Museum Recalls Battle

Over 600 people visited Nantwich Museum on Saturday 23 January during the recent Holly Holy Day commemoration of the seventeenth century Battle of Nantwich. As well as having the opportunity to view the permanent exhibitions they were able to enjoy town tours, a musketry demonstration by members of the Sealed Knot, a concert with dancing by period music group Forlorne Hope and various activities for children.

Forlorne Hope musicians. Photograph by Paul Topham.
Forlorne Hope musicians. Photograph by Paul Topham.

“A View to a Battle”, the latest exhibition in the Your Space Gallery, was also open and is now entering its final week closing on Saturday 6 February. It recalls the time of the Battle of Nantwich outlining what life in the town was like in the seventeenth century and through art with particular attention to various stained glass windows especially those from this locality. Visitors to the exhibition still have the opportunity to elect to be a Royalist or Parliamentarian.

Interest in the English Civil War does not end here and the museum’s Research Group is busy preparing for “Nantwich Besieged 1642-1646”, a major summer exhibition concerned with the local events of the Civil War and exploring further what life was like within the garrisoned town. The siege was ultimately lifted by the Battle of Nantwich. As usual the exhibition will be accompanied by a series of events beginning on Friday 29 July with a Talk & Walk centred on the site of the battle led by Julian Humphrys of the Battlefields Trust – booking details will be published on the website nearer the time.

Lessons from Auschwitz

Lessons from Auschwitz is a groundbreaking project run by the Holocaust Educational Trust, to explore the universal lessons of the Holocaust and its relevance for today. The blog below was written by Katherine Perry and David Rowley, students at Brine Leas Sixth Form in Nantwich, to share their experiences of undertaking the programme last year. This is accompanied by a display in the museum’s upstairs Joseph Heler Room, to mark Holocaust Memorial Day on 27 January.

HET

As part of the Holocaust Educational Trust project we visited Auschwitz One. Throughout our entire trip what was most striking to me and my work partner was that alongside the horrendous suffering of the victims of the Holocaust, there were also signs of the perpetrators’ humanity. From the Auschwitz One camp the house of Rudolf Höss, the man in charge of Auschwitz and responsible for overseeing the death of hundreds of thousands of Jewish men, women and children, was clearly visible. It was also in that house that he, according to his daughter, became ‘the nicest man in the world’ who ordered his children to ‘never hurt others’. It is difficult to reconcile what seem to be two completely opposing personalities into one human being but we must in order to understand why the Holocaust occurred.

Höss is just one example of thousands of Germans in the period between 1933-45 who were seduced not just by Hitler but by the whole idea of Nazism. It can be hard to see how regular people became convinced that Jews and other minorities were indeed ‘Untermenschen’ and thus not worthy of dignity, compassion or even life. The once glorious Germany had been destroyed through the First World War and the subsequent collapse of the German economy. Often in times of crisis people gravitate towards parties or people that offer a return to the safety of the past, that find an easy cause and solution to the current problems (often a minority group) and who reinforce the idea that they as a nation are special and more important than any other nation. We can even see this trend in modern day Europe with the rise in Nationalism since the 2008 economic crisis. However the sheer scale of indoctrination that seeped into everyday life, from the burning of Jewish shops to the rampant propaganda in schools, meant that extremism and intolerance became part of everyday life.

It is painful to admit that the perpetrators of the Holocaust were not just indoctrinated Nazis but also ordinary people from all over Europe. During our lecture on the Holocaust by the Holocaust Education Trust, it was astonishing to discover how numerous countries participated in the genocide by allowing the Jews to be deported without a struggle – from Greece even to places such as the Channel Islands where British policemen helped to deport Jewish members of their own society. Whilst one could argue that the invaded countries were forced to deport the Jews out of fear for their own lives, it does not explain stories of people defying this hate and intolerance in order to protect people of their community. In comparison to France who lost around 90,000 of their Jews to the Holocaust, Denmark lost only 120 people. This was mainly due to the fact that the Danish were so resistant against Nazi persecution. The Danish warned and hid as many Jewish families as they could when they got wind of the order to deport the Jews on the 1st October 1943. Moreover they made persistent demands to know the whereabouts of the 430 Jews that did not manage to evade capture, which meant no Danish Jews were deported to the killing centres. One of the main reasons for this is that the Danish did not see their Jews as ‘other’ but as members of their community.

