Don’t miss our Egg-citing Dinosaur Egg Hunt and other Family Activities this Easter

Dinosaur Egg HuntDorset County Museum will be running two different events for children during Easter Holidays. Both are completely FREE thanks to generous sponsorship from Battens Solicitors.

On Wednesday 1st April discover about the burial customs from ancient times looking at how people were buried and what special objects were chosen to go into the grave. There will also be an opportunity on Wednesday 8th April to learn more about the famous horned Ooser mask displayed in the museum as well as have a go at making one. Both activities take place between 10.30am and 12.30pm and there’s no need to book.

To coincide with the Easter Holidays from Saturday 28th March to Saturday 18th April. Families will have the opportunity to enter ‘The Dinosaur Egg Hunt’ where children will be encouraged to find clues throughout the museum’s galleries for a chance to win some fabulous prizes.

Dinosaur Egg Hunt PrizesTo enter, a trail sheet can be purchased for £1 from the front desk; all proceeds will go towards the Museum Development Appeal. Once the questions to the answers are completed, the sheet can be handed back to the front desk. All correctly answered quiz sheets will have a chance to win prizes like the large chocolate dinosaur egg created by Angel Cake Company and the egg supplied by Waitrose. An animated wooden skeleton model of a Tyrannosaurus Rex donated by Wise Owl Toys and a Triceratops model donated by Louis Ormston. However everyone who enters will not leave empty handed as they will receive a small prize for participating.

For further information contact the Museum on 01305 756827 or check the website on www.dorsetcountymuseum.org

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St. Edward the Martyr

St. Edward the Martyr as depicted on the stain glass window of St. George's Church, Fordington, Dorchester © Mark North/DCM 2014

St. Edward the Martyr as depicted on the stain glass window of St. George’s Church, Fordington, Dorchester © Mark North/DCM 2014

The following is an extract taken from the ‘Chambers Book of Days’ March 18th 1864, with regards to the death of Edward the king of England who was brutely murdered near Corfe Castle, Dorset.

“The great King Edgar had two wives, first Elfleda, and, after her death, Elfrida, an ambitious woman, who had become queen through the murder of her first husband, and who survived her second; and Edgar left a son by each, Edward by Elfleda, and Ethelred by Elfrida. At the time of their father’s death, Edward was thirteen, and Ethelred seven years of age; and they were placed by the ambition of Elfrida, and by political events, in a position of rivalry. Edgar’s reign had been one continued struggle to establish monarchism, and with it the supremacy of the Church of Rome, in Anglo-Saxon England; and the violence with which this design had been carried out, with the persecution to which the national clergy were subjected, now caused a reaction, so that at Edgar’s death the country was divided into two powerful parties, of which the party opposed to the monks was numerically the strongest. The queen joined this party, in the hope of raising her son to the throne, and of ruling England in his name; and the feeling against the Romish usurpation was so great, that, although Edgar had declared his wish that his eldest son should succeed him, and his claim was no doubt just, the crown was only secured to him by the energetic interference of Dunstan. Edward thus became King of England in the year 975.

Edward appears, as far as we can learn, to have been an amiable youth, and to have possessed some of the better qualities of his father; but his reign and life were destined to be cut short before he reached an age to display them. He had sought to conciliate the love of his step-mother by lavishing his favour upon her, and he made her a grant of Dorsetshire, but in vain; and she lived, apparently in a sort of sullen state, away from court, with her son Ethelred, at Corfe in that county, plotting, according to some authorities, with what may be called the national party, against Dunstan and the government.

