FoRM Autumn 2003 www.friendsofreadingmuseums.co.uk Hidden Treasures at the Museum Store Store Tour, Saturday 7th June 2003 It was such a nice day on the day of the Store Tour that I wondered if I really should be spending the afternoon in a warehouse near the sewage works! But it was worth it. We were doing the Store Tour for two reasons. Firstly, it was a wonderful opportunity to see behind the scenes at the Museum and secondly, colleagues at the Museum are thinking of opening the store to the public on specific open days and it was a chance for From left to right, Ann Middleton, Chair of the Friends, David Pearson, museum manager, a dry run. the Mayor of Reading Jeanette Skeates and her husband Alan. The 16 of us split into two groups and Photos courtesy of Reading Evening Post I had the privilege of joining the Mayor of Reading for the Tour, only slightly disrupted by the Evening Post photographer. We couldn't believe how much stuff the Museum had and the variety of things it has in store. I'm more interested in local history than archaeology or art and I liked the simple things like old Reading street names and shop signs. I particularly liked a Thames Valley bus map showing all the old routes. Above: Some of the many interesting objects that were explored during the tour. Another of the real highlights of the Tour was the chance to handle objects and we some helpful suggestions about how it Heritage Open Day in September 2004. were allowed to pick up a wonderful could be improved. Most of us were I also wondered whether Friends would Bronze Age sword that had been dredged surprised at the size of the store and the be interested in doing a longer term from the Thames. The Tour was also quantity of objects. appeal for a particular object, such as made much more interesting by a few the Roman lead font found on Dean's short talks on specific items from the It struck me during the Tour how many Farm, Caversham. Please get in touch collection. To my surprise I really enjoyed things the Friends could do to help the if you would be interested in developing the talk given by David Notton on a Museum. We could provide voluntary or supporting any of these ideas. beautifully stuffed fish - not a subject stewards to assist Museum staff on the public Store Tours; David Pearson and I thought I would be interested in. his staff would make sure those involved Ann Middleton At the end we completed questionnaires were well briefed on their role. David is Chairman to give our feedback of the day. planning the opening programme at the Everyone enjoyed the Tour and made moment and this could include the Reading: People & Place - '1,000 years history of the town' Curator Lecture, Thursday 18th September 2003. See inside for more details. The Friends’ Patrons: The Right Worshipful the Mayor of Reading | The Most Hon the Marquess of Reading | The Right Honourable the Lord Palmer FoRM news Autumn 2003 www.friendsofreadingmuseums.co.uk Tour of Stores: Friends’ Calendar for Autumn/Winter 2003 The Mayor’s Favourite Object During my participation in the Friends Reading: People & Place - '1,000 years history of the town' tour of the Museum on 7 June, Curator Lecture for the Friends I particularly enjoyed seeing this beautiful plaster ceiling section, Matthew Williams – the Museum's Social History Curator – will be giving a talk thought to be from Caversham Court. to the Friends about the history of the town on Thursday 18th September at 6.30 pm. This would take place in the Earley Charity Room. Join us for what should be an I am very interested in the history of interesting and informative evening. The talk is free of charge to attend, will this building as chair of the Caversham last approximately 45 minutes and there will be refreshments provided. Friends Court Gazeebo Trust and in my role in are also welcome to bring a guest. developing the funding bid for the restoration of the site. Please confirm attendance by ringing the Museum 0118 9399800 Festive Celebration Come and join in the celebrations on Thursday December 4th, 6-8pm. We’ll be holding the party in the Art Gallery. The gallery will be showing the exhihibition “Homes of Football” so our party will revolve around a football theme – you will be able to play subutteo and table football! FRIENDS VOLUNTEERS WANTED: Social Secretary and Newsletter Editor Do you enjoy organising social events, meeting new people and having a good time? Do you have writing and editing skills? If you have some spare time and would be interested in volunteering as our social secretary or Newsletter editor please contact us and let us know. We would really appreciate your help. Section of plaster ceiling probably from Caversham Court, demolished in 1933. The arms could be those of William Alexander who email: email@example.com owned the Rectory (later known as Caversham write to: The membership secretary, John Hendy, 10 Field Road, Reading RG1 6AP. Court) in 1586. Lady Palmer launches Huntley & Palmers Website www.huntleyandpalmers.org.uk More than 200 invited guests filled the Madejski Art Gallery at