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Voting for the Herts museum object of the Year has Closed.

Find out who won and more about the 2019 Hertfordshire Association of Museum Awards here.

Hertfordshire Association of Museums (HAM) is proud to be hosting the 2019 awards celebrating the work of Hertfordshire’s museums and heritage organisations, with a focus on the achievements and contributions made by these organisations to the local community.

‘Red Book’ of Panshanger by Humphry Repton

Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies

A bound book of handpainted sketches showing  proposed landscape improvements compiled by the pioneering landscape gardener, Humphry Repton, for the 5th Earl Cowper in 1800.

More about the 'Red Book' of Panshanger

2018 marked the 200th anniversary of the death of the pioneering landscape gardener Humphry Repton (1752 - 1818). Repton would present each of his clients with a book bound in red leather detailing his proposed designs: maps, plans, drawings, watercolours and ‘before and after sketches’. Due to their intricate levels of detail, the ‘Red Books’ are an invaluable source of the history of the particular site and also for landscape history in general. HALS owns two of the seven which are known to survive for Hertfordshire: Panshanger and Tewin Water, both of which were owned by the 5th Earl Cowper and showed Repton’s vision for a consistent landscaping of the Tewin valley. 

In 2018 necessary conservation to the two volumes  was generously funded by the National Manuscipts Conservation Trust before the two volumes could be loaned to the Garden Museum Lambeth where they were displayed alongside over 20 other Red Books from around the country as part of the ‘Repton Revealed’ exhibition which ran from October 2018 to February 2019.
 Of the 400+ Red Books which Repton compiled, only around a quarter survive and many are in private hands. HALS is fortunate to own two of these remarkable works and we are proud that they could be displayed to a wider audience.

While both volumes are beautifiul treasures, the Panshanger one is the marginally more attractive of the two and includes, like many, a self portrait of Repton sketching the landcape.

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The Doll Crest

Much Hadham Forge Museum

All dolled up!  The last relic from a long-ruined gothic mansion named Hadham Towers, the Doll heraldic crest displays a crowned swan and the German motto "Immer Treu" (Always Faithful).

More about The Doll Crest

The Doll family crest is the last relic from a long-demolished turreted gothic mansion named Hadham Towers. It was built in 1901 by Charles Fitzroy Doll who was an architect of great repute specialising in the design of hotels. In 1898 he completed one of his most prestigious commissions, The Hotel Russell, to great acclaim. It was the height of modernity, the first to have en-suite bathrooms and sumptuously decorated in marble, coining the phrase “all dolled up”! Doll also designed the ill-fated dining room on the Titanic which sank in 1912.

The Doll family members gave extraordinary service to King and Country during both World Wars. This and their German heritage made them a target of the notorious broadcaster and Nazi-propagandist “Lord Haw-Haw” who named them German traitors.

The crest, made of faience, was one of a pair displayed on the brick gate posts at the entrance to Hadham Towers. The carved image depicts a crowned heraldic swan symbolising beauty and grace. The crown suggests industriousness, rank and power. The motto beneath, now partially erased reads “Immer Treu” meaning “always faithful”.

A local man, worried that the crest might decay altogether, contacted the landowner and the museum. Using a grant from the Much Hadham Recreation Trust and donations, conservation builders were commissioned to rescue it from the layers of ivy smothering the pillar and relocate it to the Museum. It is one of the feature objects in our current free exhibition “small museum BIG STORIES”, showing until December 8th.

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Offley Fire Engine

North Hertfordshire Museum

Built in 1793, this fire engine from Offley last battled the flames in 1920. It was restored by volunteers in the 2000s and takes pride of place in our museum entrance.

More about the Offley Fire Engine

This fire engine has had an amazingly long life. It was treasured by the community of Offley, who cared for it across the generations. It was built in 1793; the date 1844 on one end of the engine may signify when it was repaired. The fire engine travelled almost five miles from Offley to fight the flames of the Great Fire of Hitchin in 1845. A local builder, Fred Foster, rebuilt it around 1895. The engine last saw action putting out a fire at Emma Lake’s grocery shop in Offley in 1920. The fire engine entered our museum service in 1947 and received restoration from a team of expert volunteers in the 2000s. The engine took pride of place above our entranceway in 2019. The fire engine was chosen as our nomination for object of the year by work experience student Katie. Come see it for yourself!

