Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Extraordinary Life of Charles Waterton - Comic Exhibition Launch

A special event is being held at Wakefield Museum
Wednesday 30 September 5pm to 7.30pm

To celebrate the launch of our new comic exhibition - The Extraordinary Life of Charles Waterton - we are very excited to announce that artists John Welding, Staz Johnson and Richard Bell will be in the museum, along with John Whitaker, the museum curator and writer of the Victorian adventurer comic.

The Victorian adventurer who captured a caiman crocodile by riding on its back - the perfect action comic hero!

Charles Waterton was famed for his interest in nature, and travelled widely collecting specimens before setting up the world's first nature reserve at Waterton Hall, near Wakefield. 

For more information about how the comic has been produced, see this earlier blog post.
Wakefield Museum has an extensive collection of Waterton artefacts - including a giant Cayman which is exhibited in Wakefield Library and his diaries which detail his travel experiences and his life.

Waterton is well-known for his 'creations' - his taxidermy inventions of grotesques. 

To celebrate this aspect of Charles Waterton, we are also delighted to host - for one night only - the amazing Palace of Curiosities - a Victorian Travelling Sideshow with objects including a mermaid and a unicorn's horn!

In their own words:
Every now and then we find someone from history whose life really needs celebrating - Take Charles Waterton a Victorian man who created taxidermy of stuffed animals and presented them as political cartoon satire - The Palace of Curiosities is proud to announce we will be exhibiting at Wakefield Museum to honour this mans life and achievements on 30th September 2015 - 5pm-7.30pm as part of Wakefield's "The Art Walk".

The professor with his mermaid

Friday, September 25, 2015

Dirigibles and Tea!

'Come, ride in my dirigible and we shall talk of tea.'  

The fashion for tea has been replenished by the steampunk genre and its delight in 'tea duelling'.  Steampunk’s heady mix of high fashion blends cultures, infusing the modern with old style technology.   It is steeped in  a literacy which would have delighted the diarist Samuel Pepys who wrote on this day in 1660:

‘To the office, where Sir W. Batten, Colonel Slingsby, and I sat awhile, and Sir R. Ford coming to us about some business, we talked together of the interest of this kingdom to have a peace with Spain and a war with France and Holland; where Sir R. Ford talked like a man of great reason and experience. And afterwards I did send for a cup of tee (a China drink) of which I never had drank before, and went away.’
25th September 1660

However, it would be nearly another hundred years before tea would become infused into our national habits. The Astbury Ware teapot in our collection charmingly reflects the start of the dedicated teapot.   Production started in 1720 its small size reflecting the value of tea which had a 119% tax, the tea being prized by smugglers who shipped it to and from America.
Astbury Ware

Our trade with China for tea and its fine porcelain led to technological revolution in ceramics in Britain. Wrenthorpe pottery in Wakefield struggled to keep pace with Leeds, Castleford and the Don valley, because it lacked the ability to make the new porcelains. The pink enamelling on the 1780s Leeds ware teapot was a refreshing change to brown utilitarian pots. 

Leeds Ware

The excess tax and smuggling boiled over with the 1773 tea act and the Boston Tea party in America, the problems gained a head of steam and in 1784 Richard Twinning advised William Pitt the Younger to reduce the tax to 12.5%

It didn’t take too long before this stimulating brew of politics, changes in technology and trade popularised tea drinking into the national drink.

There are some fine services in the Wakefield's collection and many would be welcome in the wild world of steampunk. What they lack in cogs and top hats they more than make up for in decoration. The Rockingham set for example:

Rockingham tea set

But for sheer volume you have to go for our favourite - the 1870 Barge ware - a fine spectacle at any party:
Barge Ware

These wonderful tea pots, and more, are currently on display in Wakefield Museum.  The barge ware pot featured here really does have to be seen to be believed! 

For those of you with Steampunk or Victoriana inclinations, or intrigued to know more, come along to Wakefield Museum next Wednesday evening, when we will be host to the amazing Palace of Curiosities - a Victorian sideshow with a difference.  

Wonder at the bizarre collection of objects that will amaze and astound you all in a feast of incredulity and disbelief.  All the atmosphere, wonderment and macabre family fun of a Victorian travelling fairground curiosity sideshow – seeing is believing!

The Palace of Curiosities
Wednesday 30 September
Wakefield Museum
5pm to 7.30pm
Suitable for all!

Monday, September 14, 2015

Your Museum Needs You!

Help us make a new display

We are creating a new family friendly display at Castleford Forum Museum.
What would you like to discover?
We will be running free family activity workshops too.
Fill out our quick survey and enter a free prize draw to win a
 £10 voucher for M&S.
Follow this link to complete the  Survey

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

The Romans are coming!

This Saturday sees the Romans taking over Castleford!

Come up to the museum to handle real Roman objects, have a Roman hairstyle makeover, try on costume and meet a Roman metalworker making bronze jewellery.  

Lots of Roman-inspired crafts and fun for all the family - and it's free!

Have a Roman Hairstyle!

Meet Romans in Castleford!
See (and handle!) real Roman objects in the museum

Wednesday, September 2, 2015


Edmund Waterton, son of the famous 19th Century naturalist Charles Waterton, was a bit of a hoarder. 

Edmund Waterton
He collected all kinds of relics, and managed to blow the family fortune in the process. The Victoria and Albert Museum acquired his collection in 1871. It included a staggering 760 rings, forming the backbone of the museum’s metalwork collection, from ancient Roman key rings (that’s rings that are also keys, rather than the thing you grabbed on the way out the front door this morning) through to 18th century poesy rings. 

Edmund Waterton's ring cabinet

The V & A are kindly loaning 40 of these rings to Wakefield Museum for our upcoming exhibition ‘Precious’. As well as the rings, we will be showing, from the Wakefield collection, the cabinet where Edmund kept the rings and, with the help of interactives, exploring the many different meanings these rings can take on, like love, faith and magic. The rings will look great too!

‘Precious’ opens in December. Watch this space for more details...