the Museum of Reading on 15 May to launch this unique venture. This was a memorable evening. Lady Palmer spoke with great eloquence of her memories of the great family biscuit company and the integral part it played in Reading's history. She added that she was proud to be associated with this website which enables us all to learn more about the fine collection of biscuit tins on display at the Museum. Lord Palmer and many members of the family were also present. The evening was made even more memorable by the attendance of 70 ex Huntley & Palmer staff, some of whom had travelled long distances and many had not met each other for at least 30 years. Lord Palmer commented that he met someone who remembered him when he was taken round the factory by his father at the age of 4! Two ex Huntley and Palmers employees enjoying All Friends hope that they will come back again to the Museum of Reading soon and biscuits baked to an original recipe. we assure them they will be as welcome as they were on 15 May. Exhibitions Volunteer Focus: Chronicle Index Books Amanda Martin shares her experience as a volunteer with the Museum Through Kaleidoscope Eyes Since Autumn 2002 I have been working as a volunteer at the museum for a half day Prints, Pots and Textiles 1968-74 a week putting entries from the Reading Chronicle Index Books on to a database. 3 July – 14 September 2003 These three red-bound volumes list all the Chronicle's photographic negatives (held by the museum) covering the period 1938-1964, and my task is to put each entry on to the Experience the vivid colour, textures museum's database so that the material can be readily accessed by anyone who is and sounds of the groovy era through interested. Each entry has a database record number, the batch number and description this exploration of original prints, from the index book, and any further details I can supply as to (a) people, (b) corporate weavings, embroideries and ceramics bodies, (c) places and (d) category, ie type of event described. Unfortunately, some of the from 1968 - 1974. The show includes original entries are so cryptic that it is impossible to glean much information from them. work by Alan Davie and Patrick I usually find that 3-4 hours is the maximum that I can work productively at a stretch. Caulfield and runs until Sunday 13 “ Some of the handwriting can be September. The photo here shows really difficult to interpret, in which staff in 70s fancy dress having fun case progress is painfully slow, and Employers provided outings, at the launch party. some of the people who made the entries dinner dances, football and had problems with spelling - interesting that this is not a purely modern phenomemon. cricket teams...they must 'Restureant', 'lunchan' and 'parashoot' are have played an important typical, and then there is the mysterious 'Mr ” Mahada' who turned out to be Ian Mikardo. role in people's social as Over eight months I have covered 1938-45, well as their working lives. which feels like slow progress, but it does amount to nearly 5000 records. Many of the entries are weddings, so not of much interest except where one encounters a well-known Reading name (eg Pottinger). I was however surprised to find how many unusual surnames there were even in pre-multi-ethnic Reading (unless, of course, I have completely misread some bad handwriting). In the period I have covered to far, the wartime section is bound to be of the most general Hand to Eye interest, with mentions of air raid precautions, digging for victory, rationing, scrap iron Thursday, 31 July 2003 – and milk bottle top collections and, of course, the entry 'Air Raid on Rdg Feb 10th 1943' Sunday, 21 September 2003 which gets a whole batch to itself. The evacuees get considerable coverage, and seem to have used the Olympia Ballroom as a base. It is also possible to trace the war through Hand to Eye can now be seen in the various activities, including a model allotment at the Museum, 84-year-old man 'digging Exhibitions gallery and provides a for victory', Land Girls on Berkshire farms, Spitfire Fund collection, War Weapons Week, Warship Week, Russia Week and Wings for Victory Weeks, right through to Home Guard fascinating insight into the processes stand down parade. I was surprised at just how many mentions there are of bomb craft makers use to produce their damage in the area, given the strict censorship then in operation and the fact that work. They use different materials but the People's Pantry raid is normally the only one we hear about. are similarly preoccupied with hand processes that give their finished The other interesting aspect has been the picture of pre-war life in and around Reading. objects their beauty and uniqueness. As this was then the Berkshire Chronicle rather than the Reading Chronicle, it covers a much larger area, not all of it in Berkshire, roughly bounded by Henley, Maidenhead, Makers featured include Alice Kettle, Ascot, Camberley, Silchester, Bucklebury and Streatley. Maidenhead seems to have who trained at Reading University and been particularly active during