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~~~ NEWSDESK ~~~
Visits to the Museum
Over 50 visitors attended the opening of the new Exhibition on Merton Priory: 1117-1538 which was opened on Saturday June 17th by the Mayor of Merton with special guest Dave Saxby of the Museum of London, who will be celebrating his 20th year working on the Merton Priory site in 2007. Visitors on that day included Cllr Geraldine Stanford, the Mayor of Merton, who performed the opening ceremony, Viv Philpot the Arts Development Officer for the London Borough of Merton, Norman Plaistow from the Wimbledon Windmill Museum, John Hawks from Merton Abbey Mills and Angela Gorman from Groundwork Merton.
All these visitors plus volunteers, Museum members and guests applauded the attractive and informative Exhibition designed, researched and constructed by Meg Thomas, Honorary Curator, and volunteer Eric Shaw. The opening ceremony was followed by the cutting of the Exhibition Cake baked by Mary Hart. This was designed in the shape of the Priory and all visitors enjoyed a slice.
More visitors viewed the new Exhibition on Sunday June 18th when the Museum was open as part of the Wandle Valley Festival.
Outreach Several members and friends set up their usual stall at the Wimbledon Village Fair on Wimbledon Common on Saturday June 24th. The Village Fair this
year was opened by none other than Cliff Richard who entertained the crowd with a rendition of 'Summer Holiday', one of his well known hits! Once again the Fair was blessed with a hot sunny day and crowds of people, many showing great interest in our display. A big thank you to all who helped on this successful day.
Volunteers The last Volunteers' Quarterly Lunch Meeting was held on 28th June in the Museum. We were very pleased to welcome volunteer Eric Trim to the lunch and making his second visit to the Museum complete with prosthetic legs (he also attended the Exhibition Opening). Some members were privileged to have a peep at the new legs and pronounced them very shapely! We were also pleased to welcome Mavis Munt as a permanent Volunteer Helper on Wednesday afternoons and at Fetes and Fairs.
Unfortunately the members' visit to the Carshalton Water Tower had to be cancelled due to lack of numbers. It has been suggested by Harriet that we organise a formal group visit to the Ram Brewery in Wandsworth, now its demise is imminent, on a ‘last chance to see’ basis. This is an excellent notion. This time, however, please let us know who would be interested so we have an idea of numbers before we contact Youngs. We have received much welcome support from them and the Young family over the years, and a final event which recognizes this would be appropriate
Annual General Meeting The AGM has now been booked for Thursday 2nd November at 7-30pm. It will be held in the Raynes Park Library Hall which is a brand new building and a new venue for us. The speaker will be Rachel England of Groundwork Merton who will give us a presentation entitled Remembering the Mizens which is a project she has been working on with some Mitcham schools and community groups, funded by the Heritage Lottery.
Put this date in your diary now!
Celebrating Age — Merton Festival for the Over-Fifties This takes place this year from 9th-24th September and the Museum will be participating. On Thursday 14th September we will be having an OPEN HOUSE afternoon with a Guided Tour, Video and block printing demonstration. Ring the Museum to book your place.
There are lots of great events on during the Festival period. Programmes are available in local Libraries, so do get one and join in the fun!
9 August 2006
Jackie Tucker has taken over the onerous role of archivist. Jackie has been familiarising herself with the information we have on the Wandle Industries, a formidable task. She has been setting up a card index of the names of the mill owners and tenants. We are also working on a cross reference system that will allow us to put together information on the industries from all the areas of information we have in the museum such as filing cabinets, leaflets, books, photographs and plan chest.
This should allow any volunteer to help with enquiries.
We are also updating the plan of the office showing the storage areas.
I will be attending the second A.G.M. of the London Museums Group, and the West London Museums Group.
'Remembering the Mizen's' was a project led by Groundwork Merton. We were asked to help with their research, I must admit that we didn't contribute a huge amount, but did have one of the very few copies of the bok about the Mizen's. I enjoyed meeting three members of the Mizen family. I will add no more as you will see elsewhere Rachel England will be at our A.G.M. to tell you all about the project.
Eric Shaw conducted a Health and Safety check in the museum. It's not too dangerous to enter our museum but one or two extra notices have appeared and Eric has rounded off a few corners.
