Waltham Abbey Church

We often share images of Waltham Abbey Church on our social media sites and thought we would make a little gallery of some of the photographs of the church we have.

To see more images of Waltham Abbey and the district visit our local history website http://www.efdhistory.org.uk

The Pubs of Waltham Abbey

If you follow us on Twitter or Facebook you may have seen our Pub of the Day campaign. The museum has a fantastic photograph collection showing the pubs of the district so we thought we would share them with you.

Here are some great photographs of all the pubs in Waltham Abbey.

Volunteer Update

Our volunteers are an incredible asset to the Epping Forest District and Lowewood Museums service and to our Heritage Lottery Funded project. They bring a vast array of skills and enthusiasm, and we’re very lucky that so many of our volunteers are also members of local historical societies, U3A groups and volunteer in other local historical venues as their knowledge and expertise considerably enhance our collections and research. However, you don’t have to be already knowledgeable in history to volunteer, we’re keen to involve all levels of interest and experience, and so many skills are transferable to collections care!

We will be updating you on the opportunities and volunteer projects over the year, this blog will give you a first-hand insight into the ‘behind the scenes’ work that our volunteer collections team assist us with.

At Epping Forest District Museum

In September, 2014 the volunteer collections team at Epping Forest District Museum returned to the stores alongside the Collections Manager and Volunteer Coordinator after a brief summer break.

As you may be aware the museum is closed for a refurbishment project so the staff and volunteers got stuck into the task of returning objects that had been on permanent display in the museum back to their original locations in the stores. This sounds simple, but can be a challenge, as a lot of what we do involves a fair amount of detective work! In order to relocate objects, we carefully unwrapped them from their protective acid free tissue to look for their accession number, a unique code found in every museum which identifies each object, this lets us know what the object is (as you can’t always tell from just looking at it) and where its store location is.

Our stores are vast and have hundreds of boxes, so it would be impossible to locate and put away objects safely and correctly without these accession numbers and correct cataloguing. The volunteers then hunt for the number and its location on our collections management system, a computer based database, and we go seeking the correct box in the stores. Along the way we got to look at a vast array of fascinating objects, and it can be difficult staying on task!

Packing Objects

Volunteer Philip packing a box with acid free tissue for packing and future transport. He creates little ‘clouds’ of acid free tissue to support individual objects. The box is then sealed, with a packing list, and ready to go back to its store location!

Packing objects

Vanessa, collections volunteer, updating the object packing lists. This list goes into the box with the objects, so we have a record of what should be in there, and the object requirements, for example weight and fragility. This means when someone moves the box, they can tell what requirements the contents of the box has without any unnecessary handling of the objects which could damage fragile items.

Our archaeological collections proved an interesting challenge when we were repacking, as we placed incredibly fragile iron objects into airtight plastic boxes with fresh silica gel creating a ‘micro climate’ that protects the iron from degrading in humid environments. This involved very careful handling, as some iron objects, such as nail fragments can flake or crumble.

Copper Alloy Tap

Volunteer Peter holding a copper alloy tap from Waltham Abbey Church, this unusual design of two animal heads and an animal head spout is thought to be a tap from a beer barrel. We were all thrilled by this medieval tap, and it requires careful packing in order to protect the decorative design.

At Lowewood Museum

Over at Lowewood museum, one of our volunteers was involved in assisting museum staff in the creation of the updated Braham Gallery, which celebrates our archaeological collections. Many of our archaeological collections have limited or no individual records, as a lot of archaeological collections tend to be ‘bulk’ recorded, due to the large numbers of objects that are collected. Volunteer Lia, who has a background in archaeology, assisted us by helping to record and update our records so our education and exhibitions team were able to share the stories of these objects.

Museum volunteer

Lia, writing object descriptions and location movement slips.

mammoth

A molar tooth of a mammoth, one of the many prehistory objects Lia was researching.

And of course, besides all of our hard work at the stores we ensure we celebrate with our volunteers at Epping Forest District and Lowewood Museums. This year we had our first joint volunteer Christmas party and we’re looking forward to a busy and exciting 2015!

