The Halesworth and District Museum was one of six finalists in the Suffolk Museum of the Year Awards announced in Ipswich on 21 October. Not bad considering how small a museum we are.  There were over 30 entrants and we came away, not winner (that’s next year!), but a well-appreciated runner-up. All that’s down to our terrific team of volunteers. Take a bow all of you.

We also have to give a great big thankyou to the team of very willing volunteers who turned up at the Museum on the 14th, rolled their sleeves up and got stuck in to the task of clearing our store room for the next new development in the Museum’s life . Thanks to their energy and willingness, the task was completed in a fraction of the time we’d allowed. Many thanks.

That move will allow us to start work on the next exciting phase in the Museum’s life, the creation of a Research Room where people will be able to come and pursue their interests in local history and family history. There will be computer access to lots of resources as well as the opportunity to use the extensive research collection of books, notes and photographs which the Museum has built up over the years. So watch this space for further news. In the meantime, the space gained gives us a chance to put on public display for the first time, some of the Museum’s extensive collection of historical pictures.

Thanks to our ever-supportive team of volunteers, we’ve taken the bold step this year of maintaining our summer opening times into the winter, doubling the number of hours. So until Friday 13 December, when we close for our ‘winter recess’, we shall still be open Tuesday to Saturday mornings, 10.00 – 12.30.

This year, we plan a Thankyou Tea for all our Volunteers and Friends, without whom none of this would be possible. Make a note in your diary if you’re one of our ‘Ring of Support’ and keep the afternoon of Saturday 23 November free. You’ll be hearing more from us.

And if there’s anyone out there wishing they were part of this award-winning team, do pop in and see us at the Museum or ring Brian Howard on 01986 875551 for a chat. There’s still room on the bus.



Next year, the Halesworth area is set to go ever so slightly nuts about the 1970s.

Our Museum is celebrating the success of a Lottery bid which means that, for the next 12 months, it will be getting together with organization in the town and the villages around to look back at life as it was back then, when flares, platform heels, hot pants and droopy moustaches were the order of the day.

The Museum, along with ten others in Suffolk and Hertfordshire, will be able to use a share of a £247,000 grant secured by the Association for Suffolk Museums to fund research, exhibitions and events involving local community groups and individuals.

A team of volunteers will be delving into local newspapers, researching local photographs and talking to local people about life in the area forty years ago. They will also be organizing a series of events next year, featuring 70s food, fashions and music to recapture the mood of the time. The first will be in the upstairs gallery at Halesworth Library from 9-23 November (see the advertisement on this page).

At the heart of the Halesworth project is the huge collection of photographic negatives left to the Museum by local photographer Robbie Page. The Museum will be digitizing these and taking them out and about to spur people’s memories and build up an account of the times.

“We want the whole community to get involved in thinking back to the time of Abba, ‘The Good Life’ and the Silver Jubilee” says Project Co-ordinator, Vic Gray. We want to chart the changes in the area. This was the decade when the Swimming Pool, the Apollo Centre and Jubilee Court were opened in Halesworth and there was new housing going up all around. We want to do a serious piece of work, but we also want people to have some fun and get together to remember the taste and feel of the time.”

The Museum is hoping to recruit a group of volunteers from Halesworth and the surrounding villages to join the project team. Anyone interested – or anyone who was here in the ‘70s and would be happy to talk about those days – should ring Vic Gray on 01986 872437 or at for a no-obligation chat about how they might be able to help.



The long link between archaeology and beer will be celebrated in one Suffolk pub in October, when Wissett people will be the first to glimpse a remarkable part of their history, the oldest objects ever discovered in the village, and to celebrate the discovery with a new beer brewed specially for the occasion.

For just one day, the Halesworth and District Museum will be putting on display for the public six Bronze-Age axe heads found in a field near Wissett in 2011. The axe heads are 3,500 years old and show remarkable workmanship. There are hints that some of the axes, at least, were cast locally.

Purchased from the British Museum in 2012, they have been going through a painstaking conservation process for some months, essential to ensure their long-term condition. The Museum is in the process of designing a permanent display in a climatically controlled cabinet, costing in the region of £15,000. “Before they go into storage awaiting their permanent display,” explains Museum Chairman, Brian Holmes, “we felt we owed it to the people of Wissett to give them first sight of these magnificent, archaeologically important objects, in a place accessible to everyone in the village.”

The objects will be on view in the Wissett Plough, the village’s only pub, which has recently been widely praised for its new ‘nano-brewery’, producing a range of beers exclusively for customers of the Plough. ‘Wissett Bronze’ (4.4%) is being brewed with Munich and Crystal malts, to produce a mid-brown, bronze colour with Mosaic and Victoria Secret hops producing subtle mango, citrus, tropical fruits and bitterness, balanced with the biscuity, malt base. Landlord Nick Sumner comments: “A good beer is worth waiting for – but 3,500 years is a long enough wait by anyone’s standards. Its time has come.”