Often in our narrative of the Holocaust there is no room for the true complexity of human nature. The perpetrators are monsters, the persecuted helpless victims. In doing this we cause a disservice to those who perished in the Holocaust. By allowing the Holocaust to simply become a cautionary tale with the people involved becoming distortions of themselves we turn this tragic event into something that is too far removed from reality to be actually be taken as a threat. It is only by becoming aware of how easy it is, especially in the modern day with the increase in indoctrination through social media, for such a dangerous mentality of ‘Us vs. Them’ to arise and acknowledge the true danger in passivity that we can begin to make sure such an event never occurs again.

Placement report from Edge Hill Student

Nantwich Museum regularly hosts works placements from schools, colleges and universities, helping young people to gain valuable skills and experience. Our most recent placement Ben shares his experiences here:

“Hi there! My name is Ben, and I am currently in my 2nd Year at Edge Hill University, studying Primary Education. Back in September, we were asked by the university to undergo 10 days of work experience, which linked in with our minor unit of study; mine being history. Since I was a boy, I have always lived in Nantwich, and so, the Museum was the perfect place to enquire about a possible placement.

Before I knew it, I arrived at the Museum doors on the 7th of December, ready to tackle the two weeks ahead. Upon arrival at the Museum, I had no idea of the scale of which the museum operated under. There is a huge emphasis on education and involving the community, and the sheer amount of support from the volunteers that help run this Museum is incredible. Within my first week, I was involved in a dementia awareness session and an education workshop with a group of local children. Both of these activities were planned extremely well, and despite the two groups being extremely different, both were engaged fully with the activities the museum had set out for them, and both groups enjoyed themselves massively.

In addition to this, I also assisted Barrie, one of the museums education volunteers, on many town tours. Not only did I begin to understand more about my own town, and where I grew up, I also learned about how I can use the local settings and surroundings of Cheshire, to teach fun, exciting and stimulating lessons. This was crucial for me to know in regards to my career, and I know that the information I have taken from these tours and talks, will stay with me throughout my vocation. Remember Barrie, history detectives always look…UP!

Furthermore, I also became involved with the Museum’s collections group. This involved the storing and numbering of the new artefacts that the Museum had gained over the past month. These ranged from World War 2 Helmets, Civil War musket balls, and even a Times newspaper article from the 19th century. Consequently, it was fascinating to see the amount of artefacts that the museum does have, and how they are preserved and documented, to ensure they stay safe, and accessible for future exhibitions.

Overall, my 10 days of work experience here at the museum have been outstanding. I have been involved in a vast variety of activities and events, and the warm, friendly, welcoming atmosphere of the museum made me feel right at home. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the museum manager Denise, and her team of staff and volunteers for working with me over the past two weeks, and for involving me in their day to day activities and events. Again, it has been truly amazing.

To the Museum, and anyone reading this blog, I wish you a very Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year.”

Local History Book Launched at Nantwich Museum

A new local history book has been launched at Nantwich Museum. In 1883 the historian James Hall referred to the cholera outbreak in Nantwich: ” – – as the greatest crisis in the history of the town in modern times; for since the cholera visitation a spirit of improvement and progress have been infused into the inhabitants which cannot be traced in times prior to that event.” This was the premise for a new book “Cholera in Nineteenth Century Nantwich” by Keith Lawrence and Graham Dodd. The authors, who have donated the first print of the book to the museum, would like to see it as a memorial to that major event.

