you to investigate to find out how their owners lived and what they ate!
Free but booking essential on 01924 302700 or email

Mosaics Madness
Thursday 29th May
Castleford Forum Museum
Suitable for ages 4 -12
11am -2pm
Taking inspiration from Roman designs arrange your own paper tesserae to create some mad
Mosaics.
Free drop-in. No need to book.



Time for Tea
Friday 30th May
Wakefield Museum and Learning Zone
Suitable for ages 2 – 5
10:15am – 11:30am and 1:30pm – 2:45pm
Can you paint with tea and coffee? What animal is hiding in the cup? Come and find out the answers in this hands on workshop.
Free but booking essential on 01924 302700 or email

For more family events see the Museums Learning site!


Not only that, but it is ArtWalk night tonight!

There is lots happening all over Wakefield tonight, and the museum is hosting a number of very special events:


NEED FOR SPEED: THE VICTORIAN LADY CYCLIST

SEE AT: WAKEFIELD MUSEUM & LIBRARY

Experience freedom as you cast off your chaperone, sit astride your steed and embrace the new thrilling craze of the bicycle. This lively talk embraces the lives and clothes of the emancipated, cycling women of Victorian England, including the daring few who donned the shocking Bloomer Suit! This event is free but booking is essential, please call 01924 302700.
Event Times
6.00PM - 7.30PM


YORKSHIRE GRAND DEPART CELEBRATIONS

A RANGE OF CYCLING THEMED DISPLAYS AND ACTIVITIES

SEE AT: WAKEFIELD MUSEUM & LIBRARY

To celebrate the Yorkshire Grand Depart Wakefield Museum is wheely pushing the bikes out! See a penny-farthing and a bicycle used by cycling legend Barry Hoban to win a stage of the Tour De France. These spectacular displays celebrate cycling in Wakefield! As well as these displays there will be various activties on At Wakefield One & Wakefield Museum & Library: 
Outside performances (weather permitting!) from Co-Active
Wire bike sculptures in Create Cafe by Faceless Arts
Wakefield Djembe Circle performing in the museum. 

Drop in anytime between 5.00 and 7.30 to catch one of the events.
Event Times
5.00PM - 7.30PM


Thursday, May 22, 2014

Collection Highlights: Pontefract's Secret Ballot Box

Wakefield Museums hold over 120,000 historic objects that have been acquired on behalf of those who live, work in or visit the Wakefield district.

Many of the objects are on display at our museum venues, but we can't display everything at once! This series of blog posts will highlight some of the collections, both on display and off, by showing a photograph and some information about the object.
We'd love to know your thoughts about the objects featured in this series so if you have a memory linked to an object or if you can add some more background information about them please do leave a comment for us.
Pontefract's Secret Ballot Box


Pontefract was centre stage on the 15 August 1872 when the first secret ballot in the Northern Hemisphere was held to elect a member of Parliament.

This was the first time that people had voted in secret by placing an ‘X’ on a ballot paper next to the name of their choice – the system that we now take for granted.

One of the boxes used to hold the ballot papers is now on display in Pontefract Museum. It is still marked with the wax seals used to ensure the votes were not tampered with once the box was closed.

The seal was made using a liquorice stamp from Frank Dunhill’s factory, which shows the image of a castle and an owl. The owl was the emblem of the Savile family who were local landowners. The castle is similar to the design that is still seen on Pontefract cakes today. For many years Pontefract cakes were given their distinctive design by hand using just this sort of stamp. 


Pontefract has held a charter since 1484 so it is odd that the box was not sealed using an official stamp. Perhaps it was a sign that the local officials did not think much of this new system of voting. Or maybe they just used what first came to hand, which in a town so involved in the liquorice industry, was this stamp.

Frank Dunhill may have been a presiding officer overseeing the ballot. One of his roles would have been to check that the box was empty before voting began – to prove that there were no voting papers already in the box. He could then have used his stamp to seal the box ready for use.

The votes were counted and the results announced at the Town Hall in Pontefract, where H.C. Childers was elected MP for the town.

The Times newspaper of the following day reported that:

‘The first election under the Ballot Act has been throughout peaceful. Persons of great experience declare that they never saw a contested election in which less intoxicating liquor was drunk. No charges of bribery are rife, and the election appears to have been fought on both sides on principles of purity’. 


