Congleton Tapestry Comes Home

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Congleton Museum is now the proud home of the Congleton Tapestry. Displayed in the foyer, the tapestry can now be seen by the general public in its full glory for the first time in its town of origin.

The tapestry started life in Sept 1994 at the instigation of Margaret Williamson, then Town Mayor, who had seen a similar one in Nantwich. Volunteers were called for and the idea gradually took shape into three panels: Congleton at Work, Congleton at Play, and History and Landscape. Completed in August 1995, the proposed home in the Town Hall fell through, and the tapestry went off to Chester, and later Manchester, for display.

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In 2013 Trish Lovell, one of the original weavers, learnt that it had come into the care of Congleton Museum . Since the museum had no room to display it in its full length it was decided to divide the tapestry into its three panels. The Textile Group, led by Louise Adams and Trish Lovell, set to work dismantling and reassembling the tapestry and on 21 October 2014 the tapestry was finally put on display.

Trish said, “I would like to say that I express my thanks to Congleton Museum for finding such a beautiful home for the Tapestry, and the Textile group in particular, for the hard work and expertise which went into the final result.”

You can see the tapestry upstairs in the foyer at the museum.

The Vikings – raid or trade?

Viking Strap End

This 9th century strap-end (pictured), now housed in Congleton Museum, was recently found in Church Lawton and has raised questions about the Vikings in Cheshire. Made from copper alloy, it is decorated with an intertwined animal design, originally inlaid with a black metal alloy to highlight it. With an animal head terminus, the strap-end would have been used as a metal piece holding the end of a leather strap such as a belt.

Analysis of the piece shows that the owners were the Vikings. The common view of the Vikings today is as a single horde invading Britain, raiding monasteries and slaughtering the inhabitants, but the Vikings were actually various groups of Danes, Swedes, and Norwegians who came to England over a period of 300 years.

The Vikings believed that the loyalty and service of fighting men could only be bought with gifts. This meant that the Viking leaders needed access to large amounts of wealth, be it the gold of England or the silver of Byzantium.

The Danes were the first Vikings to arrive in England, attacking the rich settlements of the coastal regions and finding great riches. By the 9th century the ‘Danelaw’ of the north was fully established. At this time the border with Mercia was a mere 25 miles away from Congleton, near Runcorn. There seems to be little evidence that the Vikings ever raided this region, with this strap-end being the first Viking artefact found in the county.

A more likely possibility is that the strap-end was traded. Across the Norse world, which stretched at one time from Iceland to Constantinople, trade was the other main method of acquiring wealth. Furs, skins, and amber were all traded for silver, gold and other precious items.

Even on a local scale the Viking traders would have been looking to turn a profit. It is possible that a Mercian merchant liked the different style of Viking goods and acquired, but subsequently lost, the strap-end.

Repair of Town Tapestry is complete

Tapestry

It’s finished! The Town Tapestry has been repaired, redesigned and backed in preparation for re-hanging in the Museum. It’s taken at least a year of consistent hard work to achieve this and on Monday 8th August Trish Lovell snipped the last thread!
The textile group will now have to return to is more mundane Monday afternoon activities.

Thanks to everyone, especially Trish Lovell and Mary Waller, who were members of the original tapestry group and to the museum’s textile group of Louise, Dorothy and Janet and in particular Linda Ward whose expertise on the sewing machine proved to be invaluable.

Celebrating 100 years of Brownies

 

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Congleton Museum is celebrating 100 years of the Brownie Guides, in style, with a fantastic new exhibition.  Documenting the last hundred years of the Brownies, the exhibition reveals some of the little known history of the organisation.

Lord Baden-Powell decided to create a junior section of the Girl Guides in 1914, for girls of 8 to 11 years old. First called ‘Rosebuds’, the girls had to pass a basic entrance test before they could take their promise.  They had to be able to wash up the tea things, hem a duster, and plait their own hair.  Originally in a uniform of dark blue, the Rosebuds were encouraged to contribute to the local community.

The name change to ‘Brownies’ occurred in 1915 at the request of the girls.  It was based on Mrs. Ewing’s story of little people who did good turns.  With the motto of ‘Lend a Hand’ the Brownies set out to do just that.

Over the next 100 years, hundreds of thousands of little girls have joined up to gain badges, help their communities and have lots of fun in the process.  “Girlguiding is the leading charity for girls and young women in the UK, with 546,406 members,” said Cheshire Border Heritage Adviser, Ann Harris.  “We give girls and young women a space where they can be themselves, build brilliant friendships, gain valuable life skills and make a positive difference to their lives.”

The brand new promise of 2013 shows how the principles of the Brownies have little changed from 1914, with an emphasis on doing their best, helping other people and keeping the Brownie Guide Law.

The free-of-charge exhibition runs until 7th August, so be sure to pop in and take a look at the surprising history of the Brownie Guides.

Gone but not forgotten!

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Dr Joan Alcock, pictured with her brother, reminisces with guests at the ceremonial launch of ‘Congleton Through Time’ on 15th May. Joan was accompanied by Collections Manager Ian Doughty, who helped compile the book. Fun times were had and memories shared by all during the successful evening. ‘Congleton Through Time’ is available at the museum shop for £14.99.

A brilliant book launch for local historian

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A brilliant book launch for local historian Lyndon Murgatroyd!
Congleton Museum welcomed over 100 visitors to the launch of ‘Lest We Forget’, which tells of the experiences of Congleton’s servicemen through both world wars. Over £2000 worth of books were sold and Lyndon kindly donated two boxes of books valued at £360 to the museum. (Lyndon and his wife Sue are pictured centre).

West Heath housing estate 1933

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One of our volunteers has discovered a letter in the museum archives dated 9th April 1933. Written by a builder to his solicitor with regard to the new West Heath Housing Estate, the letter puts the ‘total cost of building 20 houses and completing all roads and sewers’ at £7,000. The proposed sale price for each house is £390. A plan attached to the letter shows what subsequently became Blythe Avenue (see illustration).

History of Agriculture

History of Agriculture

Congleton Museum is proud to present Peter Boon’s new booklet: ‘History of Agriculture in Congleton and District’. This thorough work begins by giving a general history of the development of agriculture before focusing on Congleton’s specific development. The booklet describes how 80 small ‘self-sufficient’ Burgages of the 17th century evolved into a thriving dairy industry. The booklet concludes with the author’s personal recollection about the drastic changes in Congleton’s agriculture during WWII. This work provides a detailed and enlightening account of one our town’s dominant industries though history. Available from the museum shop for £2.50.

Halloween 1833

Happy Halloween! On this day in 1833: Peter Johnson behaved in a shameful manner to Mrs Mallet of Holmes Chapel, who was coming to Congleton in his carriage. She was obliged to jump out to save herself from being ravished. (Taken from the Diary of an unknown Congleton Man)

Volunteer stumbles upon family link

It’s a small world! While using the museum’s Victorian Census database to research the history of a friend’s shop on Mill Street, our volunteer Ken Law found a connection to his own family! Turns out, a friend of his mother was at one time either the proprietor of a shop at that address or she lived above it! To find out more about the museum’s research facilities click here.