Yearbook 2006

Ashwell yearbook 2006 museum report

By Peter Greener

Ashwell Village Museum Yearbook Report 2006




In this our 75th anniversary year we have been able to commemorate the achievements of the museum in several different ways. As a permanent appreciation of the two founders, Albert Sheldrick and John Bray, we have erected a slate plaque, which also marks the role of Albert as curator for 53 years.   It has been installed in the foyer along with one from the opening of the museum in 1930.


On the 29th November, the actual birthday, we held a party in the Museum and the Parish rooms. Although I don’t think there was anybody there who was at the opening there were still strong connections with the two founders. The evening was introduced by William Bray, the Chairman of the Trustees and son of John Bray, and Win Sheldrick, wife of Albert cut the cake – a splendid creation donated by Days. Guests were quizzed for facts about Ashwell in 1930 and could see a special display on the story of the museum. Further entertainment was supplied by Peter Greener on the lute, Iain Bain on Northumbrian Smallpipes, and Ian Chandler, in many hats!



On 1st December we held the world premier of the ASHWELL FLASHBACK DVD – a selection of 9 films from the Museum covering the years 1937 to 1985, now on sale in the museum for only £12. This has been a project long in the making so it was a great pleasure for me to see it come to fruition. The original films were all transferred to DVD by the East Anglian film Archive. We could then edit them to a reasonable length and add a sound track, where needed, from the comments of villagers who could recognise the faces. The result, as heard from the excited hubbub of the audience, took one back to a long lost but still recognisable face of the village.


Just to prove that the work of the museum is not yet over on the day I received the DVDs in their finished form we had a donation of 4 reels of 16mm film shot in the 1940’s. I have not been able to see them yet!


It was with great pleasure we could help to contribute to the ‘Ashwell Alive’ project which was the PTA’s way of injecting new ideas into the Ashwell at Home.

The basic idea was for householders to put up a Blue Plaque with a brief history of their house. Everyone was free to include any information they desired and we had over 60 on the day. The museum was involved by organising two evenings where with the help of David Short we presented all the resources we could muster to set people off on their historical journey.


However it proved there are no quick answers – Historical research about people and places is a long road with many dead ends. We still need to gather together the information we have in the museum and try to make it more accessible. The photo database is now very helpful; it is possible to browse digital scans of the 4,000 photos thanks to 5 years of  hard work by volunteers.


Many of you will have been aware of the continuing excavations at Senuna’s Shrine in Buttway last summer. Two popular open days allowed us to see the diggings and there have been many new discoveries. The original hoard is on display in the British Museum, but we will be getting something in the museum to explain this important aspect of Ashwell history.



The ‘Story of the Museum’ exhibition showed how the museum that started in a garden shed in 1927 moved to the transformed Town House in 1930 and with its further enlargements became one of the foremost village museums in the country.


During the course of research for it I discovered a report made in 1958 that summed up the state of many small museums. How can ‘a small community like Ashwell possibly afford a full museum service, with all that it entails in the way of pro­fessional staff, lighting and heating, proper display cases, etc. It is quite possible that it will cease to have a museum of any sort when the present honorary curator gives up his splendid and selfless work. It would be very unwise therefore to sink any large sums of money into this project which may well have only a limited life.’


However the report goes on to say: ‘This country owes so much of its culture to the efforts of amateurs like Mr Sheldrick, the Curator of Ashwell Museum, and his band of helpers. Should they disappear we shall all be the poorer. All this amateur work is however based on the leisure and surplus wealth of individuals and this has almost disappeared’


Well since then we have proved all predictions wrong by going from strength to strength and as yet the well of volunteers has not dried up. It is thanks to everybody who helps in any small way that we will be able to keep going for at least another 75 years.


Peter Greener

Hon Curator





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