Corfe Castle, Dorset

Corfe Castle, Dorset

The Anglo-Saxons were all passionately attached to the pleasures of the chase, and one day—it was the 18th of March 978 — King Edward was hunting in the forest of Dorset, and, knowing that he was in the neighbourhood of Corfe, and either suffering from thirst or led by the desire to see his half-brother Ethelred, for whom he cherished a boyish attachment, he left his followers and rode alone to pay a visit to his mother. Elfrida received him with the warmest demonstrations of affection, and, as he was unwilling to dismount from his horse, she offered him the cup with her own hand. While he was in the act of drinking, one of the queen’s The Murder of King Edward the Martyr attendants, by her command, stabbed him with a dagger. The prince hastily turned his horse, and rode toward the wood, but he soon became faint and fell from his horse, and his foot becoming entangled in the stirrup, he was dragged along till the horse was stopped, and the corpse was carried into the solitary cottage of a poor woman, where it was found next morning, and, according to what appears to be the most trustworthy account, thrown by Elfrida’s directions into an adjoining marsh.

The young king was, however, subsequently buried at Wareham, and removed in the following year to be interred with royal honours at Shaftesbury. The monastic party, whose interests were identified with Edward’s government, and who considered that he had been sacrificed to the hostility of their opponents, looked upon him as a martyr, and made him a saint. The writer of this part of the Anglo-Saxon chronicle, who was probably a contemporary, expresses his feelings in the simple and pathetic words, ‘No worse deed than this was done to the Anglo race, since they first came to Britain.’

The story of the assassination of King Edward is sometimes quoted in illustration of a practice which existed among the Anglo-Saxons. Our forefathers were great drinkers, and it was customary with them, in drinking parties, to pass round a large cup, from which each in turn drunk to some of the company. He who thus drank, stood up, and as he lifted the cup with both hands, his body was exposed without any defence to a blow, and the occasion was often seized by an enemy to murder him. To prevent this, the following plan was adopted. When one of the company stood up to drink, he required the companion who sat next to him, or some one of the party, to be his pledge, that is, to be responsible for protecting him against anybody who should attempt to take advantage of his defenceless position: and this companion, if he consented, stood up also, and raised his drawn sword in his hand to defend him while drinking. This practice, in an altered form, continued long after the condition of society had ceased to require it, and was the origin of the modern practice of pledging in drinking. At great festivals, in some of our college halls and city companies, the custom is preserved almost in its primitive form in passing round the ceremonial cup—the loving cup, as it is sometimes called. As each person rises and takes the cup in his hand to drink, the man seated next to him rises also, and when the latter takes the cup in his turn, the individual next to him does the same.”

Extract from an article written by the George J. Bennett. titled ‘The Religious Foundations and Norman Castle of Wareham’ from the ‘Proceedings of the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society’ Volume 19 1898, 

St. Edward the Martyr Sign

St. Edward the Martyr commerative sign Corfe village © DCM 2014

The Saxon Chronicler asserts that in A.D. 979 the Saxon King Edward was slain at eventide at Corfe Gate, on the 18th March, and then he was buried at Wareham without  any kind of kingly honours. Those acquainted with the records of Edward’s murder and burial are aware that the monkish historians  affirm that three times the dead king’s body was discovered by supernatural lights:- 1. In a cottage at Corfe Gate. 2. By the light which appeared above the marshy ground. 3. By the light over the grave at Wareham.

When the treacherous blow had been dealt, the mortally wounded monarch rode hastily away, but, falling from loss of blood, he was dragged a considerable distance by his horse. We learn from Hutchins (Hutchins, 1st Ed., Vol I.p. 177.) that Elfrida immediately despatched some trusty servants to ascertain the result of her treachery. Russel (Russel’s Hist. Eng., p. 47.) informs us that they traced it by the blood, and found the king’s corpse much bruised and defaced. From conflicting records we gather that Edward’s body was found at the base of the hill, by what was afterwards termed St. Edward’s, or King Bridge. Elfrida then commanded that the body should be hidden in a cottage. The superstitious affirm that during the night, the house became illuminated by a blaze of miraculous light, by which the sight of a blind inmate was restored. On the site of that house a church was afterwards built. Corfe Castle Church is one of the very few in England dedicated to King Edward the Martyr.

