Festival of Archaeology at the Dorset County Museum

Festival of Archaeology 2017From 15 to 30 July 2017, The 27th Festival of Archaeology, coordinated yearly by the Council for British Archaeology, showcases the very best of British archaeology by presenting special events hosted by museums, heritage organisations, universities, societies and community archaeologists all over the UK.

As their contribution to this year’s festival, Dorset County Museum will host a variety of events including a rare opportunity to tour the Museum’s archaeology store too seeing archaeology in action with the cleaning and the analysis of the skeleton of the Whitcombe Warrior.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for people to see a whole range of archaeological artefacts that aren’t normally on display, “said Jon Murden, Director of Dorset County Museum.  “In the past these tours completely sold out as so many people were interested in coming along – we hope it will be even more popular this year.“

Visitors to the museum can also see the Ancient Dorset gallery which tells the fascinating story of the past of the ancient peoples living in this county, from the Lower Palaeolithic Age three million years ago to 1066AD. Including a display of the discovered mass Viking burial discovered on the Ridgeway outside Weymouth.

Dorset County Museum has seven events taking place over the two weeks of the Festival:

  • Monday 17 JulyGuided Tours of the Ancient Dorset Gallery (normal admission prices apply).  Tours will start at 11.00am and 2.30pm – no need to book.


  • Tuesady 18 July – Store Tours of All Saints Church This is where thousands of archaeology artefacts are stored.  Tours will take place at 10.30am, 12noon, 1.30pm and 3.30pm.  Places are limited and must be reserved.  Cost is the normal museum admission price and includes admission to the museum.           Tel:  01305 756827 to book your place.


  • Wednesday 19 July – Object Identification Surgery  David Ashford and Ciorstaidh Hayward Trevarthen (Dorset Finds Liaison Officer) will be available from 10am to 1.30pm in the Museum Library ready to help you identify your archaeological finds.  If you have unearthed objects through metal detecting, on the beach or underwater, or just gardening at home, then please bring them along and find out what they are.  Ciorstaidh may ask to borrow your finds and record the details on the finds database so that the information can contribute to our understanding of Dorset’s past. Ciorstaidh works as part of the national Portable Antiquities Scheme which records thousands of items of pottery and flint, metal objects, coins and other finds, dating from prehistory to the post-medieval, each year. The database can be found here: finds.org.uk/database

No admission charge to this surgery, but normal admission prices apply for entry to the museum’s galleries.


  • Friday 21 July – Guided Tours of the Ancient Dorset Gallery (normal admission prices apply).  Tours will start at 11.00am and 2.30pm – no need to book.


  • Monday 24 July – Bodies and Bones Normal admission prices apply.  Dr Clare Randall will be cleaning the Whitcombe Warrior plus plenty of activities relating to archaeology in the Ancient Dorset Gallery.   Normal admission prices apply.
Whitcombe Warrior

Whitcombe Warrior

The Whitcombe Warrior is a rare example of a Late Iron Age burial which includes a sword. The Warrior was buried in a small cemetery near Whitcombe, Dorset just before or around the time of the Roman invasion, in a style which is unique to Dorset and is associated with the local tribe, the Durotriges. The Warrior has been on display for many years, and his remains now need some TLC – even things on display in sealed museum cases get dusty over time. We are taking the opportunity during the Festival of Archaeology to give the Warrior a clean, but rather than take him off display to do this, we are going to do the work in the gallery which will give visitors the opportunity to see the remains slightly closer up and discuss them with Dr Clare Randall, who works as an osteoarchaeologist. This is a chance to find out more about the Late Iron Age people of Dorset and their health, disease and burial rituals as well as how we can deduce information from bones. There will be objects of the period to handle and the chance to drop in and chat while the work goes on.

Clare also works with animal remains, and there will be hands on activities for younger visitors which help to explain why the bones of animals are so important to archaeologists and how they are studied. Can you tell the difference between a sheep and a dog if they don’t have their coat on? Can you deduce what an animal might eat or how it lived, just from bits of bones? Could you design an animal from scratch?

