Have you been to see the Great Exhibition of the North yet?! We recently revealed the seven objects from our collection that were chosen to feature in A History of the North in 100 Objects, a project that celebrates the impact of Northern inventors, industrialists, artists, entertainers and campaigners with a trail across museums from all over the North of England and an interactive online exhibition at www.100objectsnorth.co.uk. The website was launched ahead of the start of the festival in Newcastle and Gateshead this summer. We’ve already introduced our winning objects previous blog but the project got us thinking about all the brilliant Northern innovations and pioneers featured in our museums. In this post, we thought we’d share some other highlights that you can look out for when you visit us.
At Wakefield Museum, we’re very proud to display this Snooker for Women t shirt from Sheila Capstick’s women’s rights campaign. Sheila was a pioneer of social change. She achieved national fame when she took action against Wakefield City Working Men’s Club for preventing women from playing snooker. Along with Brenda Haywood, she started ERICCA - Equal Rights in Clubs Campaign for Action. They picketed Wakefield City WMC, sparking a nationwide campaign. Eventually, the club lifted the snooker ban, although the Club and Institute Union only changed its rules and granted women equal rights and full membership in 2007.
Elizabeth Moxon is another of our female pioneers. A first class confectioner’s cook, this Pomfretian was a trailblazer in English cookery writing. Her book, English Housewifery, featured over 450 recipes for cooks in middle class Georgian households. It included a lavish dinner party plan for every month of the year with seasonal menus and suggested table layouts. The classic Yorkshire recipes were drawn from Elizabeth’s lifetime of experience; she is believed to have been around 50 when her book was first published. The book was very popular and ran to multiple editions. You can see a 13th edition at Pontefract Museum. Moxon’s work paved the way for future cookery writers like Hannah Glasse.
Our Waterton gallery at Wakefield Museum celebrates another local innovator. Charles Waterton created the world’s first nature reserve at his estate at Walton Hall. An intrepid explorer and campaigning environmentalist, he had his own museum designed to educate Wakefield’s residents about the natural world and the impact that humans can have on it. You can see some of the star exhibits from his museum in our gallery, where the caiman that Waterton captured in Guyana now takes centre stage.
Waterton also influenced modern medicine. He experimented with the poison curare, a powerful muscle relaxant that he obtained during his travels in South America. His work helped lead to its use in anaesthesia.
Our region also boasts many sporting legends. Rugby League player, Arthur ‘Brus’ Atkinson played eight times for England, toured Australia and New Zealand in 1932 and 1936, and led his Castleford team to their 1935 cup final triumph over Huddersfield in front of 39,000 Wembley spectators. In 1929 during Castleford’s victory against St Helen’s, he kicked this ball 75 yards, the longest successful goal kick in the sport’s history and a record that remains unbroken.
This football is another piece of history from one of the nation’s most iconic sporting achievements. The Slazenger Challenge 4 star footballs used during the 1966 World Cup finals were made at the company’s factory in Horbury. Slazenger beat over a hundred other companies to the World Cup contract, a huge honour with the flagship competition attracting a global audience.
In its heyday, the Horbury site was the largest sports equipment factory in the world. It had been founded by William Sykes, an ambitious and innovative former saddler’s apprentice, who became chairman of a major international company.
Who would you nominate as a pioneering Northerner? What innovative objects from the region would make your top 100? Let us know in the comments below or join in the conversation on our Twitter feed @WFMuseums with the hashtag #100ObjectsNorth. Don’t forget to check out A History of the North in 100 Objects online and at our venues.