Geology lecture: Landslides in the UK by Dr. Helen Reeves

Dr. Helen Reeves

Dr. Helen Reeves

On Wednesday 12th November 2014 there will be a geology lecture at Dorset County Museum on the subject of landslides.

Dr. Helen Reeves of the British Geological Survey will give an overview of the landslides work undertaken by the British Geological Survey. This this will include a description of the national landslide database, the ways in which landslides are surveyed, monitored and predicted, and the value of these activities to local residents and other interested parties.

Helen is the Head of Science for Engineering Geology at the British Geological Survey. She is a Leeds/ Durham trained engineering geologist, who before joining BGS in 2002, worked in UK-based ground investigation. Much of her research involves investigating the processes and distribution of geohazards, particularly landslides and subsidence, in the UK.

When Helen isn’t busy attending international meetings and studying existing landslides, she enjoys visiting her favourite haunts by campervan.

Her talk will take place on Wednesday 12th November in the Museum’s Victorian Hall. The event is FREE but donations are encouraged to cover costs. The talk starts at 7.00pm and the doors are open from 6.30pm. All are welcome to attend.

For more information of this and other events please Tel: 01305 262735 or visit our website at www.dorsetcountymuseum.org

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Landscape and Identity: An exhibition by artist Phyllis Wolff

Brownsea Island by Phyllis Wolff

Brownsea Island by Phyllis Wolff © 2014

Dorset County Museum is delighted to welcome back Dorset artist Phyllis Wolff in November of this year. Phyllis has exhibited at the Museum before and the new exhibition promises to be her most exciting to date.

Landscape and Identity will contain about 80 paintings based around the concept of the identity which Dorset’s rural landscape establishes within the artist and the connection this makes with the work itself.

“Phyllis’ paintings are incredibly vibrant – full of life and colour – and represent the best of contemporary artists working in Dorset today,” said Jon Murden, Director of Dorset County Museum. “We look forward to seeing her work back in the Museum and are sure this exhibition will be as successful as the last one.”

Phyllis Wolff has lived and painted in north Dorset for nearly 40 years. She moved there soon after graduating from St Martins’ School of Art in the 1970s to be closer to the landscape which she wanted to paint. That is precisely what she has done, more or less consistently, since that time.

Phyllis has been described as a 21st Century impressionist – her Dorset garden is a rich source of inspiration to her. She paints with spontaneity and immediacy, diving into her work and suffusing it with life and colour, making it all look very easy. The use of abstracted brushstrokes and painterly marks all help to create her very distinctive and beautiful paintings.

Accompanying the exhibition will be a selection of greetings cards and a booklet on sale in the Museum shop. Entry to the exhibition is FREE.

Dorset County Museum is open from 10.00am to 4.00pm, Monday to Saturday. Phyllis Wolff: Landscape and Identity will run from Saturday 22nd November until 24th December 2014 and is the perfect opportunity to find that very special Christmas present!

For more information please Tel: 01305 262735 or visit our website at www.dorsetcountymuseum.org

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Dorset County Boundary Seminar at Museum

Dorset County Boundary Research GroupThe Dorset County Boundary Research Group is holding a seminar on Saturday 15th November 2014 from 9.30am to 2.00pm. The subject is Charting and Chartering the Borders of Dorset: county boundary-making set in a wider historical context. The guest speaker will be Dr Mark Gardiner of Queen’s University, Belfast.

“We will be exploring the wider concerns, the deeper history of boundaries; those processes involved in boundary-making over time,” said Dr Gardiner.

Dorset, as a defined territory, is extremely old. Hints of British origins are found in its very name, Dornsaete. The first written mention is in 845 when a combined Dorset and Somerset force attacked the Danes raiding up the river Parrett. The boundary was redefined by the Normans in 1086 and more recently in 1974 when Bournemouth was brought into Dorset to increase county revenues.