Volunteer party

Volunteer Christmas party at Lowewood Museum, we had a pretty splendid buffet and celebrated the wonderful achievements of all our volunteers throughout 2014.

Festive Art in Epping Forest District Museum’s Collection

In the spirit of the season we thought we would share some seasonal art work from the Museum’s collection with you.
As some of you might be aware the museum houses a great collection of art from a variety of important and renowned artists that have strong connections with the district.
Here is a little more information about them and some of their festive and season inspired art.

Walter Spradbery
Walter Spradbery was a renowned commercial artist, who lived in Buckhurst Hill. He was best known for his travel posters which were commissioned by London Transport and a number of rail companies which later became British Rail. His early work was influenced by William Morris and the New Art movement which can be seen in his exact attention to detail.

Haydn Mackey
Haydn Mackey was also a commercial artist and a close friend of Spradbery. The museum’s collection house prints, drawings, watercolours and oil paintings by Mackey showing his great skill. He has an international reputation as a painter, illustrator and war artist.

Mackey lived in the Vicarage, Waltham Abbey for a while during the 1930’s.

Both Spradbery and Mackey served together in the Royal Army Medical Corps during the First World War and both had close links to Walthamstow School of Art & Buckhurst Hill Community association.

Octavius Dixie Deacon
Octavius Dixie Deacon was a publisher, businessman and artist who lived in Loughton for a large part of his life. His work shows rural village life in the Victorian period. The museum houses letters, books and sketchbooks connected to Deacon.

Deacon Christmas card design

Deacon Christmas card design

What have we been up to while the museum is being refurbished?

Its been a busy summer for the museum team. Along with all the planning and work involved in the redevelopment of the museum the staff have been out and about putting on a variety of events and activities all over the district. Here is a little insight into what we have been doing!

From March this year we have been out and about all over the district attending and putting on events.

Throughout the year we have been running Family Fun craft activities in Waltham Abbey Library during school holidays. Here are some of the great crafts that have been made throughout the year. To find out more about our family activities while the museum is closed email us: museum@eppingforestdc.gov.uk

In March we had a stall at Waltham Abbey Marriot Family Fun Day where we saw a lot of people and gave visitors the chance to have a go at some of the old toys in our handling collection!

Waltham Abbey Marriott Family Fun Day

This was also the first year that our organisation has taken part in Museums at Night. We ran our event at our sister site Lowewood Museum because we are closed for refurbishment and lots of people of all ages joined us for an evening of archaeology. We heard from a Roman soldier, dug up some artefacts and had a talk on the archaeological history in the Borough of Broxbourne.

Museums at night

June was a busy month with us putting together a special World War One day at Budworth Hall in Ongar. The Hall itself became a war hospital during the war so a fitting place to run this event. The day was run alongside Ongar Millennium History Society and was a chance for people to see displays and bring along any First World War objects and memories to share with us.

We also attended Waltham Abbey Town Show and Epping Town Show over the summer. Two great and well attended events with lots of activities including Tour de France inspired masks and WW1 medals.

After our day in Ongar we were able to put together a special community exhibition with the objects loaned to us by members of the public. The display ran from 4th August to 4th September. Look out for more displays in our special community cabinet exhibition case in Epping Civic Offices.

Did you see us at North Weald Airfield Community Day in September? A D-Day inspired day we had our WW2 handling objects on offer for people to see!

Our Museum redevelopment display was taken to Lopping Hall in Loughton and Waltham Abbey Church in September to keep people updated on the fantastic project going on at the Museum.

Finally we attended King Harold Day in Waltham Abbey Gardens in October. A great day with lots going on!

To find out more about our future events, join our mailing list or get in touch about any projects please email us museum@eppingforestdc.gov.uk or call 01992 716882

Halloween Blog Post – Myths about Witches

As you may already know Epping Forest District Museum has a selection of Touring Exhibitions available for hire – one of which covers the theme of Witch Hunts. For our Halloween Special Blog here is a little bit of information from that exhibition.

