Dorset County Museum Thanksgiving Party is Great Success

Dorchester Thanksgiving Party Cake

The beautiful Dorchester Thanksgiving Party Cake created and kindly donated by Angel Cake Company

Friday 14th November saw an enthusiastic crowd at Dorset County Museum celebrating Thanksgiving with new friends in Dorchester, Massachusetts.

The fundraising event brought together people from both sides of the Atlantic in a joint venture to raise money for Dorset County Museum’s new Collections Discovery Centre. A total of just over £1400 was raised on the night which will go directly towards funding the project

Staff and trustees of Dorset County Museum would like to express their thanks to the following people who made the event such a success: Lord and Lady Fellowes of West Stafford; Peter Mann, Mayor of Dorchester; David Taylor, Museum Fundraising Team Leader; Jan Cosgrove, David Cuckson, Jane Squirrell, Volunteers of the Museum’s Fundraising team; Mark North, Andy Worth, Ian Condon, Jenny Devitt, Film and Media Technicians;  John Fiori from the Horse with the Red Umbrella and Nicci Campbell of the Angel Cake Company for the food and the cake, plus Dorchester Town Crier Alistair Chisholm and members of the New Hardy Players.

Dorchester Thanksgiving Party

Crowds gather in the museum for the Dorchester Thanksgiving Party

During the evening, the two Dorchesters were directly connected by a live video link. Julian Fellowes talked with the Rt Reverend Richard Kellaway and the Rev Arthur Lovoie from the First Parish Church in Dorchester Massachusetts, assisted by  who had been helping to coordinate the event on the American side. A major element in the joint heritage of the two towns is the rectory of the Reverend John White. A listed building, it was here that events took place that played a key role in the founding of the United States of America. Regeneration of this site, in the centre of Dorchester’s urban conservation area, will help promote understanding of Dorset’s international story and provide a definite link for the many tens of thousands of people around the world who can trace their family heritage back to Dorset.

Lord Julian Fellowes

Lord Julian Fellowes of West Stafford

The Museum’s Collections Discovery Centre project has been developed to provide new galleries, learning resources, collections storage facilities and a renewed public face for the Museum. The new centre will enable the museum to showcase its collections, spanning over 185 million years. It will build a safe conservation environment and sustainable future for the heritage the collections represent. This will enable more people to learn about history and prehistory using the Museum’s collections, and create additional collecting capacity for

 Julian Fellowes speaks to First Parish Dorchester - Rev. Arthur R. Lavoie, Phil Lindsay and Rev. Richard Kellaway — with Julian Fellowes at Dorset County Museum.

Lord Julian Fellowes speaks to First Parish Dorchester – Rev. Arthur R. Lavoie, Phil Lindsay and Rev. Richard Kellaway

Dorset’s strategically important collections such as the archaeology of the South Dorset Ridgeway and the geology of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site.

In addition, new galleries will encourage more people to visit and experience the collections including groups which do not currently use the Museum and visitors will be able to see, for the first time, objects in reserve collections which are not normally on display. The scheme will also help to improve the cultural tourism offer for Dorset, and support the regional economy. The Museum is in the heart of a rural county, in the centre of the county town, and in an area that attracts visitors from across the UK. In this location, with the right investment, the new centre will provide wonderful access to the region’s heritage and become an essential part of the experience of visiting Dorset.

Further fundraising events are currently being planned to support the project – for more information visit or telephone the Museum on 01305 262735.

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Dorchester Museum to host Sci-Fi characters and Father Christmas on Cracker Night

Dorchester Cracker Night

Sci-Fi characters at Dorset County Museum at a previous Cracker Night.

It’s nearly time for Cracker Night again in Dorchester. The event that officially kicks off Christmas in the County town takes place this year on Thursday 4th December from 5.30pm.

This year everyone’s favourite Science fiction characters will be back at Dorset County Museum by popular demand. Come along to see characters from the Star Wars films and Doctor Who – and bring the children to see Father Christmas in his grotto in the Museum’s Victorian Gallery. A small donation is requested, and every child will receive a bag of goodies.

Delicious mulled wine and mince pies will be for sale in the Tea Room and the Museum shop will be open with a range of gift ideas including toys, games, books and jewellery. The current exhibition by local artist, Phyllis Wolff will be on display in the exhibition gallery and many of the works are for sale – another fantastic opportunity to pick up a very special Christmas present.