Members of the Group will be picking up these themes with reference to the exploration of Dorset’s boundary since 2007 using evidence from six Anglo-Saxon charters. The day will provide a rare opportunity to explore and discuss the composite nature of this unique historic linear landscape feature, lengths of which are now being submitted for formal Dorset County Council listing and protection.

Everyone is welcome – enquiries can be made to Katherine Barker on 01935 816764.
Tickets cost £12.50 for adults and £5 for students and are available from the Museum Shop on 01305 756827. Alternatively send your request with a SAE to Charting and Chartering Dorset, Dorset County Museum, High West Street, Dorchester DT1 1XA. Cheques are payable to the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society.

Victorian Hallowe’en Customs And Crafts

FrankensteinFrankenstein meets whimsy in the family activity at Dorset County Museum taking place this half term.

The theme for the session on Wednesday 29th October is the Victorian view of Hallowe’en. The crafts and activities on offer have been specially chosen to illustrate some of the little known Victorian superstitions and beliefs.

Participants can make black cats out of paper plates or maybe a scary Frankenstein mask – the author Mary Shelley was a classic gothic novelist of the day!

Find out all about Victorian Hallowe’en cards which were not designed to scare the recipient, but were rather pretty with colourful paintings of witches, black cats, broomsticks and bats.

All are welcome to come along to this friendly family activity, which is provided FREE of charge thanks to continued sponsorship by Battens Solicitors through their charitable trust. The event starts at 10.30am and runs until 12.30pm. Adults must stay with their children at all times, but are welcome to take part in the craft activities.

There is no need to book. For more information visit www.dorsetcountymuseum.org

Blockbuster Sale of Second-Hand Books at Museum

Book Sale at Dorset County MuseumA blockbuster sale of second-hand books will be taking place at Dorset County Museum on 24th, 25th and 27th October 2014.

Thousands of quality books will be sold at bargain prices – fact, fiction, hardback and softback. Hundreds of subjects will be represented including travel, history, music, art and gardening. A wide selection of fiction will also be available including hard and soft backs. A few minutes’ careful searching could reveal untold treasures!

In addition, there will be a sale of Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society and Dorset Record Society publications at knock-down prices – available only to buyers who visit the sale in person. The Museum’s well-stocked gift shop is also well worth a visit with Christmas lines now available, and the popular tea room awaits weary bargain hunters.

All proceeds go towards the upkeep of the Museum and its extensive collections.
Everyone is welcome and entry to the sale is free – it would help the Museum if visitors could bring their own bags as supplies of plastic bags will be limited. Please note the Museum will NOT be open on Sunday 26th November.

Donations of good quality second hand books will be gratefully received up to and including Friday 17th October.

For more information please Tel: 01305 262735 or visit our website at www.dorsetcountymuseum.org

Dorset’s Church Treasure: Telling the Story of Christianity through the Centuries

17th Century Chalice from SwanageAn exhibition of Ecclesiastical Silver at Dorset County Museum, Dorchester from 13th October 2014 to 18th April 2015.

In Christian churches, the act of communion has always been the most important religious ceremony. Traditionally congregations wished to have the very best communion vessels that they (or their richest members) could afford. As a result Dorset churches have a wealth of beautiful and rare collections of silver, some of it so valuable that it has to be stored in bank vaults. A new exhibition at Dorset County Museum provides a rare opportunity to see some of the finest pieces in both Dorset and the UK.

The new temporary exhibition in the Museum’s Victorian Gallery tells the story of Christianity for over 2000 years – from Pre-Reformation times to the present day. Crafted by world-famous silversmiths, the pieces include the Coombe Keynes Chalice from the Victoria and Albert Museum in London – an object of huge national importance.

Dorset appears to have had a strong Christian community as far back as Roman times. An example of this tradition is a Roman spoon from Dorchester with the “fish” Christian cipher.