the thirties - entries for 1938 include Health and Beauty, creates textile wall hangings, Alison Housewives' Exhibition, Chamber of Commerce and Rotary dinners, garden parties, Crowther who uses a chainsaw to a dog show and a visit by Gracie Fields. develop unusual wooden seating In Reading itself, the picture which emerges is of a market and manufacturing town solutions, and Victoria Brown. Other where most people work for local firms which play a very important role in their lives. makers include Margaret O'Rorke, Not only do Huntley & Palmers, Simonds and Suttons Seeds get frequent mentions Joanna Still and Ruth Dresman who for activities laid on for their staff, but there are also similar mentions for Heelas, displays glass bowls decorated by Wellsteeds, McIlroys, the Co-op, Milwards and Parslows and big employers like the sandblasting. Great Western Railway, the Post Office, the Gas Works and the Police. As these employers provided outings, dinner dances, football and cricket teams and so on, The Esmee Fairbairn Foundation they must have played an important role in people's social as well as their working lives. and the Arts Council England have supported Hand to Eye. The University (always referred to as 'Varsity' up to the war) and the local grammar and independent schools feature a lot, what with speech days, school plays and This exhibition continues the craft various sporting activities. Sport was obviously very popular during the thirties, with theme at the Museum of Reading several local bowls clubs being founded, and tennis clubs and rowing regattas getting this summer. frequent mentions. Empire Day and May Day were celebrated and some activities like baby shows, Sunday School outings, Temperance Fetes and Bathing Beauty competitions seem very much of the past to us today. Several of these events took place in the local cinemas: the Vaudeville, Rex, Odeon, Pavilion, Granby and Caversham Regal. There are also two entries referring to the last tram and the trams being broken up. It will be interesting to see, as the work progresses, whether things are different in post- war Reading, or whether it is only in the last twenty or thirty years that the major changes have taken place. Amanda Martin Contact Us Visit your local Museum and Members of the Council win a weekend break for two Chairman Win a luxury weekend break for two by visiting your local Museums between Ann Middleton 12 April - 28 September 2003. Fourteen Thames Valley Museums have joined 0118 950 5548 forces in a new initiative designed to encourage people to discover the wealth Membership Secretary of their local heritage this spring and summer. Full details can be found on John Hendy www.readingmuseum.org.uk or you can call 0118 939 9800. firstname.lastname@example.org Museum visitors have the unique opportunity to enter a competition to win a Vice Chair luxury weekend break simply by visiting two or more participating Museums. The lucky winner will enjoy a luxurious two-night stay including dinner, bed and John Steeds breakfast at The Swan Hotel, Streatley on Thames, a picturesque 17th century 0118 983 1070 inn offering spectacular views from the banks of the River Thames. Treasurer Full list of museums: 1) Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. (2) Museum of Reading Tricia Wiles (3) River & Rowing Museum, Henley on Thames. (4) Bucks County Museum, 0118 935 3391 Aylesbury. (5) The Oxfordshire Museum, Woodstock. (6) The Chiltern Open Air Museum, Chalfont St Giles. (7) Abingdon Museum. (8) Didcot Railway Centre. Newsletter & website editor (9) Wycombe Museum. (10) Banbury Museum. (11) Museum of English Rural Victoria Buckett Life, Reading. (12) Cogges Manor Farm Museum, Witney. (13) West Berkshire 0118 967 2478 Museum. (14) Vale and Downland Museum, Wantage. email@example.com Working Party Museum Lectures Marian Fallowfield 0118 954 6899 Join us for a little lunchtime learning this Autumn, with a talk by Professor Brian Kemp on the newly re-hung Abbey Paintings on Museum Rep 14 September at 2pm (free, book in advance 0118 939 9800) and a David Pearson series of talks by museum staff on different topics the first Wednesday 0118 939 9800 of every month (10 Sep, 8 Oct, 5 Nov, 10 Dec). And don't miss An Evening with Zandra Rhodes in the Concert Hall on 19 September - tickets are available at the special £8 concessionary rate for Friends - book your place on 0118 960 60 60. New Membership & Renewal Name/s of Membership Form 2003 Address I/We wish to become a member of the Friends of Reading Museums at £10 per person, per year.* Membership runs from 1 January – 31 December. Postcode Please complete this form and return it with a cheque to the Membership Secretary.** email John Hendy 10 Field Road Telephone Reading Berkshire RG1 6AP Registered Charity Number 284398 * concessions are available for those unemployed, under 25 or retired at £5 per year. Life membership Please tick this box if you do not want your address is also available for £100. passed to the Museum for mailings **please enclose an s.a.e. if you require a receipt.