Spotlight Loans 2018: Made in Wessex
A cradle of prehistoric society in England and today renowned for its arts and crafts, Wessex has been a centre of making for thousands of years. The downland, heathland, rivers and coast of Wessex have shaped the making and use of artefacts, from ancient flints to contemporary ceramics. This second series of Spotlight Loans between the four leading museums that tell the stories of Dorset and Wiltshire focus on this tradition of making and reveals some surprising and fascinating objects to illustrate the theme.
Dorset Ooser, Guy Sydenham, Mermaid Studios, Portland, 1990s, Ceramic
at Poole Museum 20 November 2017 - 18 March 2018 (on loan from Dorset County Museum)
This is a pottery representation of an 18th-19th-century Dorset Ooser. The originals had wooden heads with semi-human faces and bulls’ horns. Dorset dialect poet William Barnes (1801-1886) defined Ooser, or Wurse: ‘a mask...with grim jaws, put on with a cow’s skin to frighten folk. “Wurse” … is a name of the arch-fiend.’ Oosers made their way into the writing of Thomas Hardy (1840-1928).
These mysterious masks were used in traditional midwinter gatherings at villages like Melbury Osmond and Shillingstone. Several probably existed around Wessex.
Tale of Wiltshire Moonrakers (in Wiltshire dialect) – US WUR CLEVERER THAN ‘E-AH, US DIDDLED ‘E ALRIGHT.
at Poole Museum from 26 March - 22 July 2018 (on loan from Wiltshire Museum)
In a pond up ‘Vizes way – smugglers ‘ad ‘idden a keg ‘o brandy & us wur trying to get at un. Us were scrabbling away with gurt ‘ay rakes when us spied ‘zizeman ‘a’watching. So us pointed to moon’s ‘flection in water & told un us wur “raking vor that gurt chase”. ‘e thought us wur caddled & ‘ad ‘ad too much tiddley. So off ‘e went, laffing fit to bust ‘is britches. That’s why Wiltshiremen be called “Moonrakers”, s’now.
Moonrakers is the colloquial name for people who come from Wiltshire and according to 18th century legend, they were smugglers who hoodwinked local excise officers to disguise their illegal activities. The men had hidden some contraband barrels of French brandy in a dewpond and when trying to retrieve them were almost caught. To distract the officers, the men said they were trying to catch a cheese in the pond. The excisemen soon departed, chuckling at the simple yokels attempts to rake out the reflection of the moon.
The pond is thought to have been The Crammer in Devizes.
The plate was made in the 1970s by the ceramic artist and calligrapher Mary White (1926-2013), in her studio in Malmesbury. It was donated to Wiltshire Museum by Marjorie Couzens, who composed the legend.
Old Sarum Cathedral Stonework, c.1130 - 1140
at Poole Museum 30 July - 25 November 2018 (on loan from The Salisbury Museum)
What you see here is a stone carving from Old Sarum cathedral showing two lions fighting an eagle. This piece was excavated near the south transept of the Old Sarum cathedral.
Old Sarum was originally an Iron Age hill fort, grew to prominence as a town with castle and cathedral after William the Conqueror accepted the oath of allegiance there from the country’s landowners in 1086. Old Sarum castle was part of the first wave of royal castles built to establish Norman rule after 1066.
Crown Dorset Pottery (currently on display at one of our partner museums)
11 December 2017 - 25 November 2018
The Crown Dorset Art Pottery was established by Charles Collard in Green Road, Poole in 1905. The pottery produced was very similar to that of the Devon potteries where Collard had previously worked, although Collard also developed new styles.
These pieces are examples of Cottage Ware, produced for the tourist and cheaper end of the market in a range of shapes and sizes. These were usually decorated with country scenes and a motto in Dorset dialect, often quoting the Dorset poet William Barnes.
1. Pot pourri holder, about 1911
2. Bent-lip vase, 1913
3. Two-handled vase, about 1912
4. Small ‘top hat’ pot, about 1910
Wardour Hoard from Salisbury Museum
These artefacts have been on display at Poole Museum and are currently on display at one of the partner museums.
Salisbury Museum has archaeology collections of national importance – including prehistoric finds from Stonehenge and the surrounding landscape. The Wardour Hoard (part of which is on display here) is a significant Bronze Age hoard acquired by Salisbury Museum via the Treasure Act in 2013. It will feature in a major exhibition about hoards supported by the British Museum in 2017.