  • Tuesday 25 July – Store Tours of All Saints Church This is where thousands of archaeology artefacts are stored.  Tours will take place at 10.30am, 12noon, 1.30pm and 3.30pm.  Places are limited and must be reserved.  Cost is the normal museum admission price and includes admission to the museum.  Tel:  01305 756827 to book your place.


  • Thursday 27 July – Bodies and Bones Normal admission prices apply.  Dr Clare Randall will be cleaning the Whitcombe Warrior plus plenty of activities relating to archaeology in the Ancient Dorset Gallery. Normal admission prices apply.

For further information contact the Museum on on 01305 756827 or check the website on www.dorsetcountymuseum.org or follow us on Facebook and Twitter

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Dorset County Museum awarded National Portfolio Organisation Status by the Arts Council

Dorset County Museum have been awarded National Portfolio Organisation status by Arts Council England. In doing so are set to share in a £1.2 million investment into the Museum of Dorset and Wiltshire.

Wessex Museums Partnership

The Wessex Museum Partnership, a consortium of four museums, led by the Poole Museum Service together with Dorset County Museum, Salisbury Museum and Wiltshire Museum have been entrusted by the Arts Council to deliver their 2018-22 strategic plan entitled ‘Great Art and Culture for Everyone’.

The Arts Council has recognised 831 National Portfolio Organisations that meet and exceed its stringent standards of best practice, with 103 based in the South West region.

Phil Gibby, Area Director, South West, Arts Council England, said: “We are delighted to be able to renew our funding to organisations in Dorset and are proud to be welcoming three new and diverse organisations who will significantly widen the reach across Dorset and beyond”.

Dorset County Museum Director, Jon Murden, exclaimed: “We are delighted by this vote of confidence in the Wessex Museums Partnership and the Dorset County Museum. We will be enhancing our outreach and community offer across the county, developing our special exhibition programme and improving the conservation and care of our collections with this investment.

“The Museum’s ambitious redevelopment plan is to create ‘Tomorrows Museum – Making Dorset Proud’ and today’s announcement is a recognition that this statement. Everyone involved with the Museum should be congratulated as they are part of this success”. Jon added.

This award comes soon after the National History Museum confirmed that Dorset County Museum will be the first stop on Dippy’s National Tour, an event that is already looking to be a sell-out success.

Dippy arrives at the Museum in Dorchester on 10 February 2018. Tickets will be limited and launched in August but you can register your interest by visiting www.dorsetcountymuseum.org

Archaeology Field Trip: Cadbury Castle and its ancient landscape with Dr Clare Randall

The walk will comprise a tour of Cadbury Castle hillfort, looking in particular at areas which demonstrate the development in the use of the hill from the Neolithic period, through the creation of the hillfort in the early and Middle Iron Age, Roman use as a barracks, important post-Roman refortification and construction of a hall, through to the early medieval period, when it became a burh and a mint. The contemporary sites in the surrounding landscape will be discussed. There will be an optional visit to the South Somerset Archaeological Research Group base at Sutton Montis after the walk.

Cadbury Castle Hillfort

Cadbury Castle Hillfort

Dr. Clare Randall

Dr. Clare Randall

Clare Randall is an archaeologist and zooarchaeologist specialising in the prehistoric period. She currently works as an Archaeological Officer for Context One Archaeological Services Ltd, where she works on projects of all periods across the south west.

She was Research Assistant for the South Cadbury Environs Project, and completed her PhD at Bournemouth University studying the successive prehistoric landscapes around Cadbury Castle in conjunction with the information on livestock husbandry from the animal bones recovered during excavation of the hillfort and surrounding sites.

She has been Research Director of the South Somerset Archaeological Research Group, which continues to work in the area, since 2007.

The walk is on Saturday 1 July 2017 starting at 2.00pm at the car park at Cadbury Castle. The walk is FREE although a donation of £3 is encouraged to cover costs.