The Wissett Hoard will be on display at The Plough between 11a.m. and 8p.m. on Saturday 26 October.

Further information about the Hoards can be found on the Museum’s web site: or contact Brian at Howard at 01986 875551

For information about the Wissett Plough contact

September 2013 #2


Word is beginning to spread in Halesworth that it can now boast a royal connection.

While working on the ancestry of the new royal baby, Prince George, genealogist, writer and broadcaster, Anthony Adolph, who has recently appeared on BBC’s Who Do You Think You Are?, has unearthed the fact that the Prince’s ninth great-grandfather through his mother, the Duchess of Cambridge, was a Halesworth man. Benjamin Fairfax was a draper who lived and worked in the town over 350 years ago. He was the son of a vicar of Rumburgh (another Benjamin), who was dismissed in 1662 for his nonconformist views.

Benjamin’s sister married another local minister, Bartholomew Allerton of Bramfield who had, as a child crossed to America on the Mayflower and later returned to Suffolk. His two brothers, John and Nathaniel, were also nonconformist ministers in Suffolk and they were all distant cousins of the famous Roundhead general, Thomas Fairfax, who helped overthrow King Charles I in the Civil War. The Fairfax roots ran deep in the area at the time.

It was through Benjamin’s daughter Sarah, who carried on the family tradition by marrying another nonconformist minister, Philip Meadows, that the line continued down through the generations to Catherine Middleton and now to Prince George.

Now the hunt is on to try to locate the property in which Benjamin Fairfax lived, in the hope of adding a commemorative plaque to the building if it is still standing. Halesworth and District Museum Curator, Mike Fordham, has been trawling through the town’s manorial records in the hope of making a discovery. “So far he’s proving elusive” says Mike, “even though, as a draper in a town which was thriving on the linen trade at that time, he might have been quite a significant player. But there are other archives still to pursue and there just may be someone out there who has the missing piece of the jigsaw, perhaps in an old title deed to their house, still hidden in a loft somewhere”.

Halesworth resident, Doreen Hale, who first heard the news from Mr Adolph, has been delighted by first reactions in the town. “People are stopping me and whispering ‘I hear Halesworth has royal connections. Is it true?’ Someone said to me the other day ‘It’s just the lift the town needed’”.

Chairman of the Town Council, Annette Dunning, was surprised and excited to hear of the news. “It would be nice to think that a royal visit to the ancestral home could happen sometime in the future and to give us the opportunity to show off our active rural market town”, she said.

September 2013


The Museum Talks series, organized by the Halesworth and District Museum, got off to a great start in the Spring, drawing enthusiastic audiences. And now, already, it’s time to think about the Autumn talks.

The first will be given at the United Reformed Church on Thursday 26 September. Vic Gray, the Museum’s publicity officer will be showing a selection of photographs by the town’s forgotten Victorian photographer, Fred Johnson. He has just been rediscovered through the generous help of Mrs Ivy Limmer, formerly of Quay Street and now of Beccles. Mrs Limmer is the owner of a fine Victorian album of photographs of the town and surrounding area which had been lost from view since the man who compiled it left the town over a hundred years ago. The talk will describe how the Museum has tracked down the name of the photographer and the details of his life, as well as showing a selection of images from the album.

The best of the Halesworth photographs are now to be made available in a book, ‘Fred Johnson’s Halesworth: Images of a Suffolk Market Town’ which will be launched at the talk and will then be available from the Museum and from the Halesworth Book Shop.

Make a note too of the second date, Thursday 31 October when local archaeologist, Gilbert Burroughes, will speak on ‘Knowledge from the Ground: Our Blyth Valley Ancestors Revealed’.

Vic Gray’s talk, “Rediscovering Fred Johnson: Halesworth’s Victorian Photographer “, at the United Reformed Church, Quay Street on Thursday 26 September, will begin at 7.30. As in the Spring, admission will be £3 or £1.50 for Friends of the Museum. Refreshments will be available.

August 2013


As museums go, the Halesworth and District Museum may be small but we like to think we punch above our weight. So this year we’ve taken our courage in both hands and decided to compete with the Big Boys in the Suffolk Museum of the Year competition. Some of you may have seen the feature on our Museum (and the other competing museums) in the East Anglian Daily Times. You may even have heard our Curator, Mike Fordham, extolling our small-but-perfectly-formed virtues on BBC Radio Suffolk.