By the early 16th century England was a devoutly Christian country and only the Priest was normally allowed to take full communion. He drank wine from a wide mouth vessel called a chalice and took bread, in the form of an unleavened wafer, from a small plate called a paten. Pieces of church silver from this period in England are rare and in Dorset only three pieces survive. All of these can be seen in the exhibition including the Coombe Keynes Chalice which has been said by the Victoria and Albert Museum to be one of the finest in the country.

Many consider the 18th century as the greatest period for church and domestic silver and Paul de Lamerie is generally accepted as the greatest silversmith of the time; some say of all time. On display is one of the three silver-gilt communion sets made by de Lamerie for Dorset churches. There is also a letter, dated June 1737, which records instructions on how to clean the silver as directed by Paul de Lamerie, himself.

In the mid-1800s a new Anglo Catholic movement wanted to bring more powerful emotional symbolism and energy to the Church. More elaborate church interiors were introduced and the design of communion ware moved to a more mediaeval style. The chalice on show from St Peter’s church Parkstone is a fine example of the richness and ebullience of this style. The chalice is inlaid with semi-precious stones and has a diamond cross on the front, reputed to be from necklace owned by the donor.

“This exhibition contains some of the finest pieces of church silverware in the country,” said Jon Murden, Director of Dorset County Museum. “We are grateful to all the Dorset parishes which have loaned items for us to display. We hope many people will be able to see these hidden treasures before they go back into safe storage.”

In addition to silver chalices, patens and flagons, there are other fascinating items including a very rare bread knife for cutting communion bread. Accompanying the exhibition is a booklet describing Dorset’s ecclesiastical silver and the development of Christianity in Dorset since the 4th century.

The exhibition will be formally opened by the Bishop of Sherborne, Dr. Graham Kings, and will run at Dorset County Museum from 13th October 2014 to 18th April 2015.

The award-winning Museum is open Monday to Saturday, 10.00am to 5.00pm until the end of October when it closes daily at 4.00pm.

For more information please Tel: 01305 262735 or visit our website at www.dorsetcountymuseum.org.

The Altar Frontal from Wool Church

From the ‘Proceedings of the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society’ Volume 55 1934, an article written by the G. DRU DRURY, M.R.C.S., L.R.C.P., F.S.A entitled ‘The Altar Frontal From Wool Church.’ (Read the 21st day of November, 1933.)

This interesting frontal is made up from portions of mediaeval vestments, which local tradition would have us believe came from the neighbouring Cistercian Abbey of Bindon.

In the year 1886 the Vicar and Churchwardens of the Church of the Holy Rood, Wool, placed it with the Dorset County Museum, and being extremely fragile, it was carefully repaired by Mrs. Stillwell the following year.

The descriptive references by Hutchins and his continuators are scanty and inaccurate ; and the fact that, during the 47 years our museum has sheltered this fine example of mediaeval embroidery, no adequate description has been attempted can only be regarded as a reproach, with the object of removing which this paper has been written.

Several doubtful points were cleared-up by a visit to the Department of Textiles at the Victoria and Albert Museum, with a photograph of the frontal; and I take this opportunity of recording gratefully my indebtedness to Mr. C. E. C. Tattersall for his kindness and courtesy on that occasion.

The most gratifying fact established was that the embroidery is undoubtedly English, though the velvet was probably all imported from Italy.

Most of the work dates from the end of the 15th century; and some of it may even be 16th century, the figures on the second and fourth strips being just about as late as any pre-reformation type.

The  Altar  Frontal from Wool Church

The Altar Frontal from Wool Church © DCM

The frontal is composed of eight approximately equal vertical strips joined together to fit an altar 4ft. 6ins. in length by 3ft. high. These strips differ both in design and material, four being of velvet and four of linen, but in the latter case, not all of the same texture.