Many people imagine that witches were lonely old hags tending cauldrons and casting spells. This image recurs in many novels, plays and films, like the much-loved Wizard of Oz and the more recent Harry Potter stories. However, many of the ideas and characteristics associated with witches are actually myths. Here are some of the common ones:

Witches were all women
Women were associated with witchcraft because of links between femininity and weakness to temptation. Many deaths blamed on witchcraft occurred in female spheres within households and neighbourhoods. Despite this, 20% of witches were male. An infamous case involved John Lowes, the vicar of Brandeston in Suffolk. He confessed to sinking ships and other terrible crimes, and was hanged at Bury St Edmunds in August 1645.

Witches rode on broomsticks
Some believed that witches met at night in remote places, to which they travelled through the air on broomsticks. This is rarely mentioned in legal records relating to witchcraft. In 1712 an English judge is said to have laughed at the suggestion that a Hertfordshire witch had a magic broom, declaring that there was no law against flying!

Witches were all burned at the stake
The terrifying image of English witches being burned at the stake has featured in horror films like Witchfinder General (1968). Although witches were burned on the continent and in Scotland, other types of execution included beheading, drowning and burial alive. Some were merely imprisoned, banished or forced to repent. In England, the punishment for invoking demons and murder by witchcraft was hanging. A rare witch-burning took place at Ipswich in 1645, when Mary Lakeland was executed by these means for bewitching her husband to death – the crime of petty treason.

Millions died in the witch-hunts
Estimates of the number of people executed for witchcraft varies wildly, reaching as high as 9 million. Legal records show there were around 100,000 witch-trials in early modern Europe, and that death sentences were passed in about half of these. This may seem a lot for an impossible crime, but compared with the size of the population witchcraft prosecutions were quite rare.

Here are some objects from our collections relating to the Witch Hunt topic:
BELLARMINE
Bellarmine jugs have often been used as ‘witch bottles’ and the bearded or ‘wild’ man figure was even thought to scare off witches. When used as ‘witch bottles’, these jugs would contain hair, nail clippings and urine, all believed to help capture evil spirits. Witches spells were considered harmless if these bottles were burned at midnight.

bottle
Small glass bottles, like the type shown here, have been found in many 16th and 17th century houses. Many contained salt or nails- all considered effective safeguards against witches.
This and other glass bottles were found in 1966 during the excavation of 46/48 Sewardstone Street, Waltham Abbey.

1840StocksNWhip
This image shows the pillory which stood in Waltham Abbey’s churchyard. Sited next to the pillory was the Tudor stocks (or whipping post). The Elizabethan Act (1563) prescribes that for a first offence of any attempt to use witchcraft that did not result in the death of a victim, the punishment would be one year in prision and “once in every Quarter of the said yere shall in some Market Town, upon Market day or at suche tyme as any Fayer shall be kept there, stande openly upon the Pillorie by the space of Sixe Houres, and there shall openly confesse his or her Error and Offence”

This exhibition was put together by Epping Forest District Museum in conjunction with Malcolm Gaskill.
To find out more about our Touring Exhibitions email us at museum@eppingforestdc.gov.uk

Update on our Heritage Lottery Fund Project

Finally we can share with you some of the updates on our Heritage Lottery Fund Project and the redevelopment of the Museum!

A lot has been going on behind the scenes with the Museum project. Although the building work is yet to begin there are some very exciting updates that we wanted to share with you.

Before the building work can start all the plans and designs for the building, provided by Hawkins Brown, have to be finalised. One of the key missions of this project is to make the museum and its collection accessible to all and this is something that we have been working on with the architects.

The team and people involved with the project have been very excited to see the developments of the plans and it is fantastic for us to finally be able to share with you some of the updated plans and some proposed images of how the museum is going to look when we reopen!

Entrance to the Museum
Part of the project is the plan to reopen the original entrance on Sun Street. In this image you can see what would have been the original front door to the house and this will become the new main entrance to the museum.