This was a great change from earlier elections, which had often been riotous and uncontrolled affairs, with people voting openly rather than in secret. At the time there were even complaints that this new system took ‘all the life’ out of voting. This first ballot was however seen as a success and set the standard that we still use worldwide today.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Ferry Fryston Iron Age Chariot

Castleford Museum is home to a stunning display of the Ferry Fryston Iron Age Chariot.

The chariot display at Castleford Museum

Dr Melanie Giles specialises in the Iron Age of northern Europe, particularly aspects of funerary archaeology, Celtic art and weaponry, and the phenomenon of 'bog bodies'. Her first monograph - A Forged Glamour: landscape, identity and material culture - was published by Windgather Press in 2012, and is a detailed study of the lives and deaths of Iron Age communities in Yorkshire.

Here she writes a guest blog about the chariot:

I was delighted to give a talk at Castleford Museum earlier this Spring, on the 'Chariot Burials of Britain'. They are a particular passion of mine, and it was a very special place to talk about them, in the close company of the 'Ferry Fryston' chariot - displayed in a nearby case. No other museum in England currently has a complete chariot burial and all of its grave goods on display, apart from Castleford - a great claim to fame!

The man buried with these iron-rimmed wheels and bronze horse-gear, was not a local, but came from further afield - possibly East Yorkshire. Yet he was treated with great respect by the people who built his square barrow, and laid him in the box of this impressive vehicle, as if it was a hearse, before wheeling it into the grave pit. He was buried with the fragments of a shield and a beautiful iron brooch which once had a bright, shining red glass dome for decoration. It now looks rather rusty in colour but it must have been a wonderful object that caught everyone's eye, back in the Iron Age! 

What is remarkable about this burial is that even in the Roman period, people came back to this ancient monument, to leave offerings of cattle bone on the barrow mound. (The full report on this site can be found in the wonderful book on 'The Archaeology of the A1 (M)' development, published by Oxford North). 

I've been thinking about what these burials mean for many years… women as well as men are buried with chariots, but only adults and not children. I think these were powerful people - leaders in their community - many of whom had fascinating life-stories to tell. Here's a reconstruction of a chariot burial in progress, by Aaron Watson (made for my recent book 'A Forged Glamour', Windgather Press). See what you think! 




I'm looking forward to coming back to Castleford in future years: for now, please do visit and pay your own respects to the Ferry Fryston man. 

Dr Melanie Giles

Monday, May 12, 2014

Collection Highlights: Wooden fridge made by Boulton and Paul

Wakefield Museums hold over 120,000 historic objects that have been acquired on behalf of those who live, work in or visit the Wakefield district.

Many of the objects are on display at our museum venues, but we can't display everything at once! This series of blog posts will highlight some of the collections, both on display and off, by showing a photograph and some information about the object.
We'd love to know your thoughts about the objects featured in this series so if you have a memory linked to an object or if you can add some more background information about them please do leave a comment for us.
Wooden fridge made by Boulton and Paul



For those lucky enough to afford a fridge in the 1920s and 1930s the wooden cabinet was all you could get. The modern domestic refrigerator was first introduced into Britain in the 1920s and it was housed in a wooden cabinet. Electrolux made the first metal cabinet fridges in the early 1930s.

Today we can’t imagine living without a fridge, and in the 1920s and 1930s people had to shop for food almost daily because they couldn’t keep it cool. Fridges didn’t take off in Britain until 1934, following an unusually hot summer; by 1939 two hundred thousand homes had one. They were very different to today’s fridges, the most popular design, made by BTH, was nicknamed the ‘beehive’ because it had a large cylindrical cooling unit on the top.


After the Second World War (1939 – 1945) fridges were very much in demand. Another very hot summer in 1959 persuaded many homeowners to buy one; they were designed into newly planned kitchens built during the housing boom of the 1950s and 1960s – interestingly in the 1960s the wooden cabinet made a comeback! Ever since they have been an important part of kitchen design. Now that we tend to shop once a week at supermarkets and we buy more products which need to be kept cool for days or weeks, refrigerators are essential.