For further information about this walk and other forthcoming events contact the Museum on on 01305 756827 or check the website on www.dorsetcountymuseum.org or follow us on Facebook and Twitter

For Directions

Meet at the car park at Cadbury Castle, South Cadbury, Yeovil, BA22 7HA (The Camelot Pub is nearby)

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#FoodMW – Small recipe book for a big appetite

Felicity Hebditch volunteers with the social history team at the Dorset County Museum, and has been researching this fascinating little recipe book ‘Domestic Cookery or Family Receipt Book’.

In it, Felicity finds out about the life of a domestic servant around 1850’s. Meals were prepared under conditions far removed from what we are now accustomed to…. uncovering stories from sparrow dumpling recipes to fuller’s earth with vinegar for pimples.

Front pages from Domestic Cookery

Front pages from Domestic Cookery

‘A Lady’ author

In the Museum’s collections is a small book ‘Domestic Cookery or Family Receipt Book’ written around 1850 by ‘A Lady’ as ‘a practical guide for housekeepers’. Who wrote it? Before Mrs. Beeton there was Eliza Acton (1799-1859), who was the first cookery writer to list the ingredients and the length of cooking time for her recipes. She produced ‘Modern Cookery for Private Families’ in 1845. Before Eliza Acton there was Maria Eliza Rundell who wrote ‘A New System of Domestic Cookery’ in 1806, an enormously successful publication which continued to be produced for fifty years after her death in updated versions. Domestic Cookery is probably a pirated edition of Rundell’s work.

An Experienced Cook and Confectioner

An Experienced Cook and Confectioner

Turtle for tea?

All the dishes are written from the point of view of a servant sending dishes to the dining room. These are substantial recipes for large households; ‘portable soup for travellers’ requires three large legs of veal and one of beef, the lean part of half a ham and a quarter of a pound of butter. Recipes are very meat based and the meat is not for the squeamish. The cook (or her assistant) was instructed to kill a pig, kill and draw ducks, skin eels, even kill and deal with a turtle. (The Earl of Verulam came home with a turtle in his coach, a surprise for his cook?) There is also ‘Artificial turtle’, Alice’s mock turtle. Our more ecological times regret their eating larks (‘a dozen or so’), and there is even a recipe for sparrow dumplings.

Many of the dishes are served with sauces thickened with bread rather than flour, as medieval cookery does, and yolks of egg. Wine is added sometimes, or lemons, and generous helpings of Cayenne pepper, ‘catchup’ (ketchup) or mushroom ‘catchup’, and always a good dollop of butter. Very few ‘receipts’ incorporate vegetables, though stews do have onions and carrots, and celery is added to several dishes. The vegetables are cooked in ‘a large quantity of water’; cauliflower is cooked in milk and water, but ‘spinage’ is only cooked for two minutes so wouldn’t have lost all its flavour.

Stew celery

Take off the outside and the green ends of your heads of celery, boil them in water till they are very tender, put in a slice of lemon, a little beaten mace, thicken it with a good lump of butter and flour, boil it a little, add a little cream, shake it over the fire till it be of a fine thickness, but do not let it boil.

Cooks needed to be able to control the fire or stove. The roasting of a piece of meat meant toasting it in front of the fire; to keep the fire at a constant heat for four or five hours was hard work, and the meat would have to be basted to prevent it from drying out. A number of dishes involve boiling and then finishing off with frying in butter. This presumably helped to send things in to dinner hot. The pots and pans were heavy and hard to clean. Various things are boiled in a tossing pan.

Medieval meals featured an amusing or stunning dish as a centre piece, like today’s birthday cake. The book’s author gives descriptions of dishes made with marzipan, a scene of baby chicks and a hen with straw made of lemon peel, a fish pond with marzipan fish floating on jelly, sugar spun to make a nest with marzipan eggs.

