Leatherhead Museum

At the 25th anniversary of the opening of Leatherhead Museum, Saturday 8 October

Crowds gathered round the jazz band playing to an eager audience in Church Street. A giant 1937 London bus was standing outside The Theatre. Bunting and balloons adorning the local Museum left no one in doubt that important happenings were taking place on a sunny Saturday morning on 8 October. The reason for the celebration was explained in the Programme that was being widely distributed to passers-by.

It was the twenty-fifth anniversary of the museum's inauguration; a Silver Jubilee which brought important guests as well as supporters. Most notable were Mrs Sarah Goad, the Lord Lieutenant of Surrey and Mr Neil Maltby, chairman of Mole Valley District Council. Others included the founder of the Leatherhead Local History Society, Mr Stephen Fortescue.

After a brief inspection of the museum, full of fascinating reminders of Leatherhead's past, the party moved across the road to The Theatre where some 150 members and friends awaited the principal guests. The Chairman gave a speech of welcome and invited the Lord Lieutenant to perform the cake-cutting ceremony. She then spoke to the gathering, reminding us that history was not just about the past but in many ways influences our future: the museum therefore helped to emphasise the importance of history. She praised the work of all those who had assisted to develop and maintain the museum and she wished success to all its future enterprises.

Prizes were then presented to the winners of a photographic competition organised by The Friends. Pictures by the winners and runners up were on display, all devoted to the theme "Leatherhead and District in the 21st Century". Also for inspection by the guests was a display of pictures entitled "Leatherhead Museum, Then and Now". This helped to visualise the work needed to turn the semi-derelict 17th Century cottage, only just saved from demolition, into the present thriving centre for local interest.

The celebrations were not ended by the departure of the main guests. Two double-decker buses from Cobham Bus Museum continued to be on view, one of these offering free rides on a tour of the Town's landmarks. The jazz band played on, and crowds flocked to the museum to view the treasures in the collection garnered over the past twenty five years.

Postscript: Following the event, many expressed appreciation for an enjoyable and interesting day. The Leatherhead Advertiser published a front page feature and a further page of illustrations in the subsequent issue. John Wettern

Speech by Mrs S. Goad, The Lord Lieutenant of Surrey at The Theatre, Church Street, Leatherhead on 8 October

“Chairman of Mole Valley, Ladies & Gentlemen,

Thank you for inviting me here to stand in the shoes of one of my predecessors in office, Lord Hamilton of Dalziel, and commemorate his opening of the Leatherhead Museum of Local History a quarter of a century ago.

Because this seems a suitable occasion on which to give you a bit of history, I can tell you that his predecessor in office was the Earl of Munster, Lord Lieutenant of the County in my youth and
also, like myself, a resident of Blechingley. He actually lived in a house built by my great grandfather. Blechingley I believe also has links with the Mansion here in Leatherhead for Lord Howard of Effingham, Commander at the time of the Armada, was a one time resident and he was also Lord of the Manor of Blechingley.

It is said, and I quote only approximately, that a people which forgets its history is doomed to repeat itself and I fear that in an age which has largely expunged history from its culture that may well happen, for the lessons of history- if we care to look- are all around us.

Indeed, we think of the future as lying ahead of us and the past, as it were, seen only in the rear view mirror. But ancient civilizations actually thought of the past as lying ahead, because they knew what happened there, while the future - unknown and unknowable - was behind their backs. It is an interesting and instructive reversal of our modern perception of history and one which may give you pause for thought.

So your Museum here in a small but important local way gives us a glimpse - a sign post - into the past and helps us see how life has been lived and evolved over the centuries and how our skills and perceptions have changed.

For at the same time as history fades from the cultural scene, the thirst for it remains. I'm told that more people than ever are searching for their roots - through army or parish records, on the internet. or by other means of detection. It seems there is an innate urge in most of us to find out where we come from, and who were our forbears. It helps to place us, if you like, in context. It helps to gives our lives meaning and perspective and gives us a place in history. I believe also that it helps to build up a sense of family- which again is endangered in this modern world.

So thank you, Leatherhead Museum, for the part you play in raising our awareness of the past and may you continue and flourish in this task for the generations to come.” John Wettern

Archaeology “Finds Day” at the Leatherhead Museum, 9, October 2005
The Silver Jubilee celebrations in marking twenty-five years of Leatherhead & District Local History Museum at Hampton Cottage culminated on Sunday, 9 October with Archaeology “Finds Day” a follow up on a previously very successful and interesting event staged earlier in the year on 23 April. The 9th October session was a rather muted affair, following as it did the events of the previous day which was full of anticipation and excitement.

