Yearbook 2007

Ashwell yearbook 2007 museum report

By Peter Greener

For inclusion in the Year Book 2007 from Ashwell Village Museum


The year at the Museum started with us working towards an exhibition entitled ‘Everything you ever wanted to know about Clay Bats’. Clay Bats are large bricks made of a mixture of chalk and clay which is then left to dry in the sun. The work on the Thatched Wall in Gardiners Lane (which is mainly cob construction but has been repaired with new Clay Bats) prompted us to look at this traditional form of building in the village. The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings became interested and in April we ran a course covering the practical and historic side of Clay Bats. We looked all around the village and were greatly surprised by the number still surviving.  I used to think of Ashwell as a timber frame and plaster village but now everywhere I go I see clay bats; not only in walls but also some very fine houses and even the Village Hall. In fact if a building was erected between 1840 and 1900 it is very likely to have some clay bats in its construction.


People are always very kind in donating treasured possessions and we are always interested in collecting anything of any age as long as it has a connection with Ashwell.  Some of the things that have come in during 2006 are: 6 medals awarded to Pte W H E Knights – He was a machine gunner in the First World War and lived in a cottage opposite The Engine in Back Street. A Boot Scraper made by W Bean, the blacksmith who worked at ‘Smithy Cottage’ in the High Street. A sturdy table with a brass plate inscribed ‘In grateful memory of Mr Silas Worboys, A faithful member of this Church at Ashwell and a local Preacher of the Biggleswade Methodist Circuit for 72 years’. I presume this came originally from the now demolished Wesleyan Chapel but it ended up in Steeple Morden Methodist Chapel. When this closed in June they kindly offered it to us. And finally something completely different - a full bottle of ‘Christy’s Quinine Tonic Water’ made in Ashwell but I am afraid now missing some of its fizz.


The year has seen a resurgence of interest in family history and we have had many enquiries. Although as yet we do not keep specific genealogical records it is always pleasing when we can find something that for some reason has passed out of the family and been preserved by us. It may be just a photograph of ‘Uncle Joe’ but we have also been able to come up with such treasures as apprenticeship indentures and embroidery samplers from old family members. Other researchers we have been able to help have been looking into Oil paintings in Hertfordshire, The War Memorials of Sir Edwin Lutyens and old Spectacles.


All these services have only been made possible by the continuing work of a band of volunteers who are documenting, preserving and displaying the collection in a way that makes everything more accessible.  This work carries on regularly on Monday evenings and Thursday afternoons - do drop in if you are interested.

The Monday evening sessions have just expanded with the formation of the Ashwell Museum History Group. The museum, with the help of David Short, will act as a resource and contact centre for anyone wishing to look into any aspect of Ashwell’s past. It is hoped that some publications and a community archive will develop from this initiative.


Last but not least can I mention Senuna and the Ashwell Hoard? There will soon be a comprehensive display of the latest findings and on 26th April 2007 there will be an event to mark the presentation to us by the British Museum of something very special. Keep a lookout for more details.


Peter Greener

Hon Curator

Tel: 742956




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