Another Soup Recipe - Green Peas Soup without Meat

Another Soup Recipe – Green Peas Soup without Meat

Domestic Goddess

There is no dashing down to shops to buy ready made goods. Home grown fruit and vegetables had to be turned into pickles or jam to preserve it. Hand cream had to be made of hog’s fat and hair restorative from honey and rosemary. Ink was made of galls, green copperas, gum arabic and a wine glass of brandy! And then there were the rats; Corks cut very thin, and fried or stewed in dripping and placed in the way of rats will be greedily devoured, and they will die of indigestion. They tried to solve medical conditions; to cure worms with turpentine and egg, fuller’s earth with vinegar for pimples. Mutton suet was the best thing to keep irons from going rusty, tea leaves for sweeping carpets and fine carpets had to be swept ‘on the knees’.

Hard work!

  • Follow @dorsetmuseum Twitter for #museumweek 19-25 June 2017 which this year highlights women in museums.

Museum planning application for new extension and development approved

New Museum Entrance concept design -Carmody Groarke © 2015

New Museum Entrance concept design -Carmody Groarke © 2015

The planned extension and redevelopment plans for Dorchester’s County Museum have finally been given the green light by West Dorset District Council.

The plans, which call for the transformation of the museum’s facilities, include a new learning centre, library, café and shop and most importantly additional gallery space.

Hidden behind the museum’s 19th century façade lie almost 4 million artefacts, charting the natural, archaeological, cultural and social history of Dorset. Regrettably, many of these hidden gems have remained just that, hidden from view and unable to tell their story…until now!

With £13 million of the £15 million target already pledged, these hidden gems will once again see the light of day, helping to illustrate, educate and inform us of our unique history.

‘We are absolutely delighted that the relevant authorities have recognised the importance and significance of the project to the local community and to the county. We can now look forward to realising our ambition to provide Dorset with the appropriate facilities in which to properly conserve, display and make accessible, our wonderful collection.’ says Dr Jon Murden, Director of Dorset County museum.

Online donations to the appeal can be made via www.tomorrowsmuseumfordorset.org

Gold coins circa 70-50BC found in Tarrant Valley - DCM © 2017

Gold coins circa 70-50BC found in Tarrant Valley – DCM © 2017

In recognition of the Museum’s unique collections and its role in furthering the knowledge of palaeontology the museum will be welcoming its largest and oldest visitor in February 2018. Dippy, the famous diplodocus skeleton replica from the National History Museum is embarking on national tour with Dorchester being his first stop.

When he was roaming the Earth, Dippy measured almost 30m in length and weighed an incredible 15 tonnes, once installed in the museum’s magnificent Victorian gallery there will be just inches to spare.

Dr Jon Murden, is understandably overjoyed at the prospect of Dippy coming to town.

“Dippy’s visit is a once in generation opportunity and as such we’re expecting a huge demand for tickets” says Jon. The museum’s online ticket reservation service will be launched very soon but visitors are advised to register their advance interest by visiting www.dorsetcountymuseum.org and visiting the Dippy page.

Working in partnership with the Jurassic Coast Trust, visitors to the museum will receive expert guided tours and experience real life time travel by visiting the Jurassic Coast and travelling back 155 million years.

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Lunchtime Concert: Quangle Wangle Choir – Le Temps des Fleurs / Those Were the Days

The lively and joyful Quangle Wangle Choir hail from sunny Weymouth where they spend their Saturday mornings singing anything from South African gospel to American shape note, Brazilian folk to Abba, Charles Trenet to Iris Diment and many stops in between. The choir is known for drawing its audience in with its infectious enthusiasm for unaccompanied harmony singing.

The Quangle Wangle Choir

The Quangle Wangle Choir – Singing in French as well as English the themes are France, nostalgia and flowers.

Fresh from a trip to Brittany this spring The Quangle Wangle Choir’s programme is headed ‘Le temps des fleurs’ – better known on this side of the channel as ‘Those Were the Days’. As well as a good dollop of nostalgia the choir will celebrate everything from love, to streets paved with diamonds to creation itself. Expect styles ranging from swing to rock, via various folk traditions.