The morning after the murder, when she had been informed of these circumstances, Elfrida commanded that Edward’s body should be removed from the cottage secretly, and hidden in a marshy place. This was done, and it is evident that only Elfrida’s confederates in guilt were entrusted with the work. When the guilty Queen had seen her orders executed, she, in order to avoid suspicion, left Corves-geiite, and retired to the Royal residence at Bere Regis. Ineffectual search continued to be made by Edward’s retainers for the body of their late master. At length their efforts were rewarded. The superstitious supposed that “a pillar of fire,” descending from heaven, illuminated the place where it was hid. Edward’s body was then carried to Waieham, and buried with as much secrecy by the late monarch’s friends as his enemies had used in hiding it. If Edward’s body was really concealed in one of the Purbeck peat bogs, Brannon says : “The astonishing power of peat would actually embalm the body ; the presence of animal matter evolve at a strong phosphorescent light, and the ‘ pillar of fire,’ in this case an ignis not factuus, would rest over it.” By accepting this theory the supposed miracle is accounted for. When writing of the discovery of Edward’s body in the marshy place, Hutching, quoting Brompton, observes : ” Some devout people of Wareham brought it to that town, to the church of St. Mary, and buried it in a plain manner (non regio more) on the east side, where a wooden church, (Hutchins, 2nd Ed., Vol. I, p. 177. ) afterwards built by religious persons, was to be seen in that author’s time.” From Brompton, the historian, we learn some important facts. First, that the actual spot where Edward was buried at Wareham was unknown, even to the ecclesiastics, so secret was the burial. In his Magna Britannia, (Dorsetshire, p. 562. ) published 1720, the Rev. T. Cox shows that it was only by a supposed miracle that Edward’s burial place at Wareham was discovered. He writes of Edward thus : — ” His body had been clandestinely buried at Wareham, in hopes that his murder might have been concealed ; but it being afterwards discovered by a miraculous blaze of light hanging over his tomb.” The reports of the miracles and wonders at Wareham, were, according to Malmesbury, wide spread ; and much good is said to have been effected by the sanctity of the royal remains. As an historical fact, Brompton, Abbot of Forvant, informs us that the body of King Edward was buried, not in, but on the east side of St. Mary’s Church. The fact that Edward was not buried in a church, and the statement of some, probably correct, that the body was discovered in unconsecrated ground, would be ample reason for the removal of the body from Wareham. When the report of the miracles (Dorsetshire, p. 562.) and discovery of the body had been communicated to Elfrida, she granted permission for Edward’s remains to be removed to Shaftesbury Abbey, and there royally entombed. We are informed by the Saxon Chronicler that in A.D. 980 ” St. Dunstan and Alfere, the ealderman, fetched the holy king’s body, St. Edward’s, from Wareham, and bore it with much solemnity to Shaftesbury.” For his information, though brief, we are under an obligation to Brompton. He tells us that the Saxon King Edward was buried on the east side of St. Mary’s, and that on the spot where Edward had been buried a wooden church was built. And what is also important, Brompton asserts that the wooden church was still existing when he wrote at the close of the 14th century. Here we have a substantial proof that the body of King Edward was never buried in St. Mary’s Church ; that church was also existing. None of the monkish historians tell us that King Edward was buried in St. Mary’s Church, nor do the modern make any such statement.

That the late Mr. T. Bond accepted Brompton’s statement is certain. In his ” Corfe Castle ” he writes : — ” Search being made for the body, the place where it was concealed was discovered, and thereupon some devout people of Wareham, having conveyed the corpse to the church of St. Mary, in that town, buried it in a plain and homely manner on a spot where religious men afterwards built a wooden church, still standing when Brompton’s Chronicle was written.”

