Press Releases for 2011

Press Releases 2011

Community News February 2011

January marked the 70th anniversary of a very sad occasion in Halesworth history. On 18 January 1941, a German Dornier bomber on an airfield bombing raid, jettisoned eight bombs over the railway yard at Halesworth. The station house, which now, of course, contains the Museum, suffered a direct hit. The station master, Herbert Holland, his wife, Hannah and their servant, Joan Clarke, were all killed and four people were injured, the town’s only civilian casualties of the War. In honour of those who died on that day, the Museum’s main display area in the station building was named the Holland-Clarke Room.

A more immediate sadness for the Trustees and the Curator is the decision by Janet Huckle, our Vice-Chair and Publicity Officer to retire from volunteering at the end of December and so no longer be available to help at the Museum. The Trustees would wish to thank her for all the work she has done for the Museum over many years. She will be much missed.

Given the gap that Janet’s departure has left, we are lucky that a number of new volunteers have come forward over the last couple of months to help man the Museum and take forward its work. 2011 should be an exciting year. Already the Museum is giving continuing help to the project on the history of Halesworth shops initiated by the University of East Anglia and Suffolk County Council in collaboration with the BBC’s Turn Back Time series on the history of the high street. Later in the year, we shall be mounting a display on Halesworth butchers across the centuries to pick up the retailing theme. We shall also play our part in helping the town celebrate the 250th anniversary of the opening of the Blyth Navigation, which, from 1761, brought boats upriver from Southwold to the town and revolutionized its trade with the wider world. Watch out for more news on both these fronts.

F rom now until the end of April, the Museum will be open from 10am – 12.30pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays. From 1 May to 30 September we shall open Tuesday to Friday 10am to 12.30pm (not on Wednesday afternoons as in previous years) and on Saturday mornings in July and August. As ever, we shall be happy to open up at other times to interested groups or individuals if an appointment is arranged. Just contact 01986 873030

Community News March 2011

With the first glimpses of the sun, all eyes up at the Museum are fixed on the opening of our next full season, on 3 May. It will be an exciting one, as the Museum embarks on its second quarter-century!

Plans for an exhibit to mark the 250th anniversary of the Blyth Navigation are well underway. Our Curator is digging deep into the archives and a model of the quayside at Halesworth in its heyday is being specially built. Has anyone out there got any memorabilia or photographs connected with the Navigation? In particular, a photo of a wherry would be ‘wherry’ welcome (sorry!). If you can help, please contact the Curator on 01986 873030.

The Friends of the Museum will get a sneak preview of this at their Friends Evening on 28 April. Anyone with an interest in the history of the area is welcome to come along. Put it in your diary now. More details later.

One lady left the Museum very happy after a visit this month. A chance enquiry about her grandfather, who had spent time in the Patrick Stead Hospital after losing a leg in the trenches of World War I, led to a remarkable find: his signature on an autograph book kept by one of the volunteer nurses and a cartoon by him of Kaiser Bill. It was an emotional moment, being reconnected with her grandfather in such a vivid way.

A reminder that from now until the end of April, the Museum will be open from 10am – 12.30pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays or by appointment .

Community News April 2011

By the time the next edition of Community News appears, the Museum will be open for the summer season and ready to show off exhibits old and new. Tuesday 2nd May is the opening date and across the summer it will be open Tuesday to Friday 10am to 12.30pm (not on Wednesday afternoons as in previous years) and on Saturday mornings in July and August.

If you can’t wait that long, make a date to come along to the Museum Friends Evening on 28 April. Anyone with an interest in the history of the area is welcome to come along. Just turn up at the Station between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. and be among the first to see the two new displays: one marking the 250th anniversary of the Blyth Navigation, Halesworth’s once busy ‘commercial artery to the sea’, carrying goods by boat down to Southwold; and the other celebrating a fascinating 700-year long history of butchers’ shops in the town.

It’s worth remembering that the Museum up at the Station is a bit like Dr. Who’s Tardis. Visit us and you’ll see a selection of items designed to tell the history of the area from the earliest days of man through to recent times. And then there are the regularly changing exhibitions exploring new or topical themes. But behind the scenes, this little museum provides a refuge for much, much more – things which can’t be regularly on display because of lack of space or because they’re too vulnerable to be exposed for too long. You can always ask if you can’t see what interests you. If we’ve got it, the Curator will be only too pleased to show you it.

Community News May 2011

It’s summer! Well maybe not officially, but up at the Museum in the Station summer has already arrived! The museum is into its summer opening hours: Tuesday to Friday 10am to 12.30pm (not on Wednesday afternoons as in previous years) and on Saturday mornings in July and August.