The concert takes place in the Dorset County Museum’s Victorian Hall on Thursday 8 June 2017 at 1.00pm. The performance is FREE although a donation of £3 is encouraged to cover costs.

For further information contact the Museum on on 01305 756827 or check the website on www.dorsetcountymuseum.org or follow us on Facebook and Twitter

Exploring museums worldwide with #MuseumWeek 2017

#MuseumWeekDorset County Museum will join museums and galleries across the World on Twitter for #MuseumWeek, a project that will connect people to artwork, culture, history and science in new and interactive ways.

#MuseumWeek 2017 will take place from Monday 19th  – Sunday 25th June 2017 and will give Twitter users direct and unparalleled access to some of the international leading museums and the people behind them in 140-characters bursts.

Last year, audiences have been able to engage with a massive, wide and versatile cultural production: in one week, 664.000 tweets were seen more than 294 million times!


Follow us @DorsetMuseum

Dorset County Museum will join other UK organisations already signed up include the Science Museum (@sciencemuseum), the Natural History Museum (@NHM_London), the Victoria and Albert Museum (@V_and_A), the British Museum (@britishmuseum), and the Tate (@Tate).

Dorset County Museum will join other Museums across the world by including the hashtag #MuseumWeek in their Tweets for the week, meaning users can follow along on Twitter.


7 days, 7 themes, 7 hashtags!

In addition, every day there will be a different theme.

A tribute to women


#MuseumWeek is committed to the cause of gender equality, so they have decided to dedicate 2017 to all women in the World. Thus, on top of the regular daily hashtags mentioned here below, we would really love to see some of your publications around the “Women and Culture” theme with #WomenMW, whenever you can during the week. Contents related to this theme will have more chances to be republished on our official channels!

#FoodMW – Monday 19 June

Who doesn’t love visiting Museum cafés? After a visit there’s nothing better than sitting back and taking it all in with a coffee, but what food related art or exhibits actually in the museum is there anything you particularly love? Or is that café chocolate cake just a work of art in itself! Share today with #FoodMW!

#SportsMW – Tuesday 20 June

Sometimes it feels like we have to be an Olympic hurdler just to get over the daily obstacles put in our way, but what about the sports related items in our collections? Do you have something iconic, important locally or just plain odd that relates to sports? Share today with #SportsMW

#MusicMW – Wednesday 21 June

Did you know 21st June is officially #MusicDay2017! What music or song reminds you of an item in your collection? Do you have items relating to a famous musician or instruments on show or in storage that could be revealed? Share with #MusicMW today!

 #StoriesMW – Thursday 22 June

Who doesn’t love a story? Share stories about your institution, collections, pieces of Art or any objects! Or do you have something related to fairy tales or a famous story that’s been told….or still to tell? Remember that visitors also have stories to share too, involve them as much as possible! Share with #StoriesMW

#BooksMW – Friday 23 June

“A room without books is like a body without a soul.” – What books do you have in your collection? Why are they important or interesting? What books have inspired items in your collection? Is there something once owned by an author? Do you have books in your Museum shop? What’s the best seller? #BooksMW! Pssst, don’t forget the Bookselfies and bookshelfies!

#TravelsMW – Saturday 24 June

Many museums and collections were formed as a result of travels, what items in your collection have arrived at the museum from someone travelling? What about how travelling has changed? From early sea vessels to the first bicycles, share these collections today with #TravelsMW

#HeritageMW – Sunday 25 June

Celebrating and preserving heritage is our work of every day. What do you do for helping your audience to increase access to and to sustain heritage collections? Do you also have valuable collections in storage or online? In all its forms, heritage crystallizes our past and stimulates creativity; they are linked to culture and environment of our families, communities and nations. That is why we should protect them and pass them to the future generations. Celebrate them today with #HeritageMW.