The first strip (from the left-hand side) is of blue velvet, the pile of which has nearly all worn off. It is embroidered with coloured silks and gold thread in a design of “fish flowers” and sprays. The name” fish flower” is derived from the fancied resemblance of the central portion to the inverted body and tail of a fish. The rich blue of the velvet still survives in the centres of the two flowers and where it has been protected by the sprays here and there. It is not difficult to imagine this as part of a sumptuously decorated chasuble ; in fact there is in the Victoria and Albert Museum a red chasuble of late 15th century date which is embroidered with practically the same design.

The third, fifth and seventh strips are all from one piece of velvet—probably from a cope—once a rich purple but now faded to a brown colour. The design of “pine flowers” and sprays is finely embroidered in coloured silks, the heads of the flowers being of white linen applique and worked over. Comparison with a cope of purple velvet in the Victoria and Albert Museum which, though still definitely purple, – has faded in places to a colour nearly resembling these strips, confirms this opinion as to their original colour, in spite of the fact that Hut chins mentions brown velvet. Furthermore Mr. Tattersall reminded me that though red, blue, green or purple vestments are frequently mentioned in the inventories of church goods of 1552, brown is unknown.

The  Altar  Frontal from Wool Church © DCMThe second and fourth strips are parts of orphreys made of rather coarse linen embroidered with silks in the designs of figures standing on the ground, beneath architectural canopies, the style of which dates them as late 15th or early 16th century work. Some of the orphreys of English work of this period in the Victoria and Albert Museum exhibit canopies similar to these in general form, in the character of the vaulting beneath the canopy arches, and in the round-headed recesses of the shafts.

It will be noticed that the figures on these two strips face inwards towards each other, doubtless because they formed parts of orphreys from the front of a cope, but not all the panels are complete as to their tops and bases.

Saint Matthias? © DCM

Saint Matthias? © DCM

It is not easy to determine whether these bearded figures represent prophets, apostles or saints, much less to assign them names. None of them have ecclesiastical vestments and with one exception they wear a nondescript kind of “traditional” costume, of forgotten origin after generations of copying; possibly in like manner the very identity of the persons represented may have meant little to the worker who carried on the tradition. The top figure of the second strip carries a spear and wears a large flat-topped hat, his hair and beard are white. The middle figure, who carries a long-handled axe, also has white hair and beard, but appears to have a halo rather than a hat; the upper part of his canopy has been cut off, consequently it is not certain that his position in relation to the

Moses? © DCM

Moses? © DCM

figure above is the original arrangement. The lowest figure with brown beard and small pointed hat might (as has been supposed – Hutchins’s History of Dorset, 3rd Edition, Vol. 1, p. 361.) represent Moses holding the tables of the law in his left hand and a rod in his right.

On the fourth strip the top figure with a long brown beard is dressed as a merchant with a belt and gypcière, his turban hat has a long liripipe which depends below the level of his right knee. The second figure with white hair and beard has a halo and grips a long knife and may perhaps represent St. Bartholomew. The lowest figure has brown hair and beard with ruddy cheeks, he wears a tall pointed “Steeple” hat with a broad turn-up and carries a scroll in his left hand.

St. Cuthburga, Abbess of Wimborne? © DCM

St. Cuthburga, Abbess of Wimborne? © DCM

The sixth strip is also part of; an orphrey, perhaps the central strip of a chasuble. It has been rubbed very bare of its silk embroidery, exposing the linen surface which is of very coarse texture.

Two female saints in veil and wimple are worked upon it; the upper figure bears a church in her hands, the symbol of a foundress ; the lower one holds a cross in both hands and might perhaps represent St. Helen. Their canopies are of an earlier type than those just mentioned.

The eighth strip is again part of an orphrey and is worked on linen of fine texture. The design consists of two male saints, each adorned with a blue halo, standing beneath canopies. The lower figure holds a chalice in his left hand but the object held by the upper figure is not now recognisable though it appears to terminate above in a small round knob. The canopy is only complete in the case of the lower figure, and though this resembles in some respects those on the sixth strip, it is not the same, the pediment has a more stately pitch and the diaper work is better, and a date may be assigned to this earlier in the 15th century than any of the others.