The Wardour Hoard was initially discovered by a metal detectorist working on cultivated land, but it was subsequently retrieved by controlled archaeological excavation. The complete hoard contains c.114 bronze weapons, tools and ornaments dating from the Bronze Age to the Early Iron Age and was probably buried in or towards the end of the 6th century BC. What is fascinating about the hoard is the date range of the objects represented – the earliest object dates back to 2,200 BC, yet the youngest object dates to the Early Iron Age (c. 6th century BC). This means there were objects buried in the hoard that were over 1,500 years old when it was buried. On display here are an axehead, tanged razor, knife blade, socketed gouge, tanged chisel and socketed sickle.
The reason hoards were buried is unclear, but one suggestion is the disposal of precious objects in hoards was a ritualistic act. With no contextual information they are difficult puzzles to solve. The objects are more-or-less contemporary but occasionally heirlooms are included. By 800BC the practice of burying hoards reached its peak just as iron appears for the first time in the archaeological record.
Acquired with the support of the V&A Purchase Grant Fund and the Headley Trust
Tibetan Teapot from Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum
A copper and brass Tibetan teapot given to Sir Merton Russell-Cotes in 1889 by the explorer Lieutenant Colonel Sir Francis Younghusband who went on to lead the 1903-1904 British military exhibition to Tibet. The teapot is made from cast copper and brass and sits on a large circular foot that has a repetitive engraved pattern. The main section of the vessel is made from plain copper with a raised quatrefoil on each side that features a mythological animal head of some kind. The shoulder area of the vessel features an over layered cuff of shaped copper pierced with a floral design.The vessel has a small cylindrical neck with a floral engraved design featuring pierced sections to an external cuff. The handle is made from a large dragon that has been ornately design so the body becomes the main section of the handle. The vessels spout is large and appears to protruding from the mouth of a mythological bird, possibly a griffin or something similar. The lid is circular and hollow cast from bronze. It features an ornate floral engraved design with pierced sections. The lid itself has four tiers which gradually get small until the last is a cone shape graduating to a point.
Woman of Power from the Time of Stonehenge from Wiltshire Museum
Close to Stonehenge was the burial of an important woman, covered by a barrow and facing towards the setting sun, a tradition common in Northern Britain.. She women was laid to rest with objects that showed her power and authority. Was she a chieftain? Did she marry into the ruling dynasty?
Gold, amber and jet beads and pendants were placed with her body. The most unusual item is a jet pendant in the shape of a double-headed axe, a stone weapon usually found in the north of England and Scotland. Jet comes from Whitby in Yorkshire, and necklaces and beads made of jet are often found in as far north as Scotland. Did she come from northern Britain?
Iron Leg Shackles and Chain from Dorset County Museum
These were used to restrict the movement of criminals in Dorchester Prison during the 19th Century.
The Tolpuddle Martyrs were six Dorset farmworkers famously transported as convicts from Dorchester Prison to Australia in 1834. Found guilty of taking an illegal oath whilst forming a Friendly Society, their attempt to secure a basic living wage made them popular heroes and founding figures of the British trade union movement.
Before their transportation one of the martyrs, George Loveless became ill and was detained in Dorchester Prison for a few weeks to recover whilst his five fellow Martyrs were put aboard the hulks before being shipped to Australia. So these men may well have worn shackles such as these.
Dish from Poole Museum
A dish made by Poole Pottery, with a hand-painted design of the C-Class Sunderland flying boat Canopus (G-ADHL) and a service launch (AMC2) and inscription ‘Port of Poole Empire Airways 1940'; designed by Arthur Bradbury and painted by Ruth Pavely.
During the Second World War, flying boat services were transferred to Poole Harbour from Hythe, Southampton and operated by the BOAC, formed in 1940. The service carried passengers to and from many parts of the world, including key figures of the time. Canopus was the flying boat in which the pilot Arthur Hooper brought President Roosevelt's envoy Harry Hopkins to Britain in 1941, landing in Poole Harbour, to negotiate the Lend-Lease agreement. It is believed that a copy of this dish was presented to Hopkins by Poole Pottery on his departure, presumably through the British Overseas Airways Corporation reception centre which during the war occupied part of the showroom block. An address was presented with the dish reading, 'To Mr Harry Hopkins who landed at the ancient Port of Poole On January 9 1941 on what may prove to the most important mission in the history of democracy, and who left England for America from the same port on February 10 1941. This piece of Poole Pottery, representing the chief industry of the town, is presented with great respect by the makers'.
Poole Pottery is known and collected worldwide and formed a major part of Poole’s history of ceramics manufacture.