Follow our #MuseumMascot @PliosaurKevan

A full list of participating UK organisations can be viewed here museum-week.org

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Archaeology Field Trip: Walk at Down Farm, Wimborne St Giles with Dr Martin Green

Martin holding an extraordinary highly polished flint rectangular blade flint or plaque. A prestige object from the late Neolithic © Martin Green 2017

Martin holding an extraordinary highly polished flint rectangular blade flint or plaque. A prestige object from the late Neolithic © Martin Green 2017

On Saturday 3rd June 2017 starting at 2.00pm, Martin Green will lead this trip to explore the archaeological landscape of Down Farm.

This will include the Fir Tree Field shaft containing evidence of Mesolithic to Beaker activity, a rare pond barrow, the Dorset Cursus and other prehistoric features.  We will also visit Martin’s museum containing his extraordinary collection of archaeological artefacts, mainly found in the area.

Martin is a Dorset farmer and renowned amateur archaeologist, awarded an honorary doctorate by Reading University for his life long contribution to the archaeology of Cranborne Chase.

The walk is free although a donation of £3 is encouraged to cover costs.

For further information contact the Museum on on 01305 756827 or check the website on www.dorsetcountymuseum.org or follow us on Facebook and Twitter

For Directions

Down Farm, near Wimborne St Giles, Dorset, grid reference ST 999 149 . Turn off the A354 signposted Wimborne St Giles. Continue a short distance along this road. Take the tarmac lane on the right (signposted ‘Down Farm’). The farm is past the cottages on the right hand side.

Explore the undersea world at the time of the Dinosaurs with Craft Academy this half term

Looking-at-FossilsLooking for something to do with the kids this this half term?  Come and join us for a morning of messy fun at Dorset County Museum’s Craft Academy on Wednesday 31 May 10.30am – 12.30pm

Due to the popular Craft Academy early this year, we will be revisiting the undersea world taking inspiration from our spotlight exhibition ‘Nautilus: Beautiful Survivor – 500 million years of evolutionary history’ based on the book by Wolfgang Grulke, which finishes end of May.  In the Victorian Hall children will have a chance to learn and create creatures that lived in the sea at the time of the Dinosaurs.

We’ll provide the materials and the inspiration – you’ll create a wonderful piece to take home with you. Even better, it’s absolutely FREE thanks to sponsorship from Battens Solicitors.

Each time you create a masterpiece at one of our sessions, we will stamp your Craft Academy passport. If you collect three stamps we’ll give you a special certificate.

The next Craft Academy sessions for 2017:

  • Wednesday 2nd August

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Literary Lives – Hardy and the Poetry of Encounter by Phillip Mallett

Philip Mallett - Image- Mark North_DCM © 2017

Philip Mallett

Come and join us for an interesting talk by Phillip Mallett on Thomas Hardy’s poetry from 100 years ago.

In his Notebook, Hardy wrote that ‘Reality is one sure fact, and the mind of the artist another’. Poetry is made out of the encounter between the two. This lecture explores a range of such poetic encounters, from his collection Moments of Vision, published 100 years ago.

Phillip Mallett is Honorary Senior Lecturer in English at the University of St Andrews, and Honorary Researcher at Lancaster University.  He is a Vice-President of both the Hardy Society and the Thomas Hardy Association, and since 2008 editor of the Hardy Society’s journals. In addition to essays on writers from John Donne to Larkin and Heaney, his published work includes a biography of Rudyard Kipling, and editions of The Return of the Native and The Mayor of Casterbridge for Norton, of The Woodlanders for Wordsworth Classics, and of Under the Greenwood Tree for Oxford World’s Classics. He has also edited a number of collections of essays, most recently The Victorian Novel and Masculinity for Palgrave.  He is currently working on new editions of Tess for Norton, and of the Mayor for the forthcoming Cambridge edition of Hardy’s novels and stories.

The forthcoming lecture will take place on Thursday 25 May 2017 in the Dorset County Museum’s Victorian Hall and is FREE to the public; however a donation of £3 encouraged to cover costs. Doors open at 7.00pm and talks start at 7.30pm.

For further information contact the Museum on on 01305 756827 or check the website on www.dorsetcountymuseum.org or follow us on Facebook and Twitter