A new line has appeared in the shop some rather beautiful fridge magnets, the art work is from photographs taken by Eric as part of the security measures. We also have a new selection of lavender cards with envelopes.
The Committee will meet again on 18 September. Quite apart from ordinary business with which we must deal, such as the approval of the accounts, and preparations for the AGM in November, we are pressing ahead with the reorganization of the committee into a more businesslike and streamlined model under the direction of our chairman, Rev Andrew Wakefield.
On the practical side, the new fire regulations have meant that she, Eric Shaw and Sheila are having to progress fire risk assessments to ensure we are compliant before the new provisions come into force on 1 October. In the meantime, as reported by Meg, above, the health and Safety checks are being carried out. It is one of the many advantages we gain as guests of LB Merton at Vestry Hall that Carol and her team keep us up to date with the ever changing obligations on occupiers of premises.
Some progress has been made on the question of a permanent external sign. Having agreed the principle at the last committee meeting, Eric’s trial sign above the door demonstrated how much more visible we could become. We are now dealing with the boring practicalities - planning and Landlord’s consent. Despite this being a conservation area, research has shown planning would appear no problem, but we still need consent from LB Merton’s legal team before we can proceed to the next step. Current thinking on that step is divided between making the trial sign into the permanent one, or spending a bit of money to have one purpose designed and erected. A really distinctive sign would be nice, but would it also attract undesirable attention? Is our sign to help those who know they are looking for us, or those who didn’t know we were there in the first place?
As you will know the new exhibition on Merton Priory that was mounted by Meg
with Eric’s help for this year’s June event. To go with it, I created a time line document for us to give away, and must record my appreciation for the help that Lionel Green and Peter Hopkins of Merton Historical Society gave us in correcting the draft, and suggesting improvements. For those who don’t have it yet, Lionel’s book on the Priory is a must have for your libraries.
It was a pleasure to be visited again by Anna Matyukhina of the Hermitage Museum, and have your consent to publish in this newsletter a digest of her longer article about ‘Teaching Morris to St Petersburg’. Bearing in mind her students are writing in a foreign language, we must be impressed, and there are many 16 and 17 year olds here who would like to be credited with the texts included in this article. The full version of the article has many more examples.
Finally, this is the 25th issue of the Newsletter in its ‘new’ format. We hope its content and format remain of interest to its readership, and hope to hear from any of you with views as to whether another change is needed, or for more of the same, or any other contributions.
Wandle Valley Festival Update
The festival took place on 18 June this year, and is generally regarded to have been very successful with many events up and down the river. Our own contribution was in our new exhibit opening event on the day before (coinciding once again with the Mitcham Carnival) as reported above, followed by Mary’s all day displays of block printing in the Chapter House at Merton Abbey Mills - not to mention the follow up day on the Monday when over 200 schoolchildren from Bond School came for their own visit! Auriel and Connie provided the support without which it would not have been possible.
Dave Saxby and his team from the Museum of London have created an exhibition there which was again much admired, and the new exhibit evidencing the work by Rachel England on the Mizens of Mitcham attracted attention, as did the ‘live’ exhibit from the Wimbledon School of Art on the history of Merton Priory.
We are, once again, fortunate in our Mayor this year. Cllr Geraldine Stanford is a student of local history, and can be regarded as a historian in her own right having published pieces on the history of her Figges Marsh ward, and having been a leading organiser of Merton’s Nelson bicentenary celebrations last year. It was no surprise she came early to Merton Abbey Mills so that she could have a good look, and I was pleased to assist by escorting her round the site while the formal event was being readied for her.
Since then, the Wandle Valley Festival has become an incorporated company, and has recently gained charitable status. It now appears as an event to which other organizations are happy to link, and/or announce their involvement, and is increasingly seen as the public face of Wandle Valley regeneration.
The Festival committee is meeting again towards the end of September to consider the 2007 event, and we would be most pleased to hear from anyone with ideas for improvement, enlargement or promotion, or from those who would like to establish events within the Festival, or linkages with it.
Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or email the committee direct at email@example.com .