Two new exhibitions are on view. The first tells the story of the Blyth Navigation, which was first opened exactly 250 years ago in 1761, ‘for the Convenience and Benefit of the Inhabitants … and to the Advantage of the Publick’. This largely forgotten canal once connected Halesworth to the sea at Southwold, carrying the town’s produce and manufactures out to the world at large, in days when roads were still slow and difficult for much of the year. The display includes a model of Halesworth Quay specially constructed by Chairman of the Museum Trustees, Brian Holmes, whose working model of the moveable platform at the Station is, for many visitors, a highlight of the Museum’s displays.

The second display reveals some fascinating facts about the butchery trade in Halesworth which curator, Mike Fordham, has succeeded in tracing back over six hundred years, revealing just how important it was to the town and its surrounding area. The town’s two surviving butcher’s shops have proved to have surprisingly long histories. Palmer’s in the Thoroughfare has been used as a butcher’s shop without a break since at least 1820 while Allen’s, in the Market Place, may actually be on a site occupied in 1380 by Robert Barron of Sotterley, a butcher. This must surely be something of a record!


Community News June 2011

Our summer season was well and truly launched on 28 April when the Museum was filled by a very gratifying number of Friends of the Museum. The Trustees and the Curator would like to express their thanks to all those who turned out to express their support and interest. Among a number of follow-ups, the Curator has been interviewed by Blyth Valley Radio and the Lowestoft Film and Camera Club have been involved in preparations for their film on the River Blyth.

The displays on the Blyth Navigation and on Butchers in Halesworth are now there for all to see, Tuesday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 12.30 p.m.

One very generous donation, made at the launch by Mr John Levy of Wenhaston, was an oil-painting of Holton Hall, once the home of Andrew Johnston, the Victorian banker and local philanthropist, but, following a disastrous fire, rebuilt in 1883 in a very opulent Victorian style. It stood in 80 acres of parkland north of Holton Church until it was demolished after the War, having last been used as accommodation for U.S. airmen. The painting is a welcome gift and a fine reminder of a lost local landmark. It is generous gifts of this sort which help encourage more local research and knowledge. If anyone has further information (or even recollections) of the Hall please get in touch with the Curator.

Community News July 2011

The Museum’s been out and about during June, working alongside others to increase our knowledge of Halesworth’s past. The High Street History project, involving the University of East Anglia, the County Council’s Archaeological Unit and the Suffolk Record Office, joined forces with us on 11 June to dig a number of trial excavations around Halesworth with local volunteers – young and old. Time was limited but one pit revealed a cobbled yard beneath the grassy patch outside the Library, part of the cottages that once stood here. On land behind the old Guildhall (now four shops, including Benson’s, the jewellers) the intrepid ‘archaeologists for a day’ unearthed the remains of an 18th-century culvert and some 16th-century pottery. The finds are now in the Museum and appetites have been whetted. It is hoped to do more next year.

Also, during June and July, the Museum is hosting a series of groups of Halesworth Middle School pupils working on a project on Halesworth in the 1890s. In the Museum they have been able to get to grips with many of the exhibits that tell them about life and work at the time and they have then been taking a trip through the town in the company of the Curator, Mike Fordham, who has talked to them about the town as it was back then. Over a hundred Halesworth children will go away from these visits with a better idea of the fascinating history around them.

Community News August 2011

School is out! What shall we do with ‘em? Where can we take them?

Well, don’t forget the Museum up at the Railway Station. How long is it since the family visited the Museum anyway? As well as the interest of spotting strange or interesting things among the displays, there are fun things to do: you can handle a prehistoric fossil or try your hand at brass rubbing or press the buttons on the model of the station’s unique moveable platforms and learn how they worked.

The Museum will be open throughout the school holidays, Tuesday to Friday, 10a.m. to 12.30p.m.

As a Museum, we may be focused on past centuries but the Museum’s Trustees have just backed an exciting programme to move its profile and activities much more squarely into the 21st century. We shall now be connecting to the Internet and building a website on which there will be lots of new information on Halesworth history and archaeology and regular updates on what is going on up at the Museum. It will provide a new, exciting gateway for people to get engaged in Museum activities. Funding is now being pursued and there are indications that they will fall on sympathetic ears. More news soon!

In another helpful and enjoyable partnership, the Museum has been working with the staff of the Library to set up a space there so that the Museum can have a presence in the town centre, keeping people up to date with what’s going on and seeking help in answering some of the questions and identifying some of the objects that come our way. It’ll happen soon!

Community News September 2011


It passed off quietly in Halesworth, the anniversary of that day on 23 July 1761 when the first boat made its passage up the brand-new Blyth Navigation from Southwold and arrived at Halesworth. Exactly 250 years on, we’ve perhaps forgotten just how important a date it was in the history of our town. For the next hundred years or so, until the railways made an impact, this was the main artery of trade into and out of the town, carrying away to the London markets the malt on which the town depended and bringing up from the sea at Southwold vital supplies, in particular the coal from the north needed for the town’s furnaces and fires. With no A12 and no container lorries, this was the town’s lifeline.

