Archaeology Evening at Museum

The Langton Herring Iron Age Mirror

The Langton Herring Iron Age Mirror © DCM

There will be an Archaeology evening on Friday 7th February at Dorset County Museum. This is primarily a members’ event but everyone is welcome to attend, especially potential new members.

The event will commence with a book launch and will be followed by three short illustrated talks. David Carter will discuss the recent works at Sandsfoot Castle in Weymouth; Clare Randall will talk about the Cowleaze Cemeteries, and Jon Murden, Director of the Museum, will talk about the newly conserved Langton Herring Iron Age Mirror now displayed in the Museum’s archaeology gallery.

The launch of a brand new book, Paleolithic Archaeology at Broom in the Axe Valley by Dr. Rob Hosfield and Dr. Chris Green of Reading University, will commence at 6.30pm and copies of the book will be available to buy. The co-editors will give a brief presentation on the book before signing copies for purchase.

All are welcome to attend this event at Dorset County Museum. The book launch will take place at 6.30pm to be followed by the three lectures at 7.30pm. Entry is free: a donation of £3.00 is encouraged to cover costs.

For further information contact the Museum on 01305 262735 or check the website on www.dorsetcountymuseum.org

 

 

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John Meade Falkner and Moonfleet

John Meade Falkner

John Meade Falkner © DCM

John Meade Falkner was born at Manningford Bruce, Wiltshire, the son of a curate. He spent his childhood in Dorchester and Weymouth. (His father later became curate at Buckland Ripers, close to the landscape of Moonfleet.)

After taking an Oxford degree, Falkner became a tutor. He was later a business man, and then an academic. He wrote poetry, guides to the counties of Oxford and Berkshire, and three novels: The Lost Stradivarius, Moonfleet and The Nebuly Coat, He lost the manuscript of a fourth novel on a train.

The Rat’s ‘Tale‘, an extract from a typescript account of his childhood by J M Falkner. The scene is the dining room of St. Mary’s Rectory, Weymouth…

“The room was by no means ill-favoured, it was warm, had always plenty of light, and in the evening found the amenities of sunset and a view of rising ground on the far side of the Backwater. But in it was enacted the first scene of a overwhelming family tragedy. We were dining one day about 1.30 (I think that was Thursday March 2nd 1871) and there was on the table a glass water-bottle cylindrical in shape with a flat under-side.

Taken in 1876, John Meade Falkner canoeing on the Backwater at Weymouth, Dorset

Taken in 1876, John Meade Falkner canoeing on the Backwater at Weymouth, Dorset © DCM

Someone noticed that there was something, like a piece of thick black sting, coiled round the bottom inside, and it was fished out.

It was fished out with one of our good old silver forks, and proved to be the tail which had dropped of a decomposed rat.”

The rat was a typhoid rat, and the disease afflicted all the family (except the father). Falkner’s mother died of typhoid ten days later.

MOONFLEET

Moonfleet is a tale of smuggling by John Meade Falkner first published in 1898.

Fleet Old Church, Moonfleet

Fleet Old Church, wrecked by the Great Storm of 1824. In the story of Moonfleet, John Trenchard is trapped in the vault underneath this church. © DCM

One frosty, moon-bright evening in 1758, John Trenchard discovers a secret passage leading from under a churchyard tomb down into the darkness of the Mohune family vault. There he finds not only coffins, but also casks of brandy, hidden by the village smugglers. John is in search of Blackbeards’s diamond, and this is the start of a cliff-hanging adventure which takes him halfway across the world. As in all Falkner’s novels, the finding of a lost object leads to terrible consequences. Heraldry, too, is a recurrent device. The Y of the Mohune’s shield is the mark with which John is branded at the hands of the Dutch – however faraway, John still remains the property of the Mohunes.

Sky1 TV adaptation of ‘Moonfleet’ starring Ray Winstone, Aneurin Barnard and Karl McCrone

1824; Weymouth, the Great Storm

VICTORIAN TALES FROM WEYMOUTH AND PORTLAND

This being the morning before zero hour…I thought that this might well be a good time to write about the Great Storm of 1824 that hit the country. Those living on the South coast were worst hit.

This is a tale of a storm that was so severe and so destructive that it has gone down in Weymouth’s legend. My father used to recount the tale, it had been handed down through the family, as I’m sure it had been through many others. You mention the year 1824 to any old Weymouthian, and they’ll shake their head as they recall tales told of the devastation to the town and nearby.

Well, here we are again, and if the amount of media hype around he forthcoming ‘Storm’ is anything to go by, this could be another biggun that’ll go down in the history books! But the again it might just be…

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Museum appeals for help to buy Iron Age mirror

The Chesil Mirror

The Chesil Mirror

Dorset County Museum is asking for help to buy a valuable artefact for its collection.

In 2010 a beautiful copper-alloy mirror was discovered between Abbotsbury and Chickerell and it is now up for sale.  The mirror is characteristic of the late Iron Age and is similar to the Portesham Mirror currently in the Museum’s possession. This type of mirror is extremely rare – fewer than 30 have ever been discovered in the UK.

The Chesil Mirror, as the new find has been named, is stunningly decorated and beautifully crafted and was found in a grave dating back to the Roman Conquest.  The body was buried in a characteristic crouched position and the grave also contained two brooches, an armlet, copper tweezers, coins and some glass beads.

In August 2011 the whole assemblage was declared Treasure and in April 2012 the Secretary of State set its price at £23,000.  The Museum now needs to raise this money urgently to save the collection for Dorset and prevent its possible sale to an overseas buyer. Jon Murden, director of Dorset County Museum said, “This mirror is very important to us because it is closely connected with the one we acquired in 1994 and is decorated in a similar way.  These rare and fascinating objects are significant because they tell us so much about power and wealth in Iron Age Dorset.  We hope this appeal will encourage local people to support us so that we can buy the mirror and give it pride of place in our Archaeology Gallery.” 

The Museum is planning a series of fundraising events and will be applying for various funds and grants to help with the purchase, but more support is needed.  Any money donated will go straight into a special fund which has been set up for the acquisition of this important archaeological discovery.

One event already planned is a lecture by Professor Andrew Fitzpatrick of Wessex Archaeology.  He will talk about the significance of the Chesil mirror and explain how it fits into our wider understanding of Iron Age Dorset. The lecture is at 7 for 7.30pm on Friday 30 November.  Tickets are available now from the Museum shop and cost £10.

If you would like to help with the Chesil Mirror appeal, please send cheques, made payable to DNHAS, to: Chesil Mirror Appeal, Dorset County Museum, High West Street, Dorchester, DT1 1XA.