Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Family fun across West Yorkshire museums and galleries

February half term is nearly here.  We are extremely lucky in West Yorkshire to have a fantastic range of museum and gallery sites run by Local Authorities.  There are castles, art galleries, museums,  a watermill, an abbey and more! Many have free entry and those that charge are extremely good value for money. You can see penguins, half a pig, a caiman under the floor, a ferocious tiger.  There are indoor and outdoor sites, spend an hour or a whole day.  You can take part in organised workshops, play in family friendly interactive areas, get crafty, learn something new and see amazing treasures.

Bradford Museums and Galleries

Cartwright Hall Art Gallery

Cliffe Castle Museum

Bradford Industrial Museum

Bolling Hall

Find out what's on at Bradford Museums and Galleries:

Example event:

Mask Making Workshop With Artist Becky Truman

Cartwright Hall Art Gallery

18 February, 1pm – 3pm

Celebrate 250 years of Circus with aerial artist, costume designer and sculptor, Becky Truman.
Places are very limited. Cost £10 per person. Suitable for 5 years plus. All children to be accompanied by an adult. Please book on 01274 431212 or e:

Calderdale Museums

Bankfield Museum

Heptonstall Museum

Shibden Hall

Smith Art Gallery

Find out what's on at Calderdale Museums:

Example event:

Sparks! Half Term Fun – Potion making

Bankfield Museum

21 February, 11am – 12pm; 1pm – 2pm; 2pm-3pm

Find out about the healthcare of the Victorians and create your own special potion. £3.50 per child book:

Kirklees Museums and Galleries

Tolson Museum

Oakwell Hall and Country Park

Huddersfield Art Gallery

Bagshaw Museum

Batley Art Gallery

Find out what's on at Kirklees Museums and Galleries:

Example event: 

Half term activities – bird theme

Bagshaw Museum

20 February, 11am – 1pm, 2pm – 4pm

Be inspired by the objects on display and get creative with our bird themed children’s activities and crafts. Don’t forget to stop and say hello to Snowy the Snowy Owl.
£2 per session. All ages welcome. No booking required.

Leeds Museums and Galleries

Abbey House Museum

Leeds Industrial Museum

Kirkstall Abbey

Leeds Art gallery

Leeds City Museum


Temple Newsam

Thwaite Mills Watermill

Find Leeds Museums and Galleries Visitor Information here:  

Example event:

Explore Wildlife World at Lotherton

The first areas of Lotherton’s new wildlife park opened on 21 November. Meet playful Humboldt penguins as they splash about in their pool. See our flamingos in their new habitat and say hello to newly arrived tapirs and capybaras. Enjoy a great value family day out, with a country house, fashion galleries, bird garden, cafĂ©, woodland walks, adventure playground, and much more!  [There is an entry charge to Lotherton and bird themed half term events:]

Wakefield Museums and Castles

Castleford Museum

Pontefract Castle

Pontefract Museum

Wakefield Museum

Find out what's on at Wakefield Museums and Castles:

Example event:

Iron Age warriors
22 February, 10am - 3pm
Castleford Museum

Meet an Iron Age warrior and scare your enemies with celtic style face paint.  All ages welcome, free, no need to book

With such a variety of venues and activities everyone will find something fun to do over the February half term.

To find out more about these venues and keep up to date with news follow us on Twitter




Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Women Who Want Votes

100 years ago today the Representation of the People Act was passed. This meant that women over 30 who owned property were given the right to vote .

This is a photograph from The Express, Saturday July 1913, showing a large crowd in Outwood.  The newspaper article sates:

"The non-militant suffragette pilgrims belonging to  the National Union of Woman's Suffrage societies are progressing on their long tramp..... After a brief halt at Outwood they made their acquaintance with Wakefield, which possesses a very active band of women workers, who will never be happy until they get the vote which has been so long denied them."

The article goes on to talk about banners along the route:

"All along the route there were large crowds of people, and the women displayed all kinds of banners and devices.  On one were the words 'Law Abiding' on another 'Justice for Women'"

The crowds made their way into Wakefield:

"...the crowds got denser, and nearly all the space available was occupied in the Bull Ring"

This is a copy of the full newspaper article:

In celebration of the Vote 100 anniversary we'd like to highlight two objects from our collections that we are very proud to display in our museums. The objects are very different, but represent campaign for change:

A woman’s right to cues!

Sheila Capstick achieved national fame in the 1980s when she took action against Wakefield City Working Men’s Club. Women were not allowed full membership at working men’s clubs and when Sheila was banned from playing snooker it was time for action.