Left to right: Museum Chairman Nick Dyer, author Graham Dodd, Museum Manager Denise Courcoux and author Keith Lawrence. Photograph by Paul Topham.
Left to right: Museum Chairman Nick Dyer, author Graham Dodd, Museum Manager Denise Courcoux and author Keith Lawrence.
Photograph by Paul Topham.

The 118 page book details how the disease was understood at the time of the outbreak in 1849 and describes life in the town in the early nineteenth century. The epidemic came at a time of increasing concern for public hygiene in towns and increasing scepticism of the existing theories of disease. In Nantwich Rector Andrew Fuller Chater took the lead in dealing with the epidemic. In particular he petitioned for the establishment of a local Board of Health thus establishing the first representative local government in the town.

The book is on sale in the museum shop price £9.99 and is essential reading for those interested in nineteenth century history relating to the locality, the epidemiology of disease and Andrew Fuller Chater’s story.

Field trip to the Wych Brook Valley

Members of the museum’s Research Group recently visited the Wych Brook Valley, between Higher and Lower Wych, as part of their studies of the English Civil War.

On 28 August 1643 Parliamentary forces from Nantwich and Cholmondeley attacked and destroyed the salt workings in the valley, bringing the salt pans back to Nantwich. This denied the King’s forces in the area access to salt.

Evidence was found of two brine pits. One would have been pumped by a water wheel. The second pit was about 15′ in diameter and was overflowing into the brook (on right of picture). It may have been pumped with a horse gin.

The Research Group meets at the museum on most Friday mornings. New members are always welcome – please call in or contact the museum for further information.

Nantwich Museum research group members at Wych Brook Valley
Nantwich Museum Research Group members at Wych Brook Valley

Visit to Newark Civil War Centre

The National Civil War Centre at Newark was officially opened on 25 September by HRH The Earl of Wessex. Members of Nantwich Museum’s Research Group recently undertook a research trip to the centre to learn more about the war in that area, how the new museum was established, how the story has been presented and to develop links with the facility. Nantwich Museum is establishing a centre for recording and presenting the local story of the Civil War and its impact on the town and surrounding area, and is also preparing for its summer 2016 exhibition on this subject. Partnerships are being sought with interested parties and groups with a view to ensuring that this important chapter in the life of the town can be accurately portrayed. The visit to Newark also provided an opportunity to visit the Queen’s Sconce, one of the major fortifications constructed to defend the town during the Civil War.

Research Group members examine exhibits at Newark's National Civil War Centre
Research Group members examine exhibits at Newark’s National Civil War Centre

Research Group members survey the Queen's Sconce on the outskirts of Newark
Research Group members survey the Queen’s Sconce on the outskirts of Newark

Chinese TV Documentary

In August a film crew from China Movie Channel CCTV6 visited the museum to film sequences for use in a forthcoming World Film Report focussing on salt. Although the principal interest was in our key artefacts – the Roman paddle, salt pan and salt ship – the Director was also very interested in the local cheese industry, bearing in mind that Cheshire cheese should be made using Cheshire salt and that salt made in Nantwich was favoured for use in the dairy.

Nantwich Museum's Vice Chair, Graham Dodd, is interviewed for CCTV6
Nantwich Museum’s Vice Chair, Graham Dodd, is interviewed for CCTV6

Story Sacks

Former administrator Vicky Edwards, along with our very talented craft group have devised a collection of story sacks for our young visitors and their families to use.

What is a story sack?

A Story Sack is a large cloth bag containing a children’s book/nursery rhyme and various supporting materials, such as role play characters, puzzles, activity suggestions, etc.

The Nantwich Museum story sacks contain stories/rhymes that can be related to the history of Nantwich.

By using the book and supporting materials together you can help to stimulate language and create an enjoyable and memorable reading experience for you and your child, as well as developing your child’s understanding of the history of our wonderful town.

At the moment we have four sacks for you to enjoy:

  • London’s Burning
  • The Grand Old Duke of York
  • Hickory Dickory Dock
  • The Elves and the Shoemaker

 

One of our story sacks
One of our story sacks