Entry to the Museum on Cracker Night is FREE and everyone is welcome. The ground floor galleries will also be open on the night.

For further information visit or telephone the Museum on 01305 262735.

British Museum Curator to give talk on Ice Age Art

Ivory Swimming ReindeerIn 2013 the British Museum staged a unique exhibition of Ice Age Art, created between 40,000 and 10,000 years ago. It presented masterpieces of sculpture, ceramics, drawing and personal ornaments from all over Europe. These striking objects are now the subject of a fascinating talk at Dorset County Museum by the exhibition’s curator, Jill Cook.

Jill Cook

Jill Cook

Jill is a Senior Curator and Deputy Keeper of the Department of Prehistory & Europe at The British Museum. She is an archaeologist whose interest in archaeology began in Dorset as a teenager when she volunteered on Roman villa excavations at Dewlish. At university the subject of her dissertation was Edward Cunnington and his excavations of Dorset barrows. Since then, she has specialized in the deeper history of much earlier periods, investigating the archaeology of human evolution, as well as the history of archaeology.

During her talk on Ice Age art at Dorset County Museum on 5th December, Jill Cook will show some of the masterpieces from the exhibition such as the British Museum’s mammoth ivory sculpture of a pair of swimming reindeer, plus the oldest known sculptures, drawings and musical instruments from Europe. Far from being simple objects from a remote time, Jill will explain how these works of art are important clues about the evolution of our brains and the development of modern human societies.

The talk starts at 7.30pm and entry is FREE. The doors will open at 7.00pm and all donations to cover costs will be welcome. For further information visit or telephone the Museum on 01305 262735.

The Roman Pavement, Dorchester, Massachusetts

Roman Pavement Dorchester High School, Massachusetts, USA

The Roman Pavement in the entrance to the Dorchester High School , Massachusetts, USA © DCM

From the Massachusetts newspaper ‘THE ITEM’ February 1906, an article written by the A. W. H entitled ‘The Roman Pavement’

Rumors have lately been afloat that an old Roman pavement, discovered in Dorchester, England, is to be laid in the floor of our school. Since we are to see daily this relic of an empire which perished fifteen hundred years ago, it is fitting that we should know something of its history and by whose efforts we have come into possession of it.

Close up of the Roman Pavement in the Dorchester High School , Massachusetts, USA © DCM

Close up of the Roman Pavement in the Dorchester High School , Massachusetts, USA © DCM

In 1903 there appeared a notice in the Listener of the Boston Transcript saying, that, while making repairs in the crypt of All Saints’ Church, Dorchester, England, there had been discovered, beneath the foundations, a pavement laid by the Romans probably more than sixteen hundred years ago. The rector of All Saints’ parish, Mr. Filleul, expressed his willingness to present this pavement to the City of Boston, should it wish it. The paragraph was brought to the attention of Mr. Lincoln by Miss Hovey: and the former at once wrote to Mr. Filleul accepting his offer and suggesting that, since our Dorchester here is the namesake and offspring of the old English town, the pavement should be laid either in the floor of the Dorchester High School or in that of the proposed new public library, th place to be designated at the rector’s discretion. Soon Mr. Filleul replied, selecting the library as the more fitting place for the pavement to be laid. Mr. Lincoln at once consulted the architects of the building; but they thought best not to have it placed in the present library building.

Dorchester High School, Massachusetts, USA

Dorchester High School, Massachusetts, USA

When the circumstances were made known to Mr. Filleul, he consented to its being placed in the High School. Whereupon Mr. Lincoln consulted the schoolhouse commissioners about having it laid in the Dorchester High School. The commissioners voted at once, as soon as the matter was brought to their attention, to incur the expense of laying the pavement.

But, while a home for the “migrant floor” was being secured with more or less difficulty on this side of the Atlantic, the generous parson of Dorchester across the sea was putting himself to much trouble in our behalf, and enduring much unjust criticism on account of his kindness toward the people of the American Dorchester. We quote the following scathing lines taken from a Devonshire newspaper in regard to Mr. Filleul’s action:

“If vandalism of this kind is to be permitted, there is no knowing where it will stop. We shall next, perhaps, hear of a proposal to sell York Minster to New York, or St. Paul’s to the town of that name in Minnesota. * * * The excuse for selling the old Roman pavement is that the money to be paid for it will help to buy a new organ for the church. * * * The proper place for the Roman Pavement, if it cannot be left in situ, is the Dorchester museum.”