Norwich based company Boulton and Paul made this wooden fridge in the 1940s. The company started out life as an Ironmongers in the late 1700s and moved into aircraft production in the early to mid 1900s, producing planes for both world wars. Following the Second World War, aircraft continued to be built in Wolverhampton whilst the Norwich factory produced high quality kitchenware.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Grand Depart Trophy inspiring a healthy and happy Wakefield

This morning the Grand Depart trophy was used for a photoshoot.
Rosey James from the Council's internal communications team explains why:

Friday 9 May – 8.30am
When we heard that the actual Grand Depart trophy was displayed in pride of place in our very own Wakefield One building, we felt we had to grasp the opportunity.

We want to use Le Tour to inspire our staff and the citizens of Wakefield generally to take to the saddle and feel happier and healthier as a result.

The Grand Depart trophy seemed to beckon and it was now or never!



Once I had the idea on Wednesday, I needed to act fast – the trophy is touring Yorkshire and will leave us at the weekend.

When I had travel plan co-ordinator John Davis on board, it was easy, he seemed to know everyone else in the Council who cycled to work, and convinced half a dozen that they REALLY wanted to pose with this unique trophy on Friday morning.

On Thursday, I met with the museum's exhibitions designer Andrew Marsland by the trophy cabinet and marvelled at his plinth which he made especially for the trophy. The cabinet is decorated with tricolour bunting of Yorkshire white roses.

We both agreed that although the cabinet looked splendid, we needed to bring the trophy out for the photograph. I promised we would be careful – he left nothing to chance and brought colleague Dave Cooper along with his white gloves to help shift everything around safely. Don’t panic Tour organisers!

Friday dawned with a helpful monsoon, but luckily some were brave/daft enough to cycle in through the torrents and floods.

So our photographer Graham spent 20 minutes positioning us around the plinth with our bikes and Tour de France flags and even took some shots from the second floor. We can safely say that we made the most of our brush with the Grand Depart and can’t wait for the final images to come through.

Wakefield Council cyclists pose for the camera
So a massive thank you to the museums staff for bringing the trophy to Wakefield and helping us today to be able to share it with many more people.

Rosey James, internal communications officer


The trophy will be on display in Wakefield One, Burton Street until tomorrow - Saturday 10th May.  Come and get your own photograph with it while you can!

Don't worry if you can't come to see it - the celebrations don't stop there! There are other displays and cycling themed events at the museum.  See yesterday's Blog post for more details!


Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The Tour de France Grand Depart Trophy


Le Tour de France, the third largest sporting event in the world, is coming to Yorkshire this Summer on 5 and 6 July. It promises to be a spectacular event. Not only will visitors be able to see more than 190 cyclists setting off on the 3,500km (2200 miles) race, but there will also be a Tour de France caravan leading the way with a procession of 180 floats.

The tour starts in Leeds on 5 July and takes riders on a trip around North and West Yorkshire, finishing in Harrogate. The following day Stage 2 begins in York and riders will circle Leeds and Bradford ending up in Sheffield while Stage 3 – the final stage in Britain - starts in Cambridge and finishes in London on 7 July.

For more info see: Le Tour de France

To celebrate this fabulous event the Tour de France Grand Depart trophy is on show at Wakefield One, Burton Street until Saturday 10 May.


The trophy on display at Wakefield One

The trophy is held each year by the area or city hosting the start of the race. It has been on display in Bradford, Harrogate, Richmond, and Calderdale.


The countdown to the Grand D├ępart on July 5 will feature a 100-day cultural festival celebrating the best of the region’s culture including some artists from the Wakefield district. 

Wakefield Museum is hosting a programme of events including:


Le Grand Depart
Until October 2014
Free entry

To celebrate the Yorkshire Grand Depart, we are wheely  pushing the bikes out!  See special cycling displays including a penny-farthing and a bicycle used by cycling legend Barry Hoban to win a stage of the Tour De France.

Penny farthing c1878



Le Grand Depart Art walk


Pop into Wakefield Museum on 28 May between 5 and 7pm and take part in cycling themed events.  There will be drumming, wire sculpture and a short play.  You can also book a place on The Need for Speed talk….

Need for Speed: The Victorian Lady Cyclist
Wednesday 28 May, 6.00pm – 7.30pm
Wakefield Museum, Learning Zone, Wakefield One, Burton Street, WF1 2DD


Experience freedom as you cast off your chaperone, sit astride your steed and embrace the new thrilling craze of the bicycle. This lively talk embraces the lives and clothes of the emancipated, cycling women of Victorian England, including the daring few who donned the shocking Bloomer Suit!


This event is free but booking is essential, please call 01924 302700.