The Altar Frontal from Wool Church © DCMIt would seem, therefore, fairly obvious that the sixth and eighth strips belonged to different vestments, and it is a not incredible supposition that the sixth strip, in so far as its canopy work is concerned, may have been a rather poor copy of the eighth strip.

But there are parts of yet two more vestments incorporated in the frontal. On either side of the second strip a thin edging has been added consisting of green and gold “cut velvet” while between the third and fourth strips there is a similar edging of crimson and gold “cut velvet” Both of these are Italian and of 15th century date.

The fragments, preserved between glass in the small frame, came from the back of the Altar Frontal at the time it was repaired by Mrs. Stillwell.

With the Council’s permission I submitted them to Mr. Tattersall for his opinion, and have since labelled them in accordance with it.

The Altar Frontal from Wool Church © DCMNos. 1 and 2 are pieces of 15th century Italian velvet, doubtless from a cope. The crimson pile, which is woven on at least two warps, is cut to show a design in gold. A fine example of such a cope is to be seen in the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Nos. 3 and 4 are pieces of the green and crimson edging dividing the strips, described above. The green velvet is much rarer than the crimson. It was noticed that several of the vestments in the Victoria and Albert Museum had an edging of this material round the bottom.

Nos. 5, 6 and 7 are pieces of handwoven linen of various texture and colour, used as linings for the frontal.

To summarise briefly, it is definitely established that there are incorporated in the frontal parts of at least three vestments, probably a chasuble and two. copes, and parts of three different sets of orphreys; but whether the orphreys belonged to these particular vestments or were taken from others it is impossible to say.

Now in regard to the traditional connection with Bindon Abbey, what is the evidence?

It must be acknowledged at once that there is no real evidence and, after all, it is hardly likely that there should be; nevertheless where a strong local tradition exists in matters such as these it is unwise to ignore it.

The compilers of the 3rd Edition of Hutchins’s History of Dorset state that “it was probably brought from Bindon Abbey” Hutchins himself, in the 1st Edition, states rather more explicitly “it is most probable it belonged to Bindon Chapel and was preserved when that and the house were burnt in the Civil Wars.”

The house and chapel here referred to were built by Lord Thomas Howard (created 1st Viscount Bindon in 1559) who “raised a fair house” out of the monastery ruins. The actual position of this house and its domestic chapel cannot now be determined with any certainty, but it seems probable that it covered very much the same area as the present house within the Abbey precincts. It was burnt down during the Civil Wars about the year 1644.

A return of Church utensils in 1550 belonging to this Bindon Chapel is quoted by Hutchins, (Hutchins’s History of Dorset, 3rd Edition, Vol. 1, p. 352.) which includes a pair of vestments and an altar cloth. Perhaps this may have been the source of his idea.

In the Inventory of Church goods of 1552 (Proceedings, Dorset Natural History and Antiquarian Field Club, Vol. XXV., pp. 210 &211.) the ” Chapell of Byndon ” possessed “one payre of vestments of rede & gryne saye” and “one alter clothe”

In the same Inventory “The parische of Woolle” had ” iiij payre of vestmentes with branchis of silke. ij copis with branches ” ” iiij aulter clothes ” : of which ” one cope and all the table clothes ” were allowed for the church use.

On the face of it the supposition of the late Rev. W. Miles Barnes (Ibid, p. 198.) would seem to be quite likely, viz.:—that these vestments and the remaining cope were eventually made up into altar hangings after purchase from the Commissioners, of which the frontal is all that now survives.

Museum holds fundraising event to celebrate links with Dorchester, Massachusetts

Dorset County Museum is currently working on a major refurbishment and development project to improve its galleries and collections storage facilities and to increase access to the public. Part of the project involves fundraising and increasing the profile of the Museum at home and abroad.

David Taylor points to the coat of arms of the Lawrence Family at St Michael & All Angels, Steeple.