Campaign T-shirt, Wakefield, 1979.  This  is on display at Wakefield Museum.
Along with reporter Brenda Haywood they started ERICCA  - Equal Rights in Clubs Campaign for Action, which began by picketing Wakefield City Working Men’s Club and sparked a national campaign which ran throughout the 1980s. Campaigners picketed clubs across the country and eventually Wakefield City Working Men’s Club lifted the snooker ban.

Despite ERICCA’s efforts in the 1980s, the Club and Institute Union (CIU) only changed its rules and granted women equal rights and full membership in 2007.

Pontefract’s Secret Ballot
Pontefract took centre stage on 15 August 1872 when it held the first parliamentary secret ballot in Britain. This was the first time that people had voted for a Member of Parliament by marking an ‘X’ on a ballot paper next to the candidate of their choice - the system we take for granted today. Until then voting had been a public act which allowed corruption and intimidation.
Edward Leatham, Pontefract-born banker and MP for Huddersfield, led the campaign to reform voting after outrageous corruption in the 1868 General Election. In July 1872 the Ballot Act introduced secret voting. Three weeks later a by-election was called in Pontefract.
One of Pontefract’s two MPs, Hugh Childers, was promoted to the cabinet and so stood for re-election. Unusually he was challenged by the ambitious, young Lord Pollington.

The election attracted national attention, especially when Josephine Butler – feminist and social reformer - took advantage of the parliamentary election in Pontefract to further her aims to repeal the Contagious Diseases Acts (which allowed the police to detain women they suspected of prostitution to control venereal diseases in the armed forces – no evidence was required).  It was the first female-led feminist campaign in Britain.

The election was hastily organised, but polling day went smoothly with none of the drunken and riotous behaviour that usually accompanied elections. Childers was victorious and Josephine Butler eventually succeeded in getting the Contagious Diseases act repealed. We still use the same secret ballot voting method today.
We have two of the ballot boxes used in these elections in our collections:

One of the ballot boxes used in the first secret ballot.  You can see the remains of where the box was sealed shut with wax and a Pontefract cake stamp.  You can see the boxes on display at Wakefield Museum and Pontefract Museum (Pontefract Museum is currently closed for redevelopment - it will be reopening in May 2018)

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Treasured Ring

We are very excited to have acquired a stunning gold ring.

It is a late medieval gold ring from the 15th/16th century AD. It has an inset garnet and 9 further lobes with a letter inscribed on them. These are probably to help the wearer keep track of the 10 prayers that make up reciting the Catholic rosary.

The ring was found by a metal detectorist near Pontefract and acquired under the Treasure Act.

The Treasure Act sets out a clear process to save treasures for local people. Local museums are notified of all potential treasure finds in their collecting area. If the museum wants to save the find for the local community it can by paying the finder / landowner a reward based on the market value of the find. Last year saw the 20th anniversary of the Treasure Act

For more information about 20 Years of Treasure and some of our other objects acquired this way, see our previous blog : 20 Years of Treasure blog

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Walls, walls, walls!

Redevelopment work at Pontefract Museum is cracking on and it's all about the walls!

All of the old exhibition structures have been removed, as has the glass partition, leaving the space looking huge...

There were blinds at the windows these have been taken down.  The windows will be decorated with vinyl designs by artist Fabric Lenny, his work can be seen on other windows at the museum.

The old blinds
The glass partition is being replaced with a stud wall. 

The new wall will give us lots of extra display space in both the main gallery and the special exhibition gallery.

The existing gallery walls are being boarded over to provide a solid and plain backing for the new displays.

The museum exhibition team is also working on the interpretation, providing  graphic designers InchPunch with content for the exhibition panels and preparing the objects for display.

Work left to do includes painting the ceiling and new walls, building new display structures and installing new museum cases.

Pontefract Museum will reopen in the spring.  Follow @WFMuseums for updates.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Pontefract Museum Gallery Redevelopment

Pontefract Museum is currently closed to enable us to carry out some exciting new gallery redevelopment work.

The museum closed on 23 December and after the staff had had a nice Christmas break work has now started in preparing the spaces for building work.

The first stage of the process is to wrap and protect all of the elements of the display that are remaining in the gallery (about two thirds of the gallery was redeveloped in 2016)

Elements of the display are covered for protection

Cases and parts of displays have been moved

A quick sweep up

Bit by bit objects are carefully removed and packed.  Some of the larger objects need specialist removers who will use lifting equipment.

Objects are packed on to crates for removal to the museum store

The next stage will be the removal of the green display structures you can see in some of the above photographs and the remaining elements of the old displays.  The ceiling will be painted white (it is currently black) and the gallery walls will be boarded out. 

As Pontefract Museum is  listed  we have been granted listed building consent to do this work.  All work has to be carried out so as not to damage any of the remaining original features of the beautiful art nouveau building.