When, in 1841, the nave of Lady St. Mary’s was demolished, and the original St. Mary’s shortened, some ancient stone coffins were discovered and destroyed. One, however, was preserved, the remarkable boat-shaped sarcophagus of Purbeck marble now standing at the entrance to the church. In circumference it measures 17ft. it is 8ft. 2in. in length ; width at shoulders, 30in. ; greatest outer depth, 17in. ; it is estimated to weigh considerably over a ton. Some think King Edward was buried in that coffin; competent judges assert that it is much too modern. Supposing that the King’s body had been laid therein, it would have been an utter impossibility to have buried a coffin of such size and weight secretly in so small a building, 12ft. wide and about 45ft. long. To such a secret burial as King Edward had, this huge coffin would have been a mostserious hindrance. The original St. Mary’s is now used as a choir vestry and called King Edward’s Chapel.

Object Identification Surgery at the Dorset County Museum

Roman CoinsBring your ’mystery’ objects along to one of our three sessions per week and our enquiries team will do their best to provide an identification for you on the spot wherever possible. The Object Surgery will take place on:

  • Tuesday: 10.00 am to 3.30 pm: All enquiries
  • Wednesday: 10.00 am to 1.00 pm: All enquiries
  • Thursday: 10.30 am to 12 noon: All enquiries / 1.00 pm to 3.00 pm: Geology enquires

The existing system where you can leave an object for identification and collect it later will continue but due to the increasing costs of administration, stationery and postage, a £1.00 donation will be requested.

For more information contact information phone 01305 756827

Museum lecture celebrates achievements of a man who mapped the geology of Britain

A section of William Smith's Geological map detailing the Dorset's geology

A section of William Smith’s Geological map detailing the Dorset’s geology

In 1815, William Smith, a land drainer and mineral surveyor born at Churchill in Oxfordshire published the first true geological map of any country.

Smith’s attractive, large, hand-coloured map, A Delineation of the Strata of England and Wales with part of Scotland, was a monumental work (it measures 8 1/2 by 6 feet) which took him fourteen years to complete and on which he worked single-handedly. His aim was to give landowners an indication of where coal was likely to be found, and Smith was careful to include many estates and country seats on his topographical base map. The 410 subscribers to his map included 2 dukes, 5 marquesses, 13 earls, 2 viscounts, 14 lords and 21 baronets as well as at least 32 Members of Parliament, including the Chancellor of the Exchequer. In the course his work, Smith developed the fundamental principles of stratigraphy and recognised the value of fossils in identifying strata. Following the publication of his map, Smith went on to publish a series of cross sections and county geological maps. But his success was to be short-lived. Within five years, Smith’s pioneering geological map was eclipsed by a more detailed map, a collaborative effort by the many members of the Geological Society of London, established in 1807. The similarities between the Geological Society’s map and that of Smith’s did not go unnoticed by Smith’s friends

Tom Sharpe a geologist who spent over thirty five years as a curator in the Department of Geology at the National Museum of Wales where he looked after the world’s largest collection of William Smith’s maps. Will be giving a lecture at the Dorset County Museum at 7.00pm on the 11th March, discussing his research in the history and development of this iconic geological map, which this year marks its bicentenary of publication.

Tom Sharpe is also involved in the planning of events around the country including the Lyme Regis Fossil Festival in May, to mark this year’s bicentenary of William Smith’s map.

Tom Sharpe talk takes place at 6.30pm for 7.00pm on Wednesday 11th March. The event is FREE of charge but a donation of £3.00 is encouraged to cover costs.

For more information phone 01305 756827 or visit www.dorsetcountymuseum.org

Kingston Lacy’s Paintings: the story of one of the National Trust’s most important collections by Helen Lange.

The Spanish Room at Kingston Lacy © National Trust

The Spanish Room at Kingston Lacy © National Trust

Kingston Lacy, in Wimborne, Dorset, was bequeathed to the National Trust by Ralph Bankes (1902–1981) with its estates, including Corfe Castle. It contains an important art collection including a set of portraits by Lely, pictures by Velazquez, Zani and Tintoretto and two full-length female portraits by Rubens. This collection will be the subject of a talk by Helen Lange at Dorset County Museum on Thursday 12th March.