I can not let this opportunity slip for recording our best wishes for the speedy recovery of Clive Oxx. He has been a mainstay of the Wandle Valley Festival from the beginning, but his main interest is in fostering cycling in London. In late May he went to Cardiff to receive a well earned award for his efforts for cycling in the capital and nationally, only to meet disaster on his way back. In his own words:
“I have just been discharged following a stay in St Helier's Hospital. I will not be able to participate in the Festival as I am being treated for a DVT (Thrombotic clot). This was caused by travelling back from the CTC Awards Ceremony in Cardiff *in terrible conditions in a coach from Victoria. I had the misfortune to be seated next to an unpleasant woman who arrived late for departure with bags of luggage and a toddler. One of the bags contained bags of crisps which she fed continuously to the child who consequently became hyperactive crawling over me so that I was trapped, sitting on half a seat while she made mobile phone calls during the entire journey of 2 3/4 hours. Despite being instructed not to do so! I could not reach my water supply nor the toilet. These were just the conditions to induce a DVT which was confirmed when I became ill and my leg blew up to the size and colour of a telegraph pole. I will be on a regime of Warfarin for six months so I am arranging for my planned activities to be taken over.”
It is always sad to record another example of the worst things happening to the nicest people. It is likely to be Christmas before his treatment allows Clive to return to what he loves best - cycling.
Merton Abbey Mills Update
One of the best by-products of the Wandle Valley Festival was the opening of the the display of medieval style tiles in the Wheelhouse. The warmth and vibrancy of these need to be seen to be believed, but here is what the sign says:
“These tiles represent a Medieval Encaustic floor of the type that would have been laid at Merton Priory over 800 years ago.
The traditional designs are stamped into the surface of the soft clay and the impression filled with a white slip which is left to dry and scraped back to reveal the motif
It is then finished with a honey glaze.
This technique has been used for over 1,000 years and the two different layouts relate to the 13th Century on the left and the 14th Century on the right.
The 1100 hand made tiles were all made at the Steven Llewellyn pottery and we welcome commissions (if you’re considering a second mortgage!)
Individual tiles are for sale with the proceeds being donated to Wandle Heritage.” The photos here show not only the installation itself, but the parallel photo in the Chapter House display of original medieval tiles of the same type. Medieval churches may have been cold and draughty, but with tiles like these underfoot, would you really have noticed?
On September 11 the Priory trust will be formally launching the conservation plan, and, at their request, Mary has reprised her celebration church cake, which was so well received at our own party in June.
Elsewhere, Terry Buckland who represents that new owners of the market site has again funded a tent for the market traders to display their wares, this time at the Hampton Court version of the ‘Country Affair’ this bank holiday weekend. Such promotion can only benefit the market, and what benefits the market ensures the long term survival
of the Liberty buildings. The new metal signboard has now been finished with information panels, so no visitors to the market site can have any excuse for not appreciating its relevance to our industrial history.
Residents of the new residential blocks are still battling to pull together a coherent management strategy for the development as a whole, and we wish them well. If they do not succeed, the whole site, including the market, is in danger of becoming a place to avoid, not visit. Perversely, having apposed the development for so long, we must now hope it succeeds!
Apart from the KFC site, of course. The mind boggles at the damage a drive through could inflict, so good luck to those who are opposing the application.
Security in Museums and Art Galleries.
Meg Thomas writes:
An antique book is stolen. The thief approaches a dealer in antique books. The dealer stalls, the police arrive, the thief is caught. The book recovered. This happens within hours of the crime. No not a fairy story but a real event. This scenario is what the Metropolitan police would like to become a regular occurrence. Antique books are, of course, a very specialised kind of art, and collectors are a very close knit community so the news of the theft of a rare book could be quickly spread. Nevertheless the speed of this arrest shows what can be done.
That the information was spread by internet will come as no surprise to you. The setting up of a web site that will co-ordinate information about thefts from museums, libraries, art galleries and other collections open to the public is the latest step in trying to beat this kind of crime.
As you will be aware many objects are stolen to order. Not so much the more renowned art works, unless their worth their weight in bronze, but smaller more easily portable pieces.
The web site is to be a place where information can be exchanged between museums etc and the specialised Art and Antiques Unit of the police. Some areas of the site will be available to the public but naturally there will be some sensitive information that will not be available.
The police are also setting up a scheme to train some members of museum staff as what you might call special constables. They are training to become more aware of suspicious behaviour and maybe spot people who are 'casing the joint'.