As part of the celebration our museum was opened especially on that Sunday from 10.00 am to 1.00 pm. David Williams, our Finds Liaison Officer (FLO) for Surrey, kindly consented to participate in meeting the anticipated visitors with finds and artifacts of interest. Graham Evans the museum’s Curator and David Hartley were in attendance acting as Stewards for the morning.

David Williams was again keen to publicise the work of the Portable Antiquities Scheme (www.finds.org.uk/conservation) in the context of ‘Conservation Advice Notes’ 1-5, contained in a very useful little booklet of the same name (ISBN:1 874454 34 5), which has been produced by the Portable Antiquities Scheme with the support of the York Archaeological Trust (www.yorkarchaeology.co.uk)and Museums Libraries & Archive Council (MLA), the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Department of Media Culture & Sport (DCMS).

This booklet is free and is aimed principally at the individual metal detectorists and detecting groups and intended to encourage a responsible approach for dealing with all finds discovered using metal detecting equipment. It also comes recommended by me to all members of the History Society and Friends of the Museum interested in collecting and the conservation of artifacts and finds that turn up in our gardens from time to time.

Two of our first visitors were Pam & Ian Exwood, members of the Historical Society, with a number of small finds made during gardening at Bridge Cottage formerly the original gate house to Thorncroft manor. Their interesting collection of clay pipe stems, terracotta roof tile, Oyster shells, Delft tile and a ceramic dolls leg circa 1850 together with some small pieces of 17th /18th cent Chinese porcelain and an example of Westerwald Stoneware from Germany circa 1690 made a fascinating start to the proceedings.

Brian Bouchard, the editor of our Newsletter, dropped in with an intriguing artifact, a crude glass bead discovered some 3 years ago in what is believed to have been a former watering place on a drainage ditch to the Rye Brook, beside a field once known as Jack Adam’s Meadow, at his home in Ashtead. Although impossible to date with any accuracy, David Williams thought this bead could have been Roman or earlier and thus was of sufficient interest to be recorded. The item was offered as a donation to the Museum.

Alun Roberts, John Morris and Gwen Hoad, members of both the History Society and Friends of the Museum, together with John Wettern, Chairman of the Friends, looked in to lend support to the event.

One young lad came in with his mother to show off his collection of bottles.

Michael May of Ashtead, an avid collector of artifacts and finds, came in with a number of items turned up in his garden and other finds discovered some years ago when he lived at the Priory in Church Street, Leatherhead. Whilst he resided there some artifacts were found behind the fireplace during restoration work, in 1995, on the Ingle Nook fireplace when they discovered the remains of the half timbered cottage. The finds include 17/18th cent. Metropolitan slip ware, Delft ware 17th cent. Tiles and London tin-glazed earthen-ware – Lambeth.

Mr. May also had further sherds identified as Medieval Surrey Ware. A number of flints were brought in amongst his collection, one of which was identified as a mid-Neolithic flint core from which flakes had been struck. It is the actual flakes with the bulb of precision that are selected for further work and retouching to produce flint tools.

We were also informed that Shire Books publish a very interesting little book on Delftware Tiles by Hans van Lemmen for those who are interested which could, I feel sure, be purchased through the Museum’s bookshop. This has a collection of Shire Publications on various subjects of interest also a good stock of local history publications.

The morning session concluded, unfortunately, without any visits this time from local metal detectorists who may well have been out prospecting that morning.

Thanks are extended to both David Williams for giving up his time to attend and support our event and to my fellow steward who was on duty that morning. David Hartley

A series of events have also been taking place as the year progressed. Two important activities were arranged for the month of April:

Arts and Crafts Days.
These all took place at the Museum. In each case hands-on participation was encouraged.
Wednesday, 6th April 1pm-4pm. Calligraphy
Thursday 7th April 1pm-4pm Embroidery Design
Friday 8th April 1pm-4pm Art Master Class with Stuart Stanley
Saturday 9th April 10am to 4pm The Epsom Spinners - Last year's visit by the Epsom Spinners (spinning, weaving and dyeing) was pronounced a great success and was well attended.

As hoped, all of these days will brought plenty of interested visitors. Society members helped to spread the news and swell the numbers.

Identifying your Historical Finds
Many people have found objects around their property but have been puzzled about their origin or purpose. On Saturday 23rd April the museum received a visit by David Williams, the Finds Officer for Surrey Archaeological Society who helped to identify them. Other events to make the Jubilee year more noteworthy have included a competition for amateur photographers and a picture quiz to test people's local knowledge. Leaflets and posters giving details of these appeared during the Spring and Summer.
John Wettern