Look out for these ‘must see’ exhibits within the Museum’s themed galleries.
Outdoor toilets were a typical feature on farms and rural homesteads, even into the early 20th century. The name ‘privy’ stems from the word ‘private’, however this privy is unusually family-friendly – it has two seats for adults and a half-sized seat for children!
James Lynch Panorama
This panoramic vista depicts one of the most breath-taking sights in Somerset. Painted using the ancient medium of egg tempera, this landscape by local artist James Lynch illustrates a view from Stoke Camp on the Mendip Hills. Beneath the dynamic sky there are famous landmarks including Glastonbury Tor and Cheddar Reservoir.
Once a common sight on the Somerset Levels, boats like this were used by workers when collecting peat or withies for local use in local industries. Boats were also valuable for the communities who endured seasonal flooding. This boat is made of elm and was made by Harry Sweet in the 1930s.
Singer Sewing Machine
This sewing machine was used by a shoemaker in Axbridge c. 1900. Sewing machines transformed the way shoes and boots were made, from local family-run premises to industrial factories.
From the 1830s onwards thousands of agricultural workers and their families left Somerset for Australia, America and Canada. They were seeking better lives and higher wages. Emigrants were often responsible for paying their own passage, though some were assisted by charities.
Painting of Thomas Southwood, by William Loder
The eccentric but kindly Thomas Southwood (1751 – 1830) owned a large estate in and around Pitminster. In 1822 he became Lord of the Manor of Taunton Deane. When he died unmarried he shocked the nation by leaving most of his estate to his servant Robert Mattock. Southwood also made generous gifts to his other servants.
Working the Land
Women’s Land Army Uniform
Land Army uniforms had to be practical and comfortable – dungarees and hardwearing boots were essential workwear. In summer, despite the strict uniform rules, some recruits would roll up their trouser legs to get a fashionable suntan. C. 1945.
This historic single screw cider press is dated 1792. Farms in Somerset have produced cider for centuries, and the best cider attracted the best workers. Somerset is famous for its heritage varieties of cider apples. Varieties including Kingston Black, Morgan Sweet, and Tremlett’s Bitter can be found in the museum orchard.
The ‘Arnold Foster Mother’ Feeder
Lambs who had lost their mothers or were struggling to grow were fed using this stoneware jar. Warm milk was placed into the top of the jar and lambs suckled from the rubber teats. Traditionally these lambs would have been bottle fed by hand, so this feeder saved farm workers time. C. 1930.
Fuddling Cups, Puzzle Jugs and Wassail Mugs
Somerset people liked to celebrate with a drink and devised a wide range of drinking vessels to help them do so. Pubs and cider houses were used to entertain visitors, and special vessels such as fuddling cups and puzzle jugs were used as popular drinking games. Various Somerset locations, 1750 – 2000.
Glastonbury Festival Bin
Glastonbury Festival is the largest greenfield music and performing arts festival in the world. It was founded in 1970 by Michael Eavis at Worthy Farm and continues to be a world-renowned success. This bin was colourfully painted by artist Jewelz Orme. Thousands of bins are creatively decorated for the festival each year.
This unusual instrument, the Serpent, is a distant relation of the tuba. It requires a great deal of skill and effort from the player due to its large size and distinctive shape. Many towns and villages in Somerset had their own musical band which would perform at community events and celebrations.
Cecil Sharp Songs
Folk songs are a significant part of Somerset’s unique heritage. Cecil Sharp played a crucial role in the revival of the genre in the early 20th century. This audio-visual display explores his journey around Somerset collecting folk songs sung by generations of Somerset dwellers.
Family I, by Ernest Blensdorf
The sculptor Ernest Blensdorf (1869 – 1976) carved Family I in the studio at his home in Bruton. The wood is an offcut of Somerset elm from a local sawmill. Blensdorf was born in Schleswig, North Germany, but was forces to flee the Nazi regime in 1933.
Abbey Farm 1947, by Kate Lynch and Elmhurst Pupils
This vibrant painting was created by Somerset artist Kate Lynch with pupils from Elmhurst Junior School. We commissioned them to create an art piece to celebrate the re-opening of the museum in 2017. Together they have painted life as it was on Abbey Farm in 1947 when the Mapstone family lived and worked here.
Elaborate church towers can be found in villages and towns all over Somerset. Many of the finest were built in the period 1450-1540 from wealth created by the cloth trade. This leather model of St James’s tower was made by William Weston of Taunton. C. 1845.
Girls learned to embroider by making samplers as part of their domestic education. Samplers often included a religious text and the maker’s name. These personal objects link us to the lives of Somerset women who made them. 1798-1832.
Somerset people used traditional remedies to treat a range of ailments. Children were passed through this split ash tree to cure hernias. This tree was collected by F.T. Elworthy, a Somerset folklorist and scholar. C.1800.