David Taylor points to the coat of arms of the Lawrence Family at St Michael & All Angels, Steeple.

An important part of Dorset’s heritage is its connection with early settlers in the United States. The Museum is keen to establish links with American organisations interested in the history of those who travelled under the guidance of the Revd. John White of Dorchester. The Museum owns John White’s Rectory in Colliton Street which will be restored as part of the project. The Museum has several American members who are keen to promote the project and become involved in establishing stronger links with places like Dorchester in Massachusetts, one of the original landing points of English settlers.

Fundraising Team Leader, David Taylor said, “We have found links from Dorset families to the great-grandfather of George Washington who became the first President of the United States. There are also coats of arms from the Lawrence and Washington families going back to 1390 which show stars and stripes very similar to those used on the American flag.”

Dorchester Thanksgiving PartyThe fundraising event on Friday 14th November will celebrate the Museum’s re-established contact with the United States and will include a live link with dignitaries from Dorchester and Boston Massachusetts. The thanksgiving party will start at 5.30pm with a presentation of a new film about Dorset’s heritage which will be introduced by Lord and Lady Fellowes of West Stafford. Entertainment will include the performance of a Mummers Play by the New Hardy Players and traditional folk music by Jerry Bird.

Tickets cost £15 and include canapés and a glass of wine. They are available now from the Museum Shop on 01305 756827 or by email on shop@dorsetcountymuseum.org. Tickets can also be obtained from the Dorchester Tourist Information Centre, telephone 01305 267992.

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Thomas Hardy Lecture: Life is a Game of Chess by Rebecca Welshman

Thomas Hardy in his Study Dorset County Museum © 2013

Thomas Hardy in his Study Dorset County Museum © 2013

The last in the current series of Thomas Hardy talks at Dorset County Museum will investigate Hardy’s use of the origins and strategies of classic games in his fiction writing.

Rebecca Welshman of the University of Exeter has studied how Thomas Hardy’s familiarity with the ancient origins and principles of games informed some of the key scenes in his novels. In The Mayor of Casterbridge, for example, Hardy describes Casterbridge as a ‘chessboard’, and Maumbury Rings – the former site of Gladiatorial games – as an ‘arena’ in which the games of human relationships are played out.

The talk also explores how Hardy strategically employs games such as chess, cards and dice to direct the fates of his characters and how chance and strategy are principles of his fiction writing.

Rebecca’s talk entitled, Life is a Game of Chess: Hardy, Games and Prehistoric Landscapes, will take place on Thursday 30th October in the Museum’s Victorian Hall. The event is FREE but donations are encouraged to cover costs. The talk starts at 7.30pm and the doors are open from 7.00pm. All are welcome to attend.

For more information please Tel: 01305 262735 or visit our website at www.dorsetcountymuseum.org.

Special guests at Dorset County Museum

Jon Murden, Jenny Cripps, Emilija Marinkov and Zvezdana Popovic at Dorset County Museum

Jon Murden, Jenny Cripps, Emilija Marinkov and Zvezdana Popovic at Dorset County Museum

Representatives from Serbian Embassy in London visit ‘A Dorset Woman at War’ exhibition at Dorchester Museum.

Last week staff at Dorset County Museum were delighted to welcome special visitors from the Embassy of the Republic of Serbia. Emilija Marinkov, Second Secretary of Political Affairs, Press and Cultural Affairs was joined by Zvezdana Popovic when they travelled from London to view the current exhibition A Dorset Woman at War.

The exhibition, which runs until 15th November, recognises a remarkable Dorset woman, Mabel Stobart, who played an important role in Serbia during the First World War.

Jon Murden, director of Dorset County Museum said, “We were thrilled to meet Emilija and Zvezdana from the Serbian Embassy. Mabel Stobart is still regarded as a heroine in Serbia for the part she played during the First World War, and it’s great that they could come down from London to see the exhibition for themselves.”

For more information about the exhibition visit www.dorsetcountymuseum.org

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