Four museums are swapping objects to tell stories of the region’s wicked past - from grim and gruesome to strange and shocking!
Four museums are swapping objects to tell stories of the region’s wicked past – from grim and gruesome to strange and shocking!
‘Wicked Wessex’ is the theme of the latest objects tour by Wessex Museums – a partnership made up of Dorset County Museum, Poole Museum, The Salisbury Museum and Wiltshire Museum. Each has chosen an item from its collection which best fits the theme.
Due to the Dorset County Museum closure for redevelopment, the Shire Hall Historic Courthouse Museum, Dorchester has kindly acted as an alternative venue to display the Wicked Wessex objects.
The first of the objects to go on display at the Shire Hall Historic Courthouse Museum is the Maquette for the Martyrs on loan from the Dorset County Museum.
This is a miniature version of a memorial to the Dorset Martyrs, situated on the South Walks in Dorchester. The full-size statues, which had recently been given Grade II listed status by Historic England, stand at the very place where hundreds of people died on Dorchester’s town gallows. The sculptures were created by Dame Elisabeth Frink in memory of the Catholics who were hanged in the 16th and 17th centuries because of their religion.
Jon Murden, Director of Dorset County Museum said “This is a unique opportunity to see this important piece of art, which led to the installation of a public sculpture in Dorchester, by one of the country’s famous artist and sculptor who lived and worked in Dorset. It would seem fitting to display the maquette in a venue which has seen nearly over two hundred years of justice, injustice, crime and punishment and we are very grateful for Shire Hall Historic Courthouse Museum for their support in hosting this tour by the Wessex Museums Partnership.”
The objects are currently on display at their home museums, then after three months they will rotate around the others in turn until October 2019.
Hundreds of people died on Dorchester’s town gallows in the 16-17th centuries. This maquette is a miniature version of a memorial that stands exactly where the gallows were located. The sculptures were created by Dame Elisabeth Frink in memory of the Catholics in Dorset who were hanged because of their religion. You can see Dorset County Museum’s Martyrs Maquette at The Salisbury Museum 20 April – 6 July 2019 and Wiltshire Museum from 20 July – 5 October 2019
Poole was a maritime centre in the 1700s and 1800s, but life was tough for the men who crewed the ships. The cat-o’-nine-tails was a type of whip used in the Royal Navy. A sailor could be flogged for anything from drunkenness to desertion. Each of the cat’s ‘tails’ was knotted to increase the pain of the lashes. You can see Poole Museum’s Cat-o’-nine- tails at Wiltshire Museum from 20 April – 6 July 2019. Dorset County Museum is currently closed, so the Cat-o’-nine- tails is being displayed at the Shire Hall Historic Courthouse Museum from 20 July – 5 October 2019
A scold’s bridle, or witch’s bridle, was used to punish people who were suspected of witchcraft. It was placed over the victim’s head, so they couldn’t speak, or more importantly, curse anyone! This is one of the horrible punishments used during the 17th century witch trials that took place not just in Wessex, but across the whole of Europe. Some witches faced the stocks or ducking stool, others were hanged. Dorset County Museum is currently closed, so The Salisbury Museum’s Scold’s Bridle is displayed at the Shire Hall Historic Courthouse Museum from 20 April – 6 July 2019 and at the Poole Museum from 20 July – 5 October 2019
Bellarmine Jug or Stoneware jars like this were common in the 1600s for carrying beer and wine. But they also had another use – as ‘witch bottles’ to ward off evil curses. People would fill a jug with human hair, fingernails and sometimes blood or urine! Then it was sealed and hidden in the home. This jug was left at Wiltshire Museum in 2010 by a mystery donor. Thankfully, it didn’t have any gruesome contents! Tou can see Wiltshire Museum’s Bellarmine Jug at Poole Museum from 20 April – 6 July 2019 and The Salisbury Museum from 20 July – 5 October 2019
Wessex Museums Partnership
Wessex Museums Partnership
Four museums working together to tell the amazing story of Wessex. It’s a story of the land and its people. From old bones and carved stone, to ancient treasure and dazzling jewels. Mighty ships to menacing weapons. Paintings, pottery and much-loved literature.
Our partner museums will be swapping ideas, sharing expertise, exchanging objects and hosting joint exhibitions. Our aim is to inspire you to explore and enjoy the fantastic art and heritage of Dorset and Wiltshire… and discover what makes Wessex so special. Dorset County Museum – Explore 250 million years of the county’s history, from fascinating fossils to Roman remains, Victorian life to much-loved Wessex literature. Poole Museum – Marvel at the unique collection of shipwrecks and seafaring items from Poole’s days as the maritime centre of Wessex, as well as the world’s greatest display of Poole Pottery. Salisbury Museum – Discover 500,000 years of history – from the archaeology of ancient Wessex to contemporary art – all in a stunning medieval building. Wiltshire Museum – Be dazzled by gold from the time of Stonehenge, see Britain’s best Bronze Age archaeology collection, and admire the weapons and jewellery that tell Wiltshire’s Saxon story. Wessex Museums is a National Portfolio Organisation, funded by Arts Council England to deliver ‘Great Art and Culture for Everyone’.
FOUR MUSEUMS ARE SWAPPING OBJECTS TO TELL STORIES OF THE REGION’S WICKED PAST - FROM GRIM AND GRUESOME TO STRANGE AND SHOCKING!