Fire engine


The Royston Tapestry

Royston & District Museum and Art Gallery

The Royston Tapestry is an 83 foot long embroidery depicting scenes of Roystonian history. The masterpiece, worked over nearly 30 years, is the creation of community volunteers.

More about the Royston Tapestry

The Royston Tapestry debuted for its inaugural exhibition in July 2019. The six day display drew over 1800 visitors and made national news. Modelled after the Bayeux Tapestry, the 24.6 metre embroidery depicts 15 scenes from Royston’s history. The project was the dream of then-Curator Jane Vincent in 1989, and has been progressed and managed by four successive curators. “Most people think of history as being the exploits of the great, but it must also commemorate the ordinary people, the people who kept their families going through good times and bad.” The piece was created entirely by volunteers, with over 50 embroiderers lending their time and efforts. Local artists and textile experts designed the scenes and orchestrated the construction. The entire embroidery has been worked in the Museum, and decades of visitors have enjoyed seeing the scenes progress. After the final stitch was placed in October 2018, we began conserving and preparing the work for display.

The artwork is too large for our current building, so the maiden exhibition took place in Royston Town Hall. The hugely successful show drew visitors from across the U.K. and Europe, and landed Royston Museum in the national newspapers for the first time. Following preventative conservation, the Tapestry will go on tour across the U.K. Local history museums and heritage sites across the country will have the opportunity to display the piece and its accompanying exhibition panels. Whilst the Tapestry tours, we will work to create a permanent home for it here in Royston.

Royston tapestry


Shell Mosaic

Verulamium Museum

The iconic shell mosaic was discovered in 1930 and immediately became the image most associated with the roman town. It was lifted and put on display in the first temporary museum – a wooden shed – and has been at the heart of Verulamium museum’s roman displays ever since. In Verulamium Museum’s 80th year it is still the single most recognisable image associated with us.

More about the Shell Mosaic

The iconic shell mosaic was discovered during the Wheeler excavations in 1930 and immediately became the image most associated with the roman town. It was lifted and put on display in the first temporary museum – a wooden shed – for visitors to the excavations to view and has been at the heart of Verulamium Museum’s Roman displays ever since. In Verulamium Museum’s 80th year it is still the single most recognisable image associated with us.

The mosaic design features a scallop shell made from material including Purbeck marble. The scallop was a popular design in Roman art, and its semi-circular shape was well suited for this mosaic which, unusually was designed for a semi-circular room projecting out from the southern wall of a large later second century town house; it may be that the mosaic decorated the floor of a windowed room designed to make the most of the sun as it crossed the sky over the length of the day – either to enjoy the warmth it produced in the summer, or as a reading room aided by the sun’s light.

Despite the unusual shape of the mosaic and the marble from Purbeck, the black and white wave pattern that runs around the edge of the shell design is a common motif on other mosaics from the town suggesting the makers were local, even if the materials and the image from the mosaic were not.

Shell mosaic


Toilet Roll from E E Russell

Garden City Collection

The oldest surviving toilet roll in Letchworth!! On public display in our new micro social history museum at One Garden City, Letchworth.

More info about the Toilet Roll from E E Russell

This is likely the oldest surviving toilet roll in Letchworth…and perhaps all of Hertfordshire!! Manufactured in 1936 by Letchworth chemists, E E Russell, this is one of our quirkiest objects, and a favourite item to talk about during store tours! Visitors are amazed it has withstood the test of time considering the ‘throw-away’ culture that often surrounds us. It is also a very relatable object, conjuring up many mischievous recollections!

The toilet roll is also an amusing way to share more information about E E Russell, the chemist shop which was established on Station Road in Letchworth by Eardley Edward Russell in 1911. Russell went on to open a further 17 chemist shops in Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire. The branding on the item, ‘Rusco Ltd’, was the associated manufacturers and wholesalers.

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