Nantwich Museum

Nantwich Museum

27 Pillory Street, Nantwich, CW5 5BQ ~ Tel: 01270 627104

Nantwich Museum celebrates Joseph Priestley and the Periodic Table of Elements.

From left to right, David Owen, Musician, Cllr Carole Thomas, Nantwich Town Council, Mayor of Nantwich Town Council Cllr Arthur Moran, Mayor of Cheshire East Council Cllr Barry Burkill, Professor Mark Ormerod, Keele University, Dr Katherine Haxton, Keele University, Dr Helen Cooke, Vice Chair Nantwich Museum Board of Trustees (Photograph Paul Topham).

A recent reception at Nantwich Museum enabled Museum Members and members of the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) to celebrate the life of one time resident of Nantwich, Joseph Priestley, the famous scientist, theologian and teacher, and the International Year of the 150 year old Periodic Table of Chemical Elements. The reception was sponsored by the RSC who also sponsored the exhibition, From Nantwich to Oxygen: Joseph Priestley’s Journey of Discovery, which is running in the Millennium Gallery at the Museum until Saturday 26 October 2019.

In his keynote speech, Professor Mark Ormerod, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Provost at Keele University, noted Joseph Priestley’s contribution to an understanding of chemistry and described the Periodic Table as a thing of beauty for its simplicity and elegance. He attributed Priestley’s achievements to his dissenting background which imbued in him the “capacity to think” and a philosophy of problem-based learning. It is then no surprise that Priestley is attributed with having introduced in his Nantwich school the first science lessons for boys and girls, and in 1761, published a book entitled The Rudiments of English Grammar based upon lessons given there. He is particularly remembered internationally for his involvement in the discovery of oxygen and other gases and his thinking around the concept of electricity.

Mayor of Cheshire East Council, Cllr Burkill, congratulated the Museum on its interesting and informative exhibition, describing Joseph Priestley as a pioneering scientist and true polymath someone of whom Nantwich could be proud. He revealed his own scientific background, having been at one time a chemistry teacher. In his current capacity as Mayor he makes frequent visits to local organisations such as the Museum and acknowledged the significance and value of voluntary activity in their success. Mayor of Nantwich Town Council, Cllr Moran echoed Mayor Burkill’s appreciation for the contribution made by volunteers and thanked Cheshire East Council for its support for the Museum indicating the Town Council’s desire to continue its support as the Museum goes from strength to strength. He recalled Priestley’s remark in the 18th century of the good nature and friendliness of the people of the town, noting how this remains true today.

Whilst in Nantwich Priestley learned to play the flute. He did not claim to be proficient in the instrument but found the music enjoyable. A most memorable rendition, on a replica of an English flute of Priestley’s time, of “How brightly shines the morning star” was given by local musician and early music expert David Owen. Although attributed to J S Bach, who used it in numerous works, it was not necessarily composed by him. Nevertheless, Priestley might have played it whilst living in the town.

Further entertainment was provided by Dr Katherine Haxton, Senior Lecturer in the School of Chemical and Physical Sciences at Keele University, who demonstrated the excitement and fascination of chemistry in a most practical way using the power of a catalyst to make “elephant’s toothpaste” – a magnificent oxygen-based foam.

For further information contact: Nantwich Museum on or telephone 01270 627104.