The judges look at every aspect of a museum’s activities and displays and we’re hoping that all the work our volunteers are currently putting in to bring the Museum to the people of the district will be looked on with favour. This year alone, we’ll have bought the Bronze-Age Wissett Hoards for an eventual new display in the Museum, put on our first winter exhibition for years, staged four local history talks, canvassed every local school on what we can do to help them, published a book of Victorian photographs of the town (being launched in September), supported the Harry Becker celebrations with a jointly-organised exhibition in the Library, hosted five coach-parties from Southwold looking at the history of the railway and the town, developed our website and seen more visitors (so far this year) than we’ve seen for many years. All this alongside our usual annual displays in the Museum – this year on Dairying in Halesworth and Toys and Comics of Yesteryear.

If you think that’s worth crowing about and if you’d like to support our efforts to put Halesworth firmly on the museum map, there’s still time to drop in at the Museum at the Railway Station and cast your vote on one of the forms to name your favourite Suffolk museum. Obviously we’d like it to be the Halesworth and District Museum but, even if it’s another one, come and vote anyway.

We’re open Tuesday to Saturday 10.00-12.30.

July 2013


Many, many thanks to all the people who got in touch with Mike Fordham, the Museum Curator, after our piece in last month’s Community News asking for memories of the old Unigate Depot up at the Railway Station. We’ve been thrilled by the response and the amount of detail people have been able to give us. Clearly the Depot was a very important part of many people’s lives.

In fact we’re so impressed that we are now planning a get-together later in the year for former employees. There will be photographs and other memorabilia on display and a chance for people to share their memories and add them to the Museum’s ‘Memory Bank’. Best of all, it will be a chance for people to meet up with old friends and work-mates over a cup of tea.

If you’d like to be kept in touch with a view to coming along or contributing in some way to this event, please get in touch with the Museum’s Publicity Officer, Vic Gray at 01986 872437 or e-mail Even if you’ve contacted us already, please let us know if this is of interest to you.

The exhibition on the History of Dairying, taking the story of milk, butter and cheese production in the area through from mediaeval times to the closure of the Unigate plant is at the Museum until the end of September alongside a fine display of toys and comics of yesteryear. They are both proving popular and, yet again, our visitor numbers are up on last year. We thank everyone for their support and encouragement.

The Museum (at the Railway Station) is open Tuesday to Saturday 10.00  – 12.30.

June 2013


Did you by any chance ever work for Unigate Creameries at their Halesworth Depot up at the Railway Station? It’s a long time since it closed – 1968 in fact – but it was once an important part of the town’s life and economy and it’s at risk of being forgotten.

While he was preparing his exhibition on the History of Dairying in Halesworth, Mike Fordham, Curator of the Halesworth and District Museum, came to wonder if there was anyone still living in the area who had worked there and could contribute any memories of life and work at the Depot. It started life at the beginning of the last century as a business run by Mr John Wells, who sold out to the Dairy Supply Company in 1918, which in turn became United Dairies. Until 1933, it was in Angel Yard, behind the Angel Hotel, and in that year moved up to a new building beside the station. At its busiest it had a staff of 56 and handled 40,000 gallons a day.

Mike’s exhibition, which takes the story of milk, butter and cheese production in the area through from mediaeval times to the closure of the Unigate plant can be seen at the Museum until the end of September. Also new for this season is a display of toys and comics of yesteryear, which should bring back memories for several generations. The Museum (at the Railway Station) is open Tuesday to Saturday 10.00  – 12.30.

If you can add anything to the story of the Halesworth Dairy, do come and tell us about it or give Mike Fordham a ring on 01986 873030.

May 2013 Talks


The Museum Talks series, organized by the Halesworth and District Museum got off to a great start with nearly sixty people coming to listen to John Bennett talk about ‘The Southwold Railway: its Past and Future’. The wonderful new layout of the United Reformed Chapel in Quay Street proved to be a fine space for talks of this sort.

We hope for a similar interest when sometime Halesworth-resident Moira Coleman returns to the town in May to talk about ‘The Kitchen Secrets of an Elizabethan Country Lady’ based on her researches into the recipes and household accounts of Lady Catherine Tollemache of Helmingham Hall. The records she left behind enable us not only to recreate the style of the dishes and meals served up at the Hall to its stately residents and guests but also where, in the days before local shops and on-line deliveries, she got her ingredients.

As well as an avid collector of other people’s recipes, many of them historic even in her day, she was also skilled herself in preparing medicines and perfumery.

All this you can hear about at the United Reformed Church, Quay Street, at 7.30 on Thursday 16 May. £3 admission (£1.50 for Friends of the Museum). Refreshments available. Or you can buy her book on the subject, ‘Fruitful Endeavours’, from the Halesworth Bookshop for £15.