Image showing the original entrance to the house that is now the museum

Tudor Gallery
Another key area for the project is a chance to interpret the Tudor part of the building. The house itself has a fascinating history and the team are very keen to share and expose the story of the building.

tudor gallery

Community and Education Room
Along with new galleries and a new entrance the museum will have a dedicated community and education space. The room will be able to fit a class of 30 children making a better visitor experience for school groups but the space will have open arts and craft storage to allow for creativity but also be equipped for lectures, talks and presentations providing a fantastic new space for the museum.

activity room

The Core Gallery
As you may already be aware the redevelopment of the museum will allow for on-site collections storage and a new gallery ‘The Core Gallery’ this space will feature key objects from the collection and give visitors the opportunity to see behind the scenes into the stores, and people at work caring for the collection.

Core gallery

Art Stores
Along with the new on-site storage there will be the chance for visitors to see into the stores through glass viewing areas. This will include views of the picture stores which will be on a new racking system. This is great because the team will be able to showcase some of the fantastic pieces of art in the museum’s collection even when they aren’t on display.

art stores

We would love to hear what you think via Facebook, Twitter, comments on the blog or through the contact us links on the menu above. We will have more updates for you soon!

Epping Forest District Museum – History of a Tudor House

As you already know work is underway on a Heritage Lottery Fund redevelopment project to improve Epping Forest District Museum. As well as improving the services with a community room, lift and the collections at the heart of the museum, the team will also be working to preserve and interpret the history of the house that the museum lives in.

So we thought we would share a little history about the building with you.

The first recorded references to Sun Street are seen in a rental of Waltham c.1320 and two deeds of c.1321-2. Here Sun Street is referred to in its former name, East Street.

The building that the museum is now housed in (no 41) started life in the 16th century as a two storey timber framed house.

model of 41 sun street as it could have looked in 1520

In the early 17th century the roof was raised to add an extra storey to the building.

Prior to 1730 41 Sun Street was owned by Henry Woollasten. Woollasten was a leading figure in Waltham Abbey, he was the son of a draper. He was prominent in church and local affairs and in 1642 he was given a commission from King Charles I to repair the keepers’ lodges in Epping Forest.

The houses and the wider estates it was a part of stayed in the Woollasten family before parts were sold to James Dobson a draper from Covent Garden. The property then stayed in the Dobson family for 200 years.

fireplace lintel initals

Within the house the fireplace lintel in one of the downstairs rooms reveals some history about one of the tenants. It bears the initials “TCT.” It is likely these refer to Thomas Taylor and his wife Constance. Their 6 children were baptised in Waltham Abbey church between 1671 and 1680.

Other occupiers included Richard Watkins from c.1731 and the Harvey family who seemed to have been occupiers between c.1742/3 and the early 1790s.

c. 1761/2 39 and 41 Sun Street were given their common roof. This was at the same time as number 39 was built. Number 39 is also a timbered framed structure.

The previously mentioned Harveys were the occupiers when a fire broke out in August 1786 which could have destroyed 39 and 41 Sun Street but was averted because of a change in wind direction.

1870 Ordance Survey map of Sun Street

Another notable occupant was John Bently and his son who were occupiers of 39 and 41 Sun Street by 1890. Bently had a lot of importance in the area as a builder, contractor and undertaker. He was involved in the building of St George’s Church, Enfield Highway, Waltham Abbey Town Hall and Woodredon House as well as the rebuilding of the upper part of the Abbey Church tower in the early 1900s.

He largely reconstructed 39 Sun Street himself and was responsible for the mock Tudor timbered front on the two houses.

scale drawing of the sun street facade of 39 and 41 sun street

For a large part of the 1900s 41 Sun Street was occupied by various doctors including Dr Percy Streatfield, DR R H Carter, Dr Bell Smith and lastly Dr Parkinson who lived and practiced at no. 41 until 1973. Parkinson extended the property by the addition of a purpose built surgery and waiting room.

The last owner-occupier was Rowland Blake, wheelwright, who owned the property from 1958 to 1972. It was then bought by Waltham Holy Cross Urban District Council in connection with the town centre redevelopment. It was then used under Epping Forest District Council as a residence before being empty in 1979. It was in this same year that vandals entered and set fire to the property. Luckily this happened during the day so a lot of damage was prevented.