Check back soon for more updates and follow @WFMuseums on Twitter.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Castleford and the After Eight Mint Factory

Our Contemporary & Diversity Collecting Officer, Steven Skelley, has been working on a new exhibition at Castleford Museum:
Over one billion After Eight mints were made in Castleford every year at the Rowntree’s (and later Nestle) Factory on Wheldon Road. Thousands of workers, mainly Castleford women, toiled away making these wonder mints and other confections for the world, until closure in 2012.

To mark this significant industry and the lives of the amazing staff at the Castleford factory, the museum service undertook a project to record this history for the future. As well as developing a collection of fabulous After Eight packaging, factory tools and photographs, the service took a series of oral history recordings with ex-workers at the factory. These recordings, from contributors who generously shared their time and memories, have formed a vivid history, in which these ingenious mints are just the tip of the iceberg.
Originally invented by Rowntree’s in 1962, these after dinner mints were a marvel of chocolate technology. The workers used a secret recipe and enzyme that ensured the mint fondant centre only melted after the wafer thin chocolate casing had dried. ‘They were a hard mint to master, as the chocolate was so thin and the quality had to be top-notch’ one worker stated. They originally used special hairdryers to create the signature chocolate ripples too. The mints became an overnight sensation and are still sold in their billions all over the world.
By the 1970s After Eights were synonymous with Christmas and dinner party culture, as many families had more time and money to spend on fashionable dinner parties. After Eight sales boomed thanks to marketing targeted at the growing middle classes. Iconic television advertising made jokes about class elites and gender roles, while sales of these ‘posh’ mints continued to grow. But in becoming such a success the mints lost a little of their exclusive image.
Against the backdrop of glamourous dinner parties and cutting edge chocolate technology the lives of the factory workers and their families played out. This is a history of friendships, camaraderie, hardships, royal visits, industrial unrest, but mostly graft and raising families. All of which form the rich tapestry of factory life in Castleford.

There were many stand out memories in the oral histories, now saved for future generations. One night team broke the shift record, producing the most After Eights, only to discover that they had forgot to put in the mint centres in and they were all hollow. The unusable leftovers went to feed pigs, nothing was wasted. There were stories about Christmas cheer in the factory, where men would don green tights and offer out a sherry. One thing is certain, everyone interviewed agreed it was a good place to work for and you made friends for life. One worker stated ‘it takes hours to walk into town as I always end up talking to the other ex-workers, we are still a community’.
Visit Castleford Museum to see our new display; all with thanks to the people who worked minty chocolate magic down Wheldon road.

If you have a story to share about Castleford’s great mint factory then please do get in touch. 

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Takeover Day at Castleford Museum

A review by Sarah and Danielle - Front of House at Castleford Museum

What. A. Blast! Our first ever Takeover Day at Castleford Museum went better than we could have ever hoped. After months of planning, a few sleepless nights, marvellous support from Kids in Museums and lots of reassurance from our excellent museums team, we managed to get through the entire day without a hitch.
We first began planning Takeover Day, way back at the start of the year. It was an event that we were both really keen to do and we felt it would be a good way to give something back to our regular young visitors. They always want to help us with workshop ideas so we thought; why not give them a chance to work for the museum for real and see what it’s actually like?

Our young people arrived at 10am and were thrown straight in at the deep end! We gave them a presentation on the different duties of museum professional, such as curator, exhibition designer, learning officer etc., and asked them which role they would like to take on. They then had 10 minutes to collectively agree on a theme for our day, which turned out to be: Vivian Nicholson, our very own ‘Spend, Spend, Spend’ legend!

After some research they planned and designed a new trail, 2 workshop activities, a mini exhibition, and wrote scripts for some role play.

As well as this, they welcomed visitors with great enthusiasm, made themselves ‘Happy to help’ staff badges and excitedly updated social media.


All this before lunch!
After lunch parents and guardians were welcomed back to participate in all the activities on offer. Some parents were making clay microphones and Vivian Nicholson inspired masks, while others were being assisted with our new museum hunt ‘Viv’s Missing Notes’.  Our young people really got stuck in engaging with visitors, answering questions, assisting our toddler visitors with the activities and generally being magnificent museum professionals.


The feedback from our parents/guardians was really positive and they all said they’d had a great time.
(Adele, parent of one of our young people)

 Overall it was a fantastic experience, not just for our young people, who got to run the museum for a day, but for us as Front of House staff. It was an absolute privilege working with our young people. It was heart-warming to watch their confidence grow through talking to the public and leading craft workshops. We saw them embrace team-working, conduct fair decision-making, take on responsibility and develop their planning skills. By the end of the day, we really felt like we had got to know them.
If there is one thing we have learnt through Takeover Day, it would be that the young people in our communities want to get involved in the museum, you just have to give them the opportunity to surprise you.
(And that, generally, young people aren’t as scary as you first think!)