Helen Lange is well-known to many in Dorchester and beyond as the Chairman of the Thomas Hardy Society. She has given many talks on the West Country’s greatest writer, including Hardy’s own interest in art.

The talk will begin with an explanation of the importance of the Bankes’ art collection to the National Trust and to England. Helen will include a brief background on art collecting during the reign of Charles I and trace the history of the Bankes’ collection, from its beginnings at Corfe Castle. She will then focus on several individual paintings, which have their own stories to tell.

After a thirty-five year career in education, Helen Lange retired from her last post as Deputy Head at Sherborne Girls, in December 2008. She then decided to study Art History, in which she had long been deeply interested. She now has an MA in History of Art from Birkbeck College, London University. Whilst working for this, she undertook a research project on the National Trust’s conservation of the Kingston Lacy Art Collection and her final dissertation was on Peter Lely, an artist well represented at Kingston Lacy.

Doors open from 7.00pm for 7.30pm. The talk is FREE and all are welcome to attend. Donations are encouraged to cover costs. For further information visit www.dorsetcountymuseum.org.

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William Barnes celebrated at Museum’s Victorian Fayre

Dorset County Museum Victorian FayreOn Sunday 22nd February 2015, the Dorset County Museum’s Victorian Hall was transformed into a traditional Victorian Fayre to celebrate the birthday of Dorset dialect poet William Barnes. The atmosphere was full of hustle and bustle with numerous stalls from traditional crafts to popular parlour games; Victorian paperboy selling his broadsheets and a demonstration of net making and other rural skills. The museum’s Tea Room worked flat out to provide Victorian afternoon tea for 350 visitors.

The Language of Flowers proved to be really popular with people queueing to create their own style Nosegays and Tussie Mussies with fresh flowers. Likewise the demonstration on creating Dorset Buttons saw very enthusiastic folk fashion their own design.

Net Making

Sue Worth of The New Hardy Players demonstrates Net Making

The Herb stall gave an informative look into culinary and medicinal uses of that period.
The fantastic display of hand-made bonnets drew quite a crowd as did the dining table which depicted the difference between the gentry and the rural labourers.

The children had their own entertainment including pin the tail on the donkey, making little peg dolls, a variety of toys to buy and dressing up in period costume.

Musician and Storyteller Tim Laycock captivated the audience of his portrayal of a teacher in a Victorian classroom. Whilst fellow members of the William Barnes Society and The New Hardy Players entertained all with music, song, poetry and country dancing which was enjoyed by people of all ages.

Alastair Simpson and the Cantate Rustique choir

Alastair Simpson and the Cantate Rustique Choir

Alastair Simpson conducted the Cantate Rustique choir to perform four pieces: Ralph Vaughan Williams’s famous Linden Lea; a setting of The Lew O’ the Rick by the blind organist of Shaftesbury, F. F. Coaker, from the 1950s; a 2002 work by Peter Lord, Come; and Alastair’s own harmonisation of the folk musician Tim Laycock’s touching melody to the words of Barnes’s grief-stricken poem The Wife a-Lost, the last being a premiere.

William Barnes Collection Curator, Marion Tait said “This was a hugely successful and amazing event where all had a great time at the Victorian Fayre raising over £600 towards the redevelopment of the museum’s William Barnes’ Gallery.”


 

A huge thank you to Battens Solicitors, Dorchester, for sponsoring the event and a special thank you to all volunteers who took part in the Victorian Fayre and celebrating William Barnes Birthday

  • Alastair Simpson and Cantate Rustique
  • Alistair Chisholm
  • Friends and family

Thank you to the following businesses for supporting the William Barnes Collection.

  • Dorset Flower Men, Dorchester Precinct
  • Bridget, Fruit and Vegetable stall, Dorchester market
  • Beth King, Tolpuddle