We are glad to add, however, that a Dorset paper, evidently better informed of the facts of the transaction, has valiantly defended Mr. Filleul’s position and generosity, and wrote in reply to the above article :

“There has been no act of vandalism, and to associate so good an antiquarian as Mr. Filleul with such an offence is grotesque. The facts have evidently been misunderstood. In the first place, there is no sale, and in the second, the fragment of pavement * * * is but one of a score of similar specimens that have been found in the borough. To make such a gift out of our bounty to the Dorchester across the sea seems to us an altogether gracious act, and entirely devoid of offence even to the most punctilious antiquary. The Standard, in an admirable leading article, regards the exchange of courtesies between the two Dorchesters as equally interesting and creditable to the Western county and Western state. “It was from Dorchester,” says the writer, “that the little Massachu¬setts town of the same name derived its origin, and not long ago it took the graceful opportunity of acknowledging its parentage by erecting memorials in two of the churches of the old Roman settlement to the Rev. John White, its virtual founder. The pres¬ent gift is no more than “making even” with American generosity; but the descendant is not to be outdone by the ancestor, and has determined to exhibit its gratitude by a “handsome donation ” towards a new organ for All Saints’ Church.”

The donation mentioned in these paragraphs is being made up, through the efforts of Mr. Lincoln and by citizens of Dorchester interested in the High School, and is no more than an acknowledgment of English courtesy.

About the genuineness of the pavement, there can be no question. The above quotations show that the people of Dorset have no doubt that it is the work of Romans: and Mr. Edwia D. Mead of Boston who saw it a few years ago as it lay in Dorchester, further corroborates the opinion by expressing his delight that so genuine a relic of Roman antiquity is to belong to Boston. He also adds that the owners of the pavement are to be congratulated on possessing a priceless treasure.

Roman Pavement discovered in Dorchester, Dorset similiar to  one Dorchester now in Dorchester, Massachusetts

Roman Pavement discovered in Dorchester, Dorset similiar to one Dorchester now in Dorchester, Massachusetts

The negotiations necessary to procure the relic took a great deal of time, so that the fragment itself did not reach us until this month, January 1906. Since we are to see it so soon, it will be of interest to know how and of what it is made. The section of pavement, which is to be laid in the lower corridor, is made of nine thousand tesserae, or little cubes about an inch.square, six thousand white, and three thousand red. The red tessene are made of some manufactured stone more compact than our brick; and the white are probably cut from the common white limestone which is so abundant in southern England. They are to be laid in the same patten as that of the pavement in the photograph Mr. Filleul has sent us, which is a picture of a pavement similar to ours, and gives a good idea of how deeply these traces of Roman civilization have lain buried beneath the dust of centuries. Each interior square is about eight inches on a side and contains about sixty-four cubes. Aside from the mere laying of the pavement, each tessera must have individual attention and be cleaned of caked dirt and stain before set in the cement.

We have at hand a letter from Mr. Filleul, from which we quote in part, telling something of the nature and former environment of the pavement and mentioning an interesting though rather gruesome historical incident in regard to it.

“This pavement, of course, is not one of the finer qualities of which several have be buried in Dorchester: but it is a sort that seems to have been used chiefly for inferior rooms, and passages, and courtyards. We traced this pavement, of which you are having the remains, for thirty-five feet without getting; to the end of it. so it was evidently a passage or pathway. It was covered by about three feet of earth.

“It might interest you to know the pavement lay on the flanks of an old road in the parish called formerly ‘Gallows Hill and underneath a building which was formerly part of the ‘Bell Inn’. At this inn criminals were allowed their last drink before being turned off on the gallows just by it.”

This, then, is the story of our Roman pavement. To the imaginative who pass by it may suggest the proud centurion, with his clanking broadsword and breastplate, who, perhaps, trod on those very stones before the great empire fell. It will serve to remind those of historical bent of the thoroughness with which the imperial race carried out their civic and military system even in the sombre wilds of Britain: and all of us will extend our thanks to Miss Hovey, Mr. Lincoln, and the Rev. Mr. Filleul for their kindness in procuring a relic of a mighty civilization for the people of Dorchester.

A. W. H., 1905

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Seeing Butterflies: New Perspectives on Colour, Patterns and Mimicry by Philip Howse.

Seeing Butterflies: New Perspectives on Colour, Patterns and Mimicry by Philip HowseFor a fascinating insight into the bizarre colour patterns of butterflies and moths, visit Dorset County Museum for a talk by butterfly mimicry expert, Philip Howse. Philip will be launching his new book, Seeing Butterflies: New Perspectives on Colour, Patterns and Mimicry, at an event at the Museum on 26th November.