To mark the anniversary year, Museum Curator, Mike Fordham, has been beavering away, researching the Navigation’s history. The result is a fascinating booklet which we hope to make available shortly. Then you’ll be able to find out how much it cost to widen and straighten the channel, build the five locks along the route and dig out a basin down at Halesworth Quay. (In case you can’t wait, it was £3,000). You’ll be able to imagine the scene down at the Quay, where the new Hopkins Homes now stand, with heaps of bricks, coal, timber and stone and the acrid smells from the nearby coke ovens and lime kilns, mixed with the headier scent of malting barley. And you’ll be able to find out how Patrick Stead expanded the life of the Navigation and built the fortune which allowed him to build the hospital that still bears his name. The achievement of the Navigation still lives on, even though it itself is now silted up, its locks collapsed, just a fading memory of what once was.

Community News October 2011

The Museum’s back in town!

Thanks to the ready co-operation of Suffolk Libraries and the excellent staff in Halesworth Library, the Museum now has a permanent space in the window at the Library in Bridge Street, a chance for us to keep people in touch with what’s going on and, more importantly, seek their help in the work of the Museum. If you can’t give us time to help run the Museum up at the Station, then you may well be able to contribute your knowledge instead. One of the things we shall be doing regularly is putting on display some of the pictures and objects we need help in identifying. Take a look at the picture on display at the moment and, if you can help us, drop a note in the Museum Box on the Library counter.

And don’t forget: if you have photographs of Halesworth or the surrounding villages which we could copy to add to the Museum’s collections, or objects of historical interest relating to the area, do drop in to show us or get in touch with the Curator, Mike Fordham.

The summer’s been a good one at the Museum, with visitor numbers staying strong. Now, as the days grow shorter, it’s time to switch to winter mode, where the focus shifts more to catching up with the many backroom jobs that need doing: cataloguing and identifying, thinking about future displays and working on new projects and research.

With that goes shorter winter opening hours. From 1 October the Museum will be open on Tuesday and Thursday mornings from 10.00 to 12.30, or, as ever, at other times by appointment with the Curator.

Community News November 2011


Watch out soon for Mike Fordham’s new commemorative illustrated booklet on Halesworth Quay and the Blyth Navigation, specially produced for the 250the anniversary of the opening of the Navigation in 1761. By the time the next Community News appears, it will be available in shops locally and at the Museum (open Tuesday and Thursday 10.00 to 12.30).

Our 1930s photograph of a class of girls in the Halesworth Area School in Wissett Road, which has graced the Library window during October, has brought us some useful and interesting information from people who’ve seen it and got in touch. This was the school which, in the 1950s, became the Edgar Sewter Primary School. The room shown in the picture is still used as the School Hall. Most surprisingly of all, one person recognized, not the teachers nor the pupils, but the desks! It transpires that one is still in use eighty years on, now converted into a workbench in his garage. Who knows what you’ll find?

And talking of odd finds, heads are being scratched up at the Museum over the mystery object shown here. It was found abandoned in a Halesworth shed. With agricultural implements, malting tools and bits of railway signal gear in our collection, we thought we knew it all. But this little item, about six inches long and made of iron, with a sliding mechanism near the pointed end, has got us all beat. Can anyone out there help us, please? A free copy of the new booklet to the first sensible answer.

This is now thought to be a tin opener, see Decembers Press Release

Finally please note that the Museum will be closed for its winter hibernation during December and January.

Community News December 2011


The Museum has now gone into its winter hibernation, closed to visitors during December and January while the team catches up with essential housekeeping and behind-the-scenes research.

And there’s a lot bubbling away beneath the surface at the moment. Work is going on to create the Museum’s new website, there are preparations for phone and broadband lines into the Museum to make communications infinitely better, the machinery is being set up to embark on a major project to open up one of the Museum’s biggest photographic collections, there are plans emerging for another project focused on the Patrick Stead Hospital and work is underway to improve the Museum’s presence in the Halesworth Library window. By the time the bulbs are poking through next spring all this should be up and running.

Meanwhile, Mike Fordham’s new commemorative book on Halesworth Quay and the Blyth Navigation can now be bought for £2.50 from either the Halesworth Book Shop or the Library – a good stocking-filler for anyone interested in the area’s history.

Congratulations, by the way, to Mrs Sewell of Westhall who identified for us our mystery object in last month’s column. It’s a tin opener from the early years of the last century – just like one Mrs Sewell’s mother had when she was married in the 1920s. It will now find its proper place in the Museum’s collections thanks to Mrs Sewell, while she gets to enjoy her prize of a copy of the Navigation book.

As ever, you can contact us during the closure period by ringing Mike Fordham.