Historical Society Museum

In 1974 No. 41 was listed as of “special architectural or historic interest” (Grade II) before being upgrading to Grade II* and in 1975 the Waltham Abbey Historical Society were granted a tenancy-at-will to use the ground floor as a museum. When they took over the building they had to remove the ceiling as it was falling down – when the material was sifted they had some interesting finds. Amongst the finds was an Elizabethan silver sixpence dated 1562, it was in mint condition and could have been lost shortly after it was made.

elizabeth I coin found in 1975 at 41 sun street

Finally in November 1981 the District Museum was opened in both 39 and 41 after a conversion project in the previous year.
Museum Opening

Epping Forest District Museum’s exciting projects

With the Museum being closed we have a great opportunity to go out and about working with the community and on exciting projects within the district.

Here are some of the exciting projects we are working on – let us know if you would like to get involved or have any ideas of other projects we could work on.

Community Cabinet Project:
SHARE

Thanks to SHARE Museums East we have a small grant to work on a really exciting Community Cabinet Project. This project is a chance for community groups and individuals to curate their own exhibitions in a single case. The displays will feature both personal items and collections as well as the chance to explore the Museum’s vast collection. While the Museum is closed we are working with different groups to put on mini exhibitions in a cabinet in the Civic Offices in Epping and at our sister site Lowewood Museum.

Look out for more information on our first exhibition in next week’s blog.

Take over Day:

Takeover Day

Have you heard of Kids in Museums? They work with Museums to help them welcome and include families, teenagers and children. One of their exciting projects, which we are getting involved in this year, is Museum Takeover Day. On Friday 21st November we will be inviting pupils from Broxbourne School to take over Lowewood Museum for the day, they will be taking on museum roles and running the museum as Front of House Staff, Curators, Educators and lots of other roles. Look out for more information coming soon and why not see if you can come down to the Museum and see Takeover Day in action.

Museum on the Move:

We are spending quite a bit of time out and about while the Museum is closed. As part of our special Museum on the Move project we have already been to Waltham Abbey Town Show, Epping Town Show, Waltham Abbey Marriot Family Fun Day and a number of other fairs.

Here are some pictures of what we have been up to.

Museum on the Move

Waltham Abbey Town Show

We may be bringing the Museum to an event near you sometime soon – if you know of any events you might like to see the Museum involved in or you are interested in curating a mini exhibition as part of our community cabinet project then why not get in touch via our contact us page.

Heritage Lottery Fund Project Update – what have we been up to?

packing images
The major task at the moment has been to move the collections to a safe environment and empty the Museum building ready for the building work to begin.
Staff and the museum’s many volunteers have been working on the painstaking task of cataloguing, sorting and packing the Museum’s vast collection. Everyone has said what a very enjoyable task this has been even though it has been hard work. For many volunteers and some of the new staff working on the Heritage Lottery Fund Project it has given them an insight into the fantastic collection that the Museum holds.

The museum collection contains a skeleton from the Waltham Abbey Chapter House burial of around 1250 AD. Evidence suggest the man is thought to be an abbot of Waltham, a facial reconstruction has been completed, showing what the abbot may have looked like.

The museum collection contains a skeleton from the Waltham Abbey Chapter House burial of around 1250 AD. Evidence suggest the man is thought to be an abbot of Waltham, a facial reconstruction has been completed, showing what the abbot may have looked like.

Items have included artefacts as diverse as a mummified cat, an abbot’s skeleton and artworks by artists connected with the district.
Mummified Cat
One of the most important items in the museum, the Tudor panelling, on a long term loan from the Victoria and Albert Museum has been carefully moved to a suitable storage area and will be redisplayed when the museum reopens.

Everything has been packed before being stored securely and in a suitable atmosphere in order to preserve the collection’s precious and often irreplaceable items. Building specialists are now investigating and recording the historic listed building the museum is located in ahead of building works, which will begin later this year.

Look out for more updates on our exciting project in future blog posts!