Originally focussing on the death’s head hawk moth, Philip quickly realised that the skull marking, seen from the appropriate angle, was in fact a crude image of the head of a giant hornet.

“From that point on, I found more and more examples of images of parts of dangerous animals: teeth, eyes, claws, beaks etc. embedded in the wing patterns,” said Philip.

Butterfly wings demonstrating mimicry

Butterfly wings demonstrating mimicry

During his talk on 26th November, Professor Howse will explain the reasons for the enchanting colours and designs on the wings of butterflies and moths and discuss survival strategies using behaviour, mimicry and camouflage.

Philip Howse has published several books and numerous research articles on insect behavior and ecology. After a career spent mainly at Southampton University, he has now retired but continues writing about the insects that have fascinated him since he was a boy.

All are welcome to this event which is FREE although donations are welcome to cover costs. Copies of Philip’s book will be for sale during the evening. The talk will start at 7.30pm and doors are open from 7.00pm. For further information see

Dorchester Thanksgiving Party 14th November 2014

Dorchester Thanksgiving PartyDorset County Museum is working hard to raise funds for a major redevelopment project to improve its facilities in Dorchester. An important part of the process is a series of fundraising events linked with increasing the profile of the Museum at home and abroad.

Dorset, and Dorchester in particular, has a strong historical connection with early settlers in the United States, in particular with those who sailed on the ship Mary and John. This was the ship that brought the first European settlers to Dorchester Massachusetts in 1630 under the guidance of the Reverence John White. Part of the Museum’s current project is the renovation and development of John White’s Rectory located behind the Museum in Colliton Street, Dorchester.

Model of the Mary and John

Model of the Mary and John in the Dorset County Museum © DCM

Fundraising Team Leader, David Taylor said, “We are talking to people in America who are researching into how their ancestors originally came to the Massachusetts area. We hope to build on this relationship as our project moves forwards – and help them find out more about who these early settlers were, and why they left England for the New World.”

There will be a small exhibition about the Mary and John on display including original passenger lists. The event will also include a live link with contacts from Dorchester and Boston Massachusetts.

In addition, Lord and Lady Fellowes of West Stafford will introduce a brand new film about Dorset’s heritage. Entertainment will include the performance of a Mummers Play by the New Hardy Players and traditional folk music by Jerry Bird.

Tickets cost £15.00 and include canapés and a glass of wine.

They are available now from the Museum Shop on 01305 756827 or by email on Tickets can also be obtained from the Dorchester Tourist Information Centre, telephone 01305 267992.

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Lunchtime Concert with Dorchester Piano Trio at Museum

Dorchester Piano Trio

Russell Dawson, Peter Oakes and Sally Flann outside Dorset County Museum

There will be a lunchtime concert in the Victorian Gallery at Dorset County Museum on Thursday 13th November at 1.00pm.

Regular performers at the Museum, Dorchester Piano Trio (Sally Flann, Russell Dawson and Peter Oakes) will play Cello Sonata in C major Opus 119 by Prokofiev and
Piano Trio No 1 in D minor Opus 32 by Arensky.

The concert will commence at 1.00pm and will last for about one hour. The concert is FREE but donations are encouraged – all are welcome to attend.

  • The final lunchtime concert this year will be on Thursday 18th December when Illumine (classical piano and clarinet) will perform at 1.00pm.

For more information please Tel: 01305 262735 or visit our website at

Talk and Book Signing: West Dorset Country Houses by Michael Hill

West Dorset Country HousesMichael Hill’s new book, West Dorset Country Houses, is a superbly researched and illustrated account of country houses in eastern Dorset. Ranging from medieval palace buildings at Corfe Castle to Art Deco houses in Poole, over 30 homes are described in great detail including the use of many architectural drawings and plans.

During his talk at Dorset County Museum on 27th November, Michael Hill will discuss the book and explain how the social context of the Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian eras became interwoven with architectural practices. The talk will be illustrated throughout with recent and contemporary drawings and photographs.

All are welcome to this talk which starts at 7.30pm. Entry is from 7.00pm and the event is free although a donation of £3.00 is encouraged to cover costs. Copies of Michael Hill’s book will also be on sale during the evening.

For more information phone the Museum on 01305 756827 or visit our website at