Yearbook 2013

Ashwell yearbook 2013 museum report

By Peter Greener

Ashwell Village Museum for the Ashwell Yearbook 2013

Att:      Sign from Fordhams Brewery

            Westbury Farmhouse, watercolour, 1894

            Ashwell Church by B M Christy



We have had a special exhibition on the Rectory including copies of plans of the building which was built by Rev Henry Morice after he became Vicar in 1813. The site of the older building and the associated farmyard can be seen along with the instruction to re-use as much of the old material as possible. We tried to find portraits of all the incumbents since then but still have a few missing.

Thanks to Claire Moynihan for an exhibition she created for the Ashwell at Home entitled ‘When I met the Queen’ which was transferred to the museum and proved very popular. It documented Ashwellians brushes with her majesty throughout her life and included a copy of the only known photograph of the Queen in a swim suit!


Much of this can be seen on our ever expanding community archive website.

The biggest new category was also our contribution to the village’s celebration of the Queen’s Jubilee Year - The Jubilee Photo Archive, a record of all the people of Ashwell photographed in front of their houses. A great effort was put into encouraging the populace to join in and so far 225 people have contributed. The more the merrier so we will still accept further photographs. Don’t hold back for fear of embarrassment or security reasons as we will, if requested, implement an embargo of 25 years before publication. The ones that have been published have already caused interest throughout the world from relatives and friends who have been pleased to catch up with Ashwell today. In years to come the archive will be a reminder of a joyful year and a fantastic snapshot of the village as it is now.


The community archive is also filling its intended role as the collector and publisher of local history research allowing views to be aired that might otherwise just be hidden in a notebook or file.

The Shop section has had many details added of places that have come and gone over the years and there is a marvellous section on the history of the Ashwell Stores, which has been a shop since at least 1841. It includes information about every owner and a lot of the staff who worked there.  

There has also been a very interesting discussion about a talented artist, Beatrice M Christy, who did not live in Ashwell but had relations here and was obviously inspired when she visited.


This original research is making our Local History more accessible and relevant to the village today.


Over the year we have tried to answer many questions about old Ashwell. Family histories are the main interest but there are enthusiasts who find information on our website and want to know more. This year we have helped with information on subjects as diverse as Physical Education in schools, Gyrotillers and John Betjeman.


A regular band of helpers comes in to help with curatorial tasks every Monday evening and Tuesday afternoon when much categorizing and cleaning goes on. However we have been especially pleased to welcome some school and post graduate students. They have made significant progress in areas of study that without their enthusiasm and expertise would have been left fallow for many years.


Of course we have also welcomed many unexpected donations throughout the year. There are many reasons why things come to us. Some are valued relics of Ashwell that people feel rightly ought to be kept for posterity such as family bibles or old account books. I am sure we have saved many things like this that would have otherwise been sent to the dump. Others have more direct appeal and have either been hidden in garages or found in shops. This year we have had three nice objects associated with Fordham’s Brewery: A sign, a sack barrow and a pub mirror. Some things are just left in the museum or on my doorstep which is not ideal as we like to know as much of the story behind each object as possible.

Some things just turn up in the post. A watercolour of Westbury Farmhouse came from a member of the Christy family who had owned it for many years. The picture, although in need of conservation,  shows us the site of the pump in front of the wall and the dovecote which was later moved in its entirety down next to the house.

Sadly we also receive items after a bereavement. We have been pleased to accept many notes, photos and a scrapbook about the museum after the loss of Win Sheldrick. Win was our last real connection with the museum’s foundation. She was married to Albert for many years when he was most involved with the museum.


Yet again I would like to thank everyone who has had a hand in making the museum what it is today. The trustees, the curatorial and research volunteers, the Friends association, and the cleaning team all of whom form the heart of the museum and keep it running throughout the year. There are work groups on Monday evenings and Tuesday afternoons when we document, display and preserve the collection. You are always welcome to drop in to share your memories or find out more about Ashwell.


It takes all sorts of skills to run the museum to modern standards and we have room for many roles to be filled. We started in 1930 and plan to continue to look after Ashwell’s heritage for future generations. It is your history in your museum.


Peter Greener

Honorary Curator

Ashwell 742956

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