The task of protecting precious artifacts is not easy, the balance has to be struck between allowing public access to them and keeping them safe. No visitors want to view art through a cage, or to go through even more stringent security as they enter the buildings, but neither do we wish to lose our precious heritage. Let us hope this kind of initiative will lead to fewer thefts.
A final comment. It seems that thieves are targeting bronze war memorials! This somehow seems to be a low even for criminals.
Editors note: Final development of this project may be some way off yet, but for those who want to have a look at how these things are beginning to work, a look at The Art & Antiques Stolen London Art Database (S.L.A.D) which can be found at http://www.met.police.uk/artandantiques/ACIS_database.htm.
Teaching Morris in St. Petersburg
A digest from an article by Anna Matyukhina, of the Hermitage Museum
I became acquainted with William Morris as a third year student in the History of Arts Department of the Historical Faculty at St. Petersburg State University.
A number of years later I started teaching English to future art historians, who, like almost all their predecessors, had to become acquainted with William Morris during a single lecture on Pre-Raphaelites. Students in this program study English in their first three years at the University, but unfortunately, "Foreign Languages" are not a major so I have only one ninety-minute class a week with each group. The main aim of the English classes is to teach students to translate scholarly writing and to increase their competence in grammar and art historical vocabulary.
Each term our lessons are united by one topic, and the second term of the first year, devoted to "a famous person," gives me the fortunate opportunity to open up the works of William Morris to my students. We read and translate texts which provide a general idea of his biography and diverse activities, and I show them many pictures that make these texts clearer and more vivid. Usually I also pay special attention to the problem of the tapestry revival, since, thanks to the "Adoration" tapestry woven at Merton Abbey and put on display at the State Hermitage Museum, my students can see original fruits of Morris's genius with their own eyes. At the end of the term I ask them to write an essay on William Morris and their attitude toward this great man.
I am also teaching "Translation from English" for senior pupils at the Extracurricular School of Guides. The goal of the school is not only the increasing of language competence in the schoolchildren, who already have a rather good command of the basic English, but the cultivation of a cultured and multi-faceted personality. This year I taught my second year pupils in the Extracurricular School the same course of study dealing with William Morris as my University students, and they were also asked to write a composition on Morris. In the Extracurricular School I have much more time and freedom for talking about William Morris, and we had several lessons at the Hermitage in which we looked at the "Adoration" tapestry and the medieval tapestries of the "Golden Age" of tapestry weaving, showing my pupils the kind of tapestries that were the source of inspiration for Morris.
In this article I want to quote only the essays showing students' personal viewpoints on Morris, his art and the Hermitage "Adoration" tapestry. Such works are represented here, lexical and grammatical mistakes included
Lilia Lebedeva, who entered University in September 2004 and whose first and second year term papers were devoted to William Blake, first became acquainted with Morris's works at a school which gave an English major: "As for me William Morris is one of the greatest masters of the world. His books, furniture, textiles were the presage of modern art, however he and his friends - the Pre-Raphaelites were inspired by the heritage of medieval artists... His masterpieces are always bright, rich, with no empty spaces. Every petal and flower brings the spectator to the rotation of senses and emotions, beauty and eroticism, eternal life where death is not important. His art is graphical and voluminous at the same time and it refers to sensual perception... One can feel this getting in touch with his books, furniture, etc. This non-realistic art makes men to be carried away to his dream-world. "
Of my pupils at the "School of Guides and Interpreters," none of them had heard of William Morris before our lessons.
Masha Saladina wrote the fullest tribute to the powerful effect of a Morris tapestry on the viewer: " When I have looked at any tapestry I usually imagined a weaver, who had been weaving it during months, or an old castle, in which it had been hanging. The plots which are represented on the tapestries never exited my imagination and even made on me a gloomy impression. Their faded colours have absorbed a century of dust and the plots and people represented on them seemed stiffened. It seems that any movement on the tapestries has died the same moment they were woven. However the Merton Abbey "Adoration " tapestry makes a different impression. When you see it for the first time it, undoubtedly, attracts attention with harmony of colours, clearness of lines and bewitching plot. But if you stop and look at it for some time you will forget where you are. You feel as if you have become an invisible witness of the action which is taking place on this tapestry. You already hear rustle of trees and feel the aroma of flowers. Just an instant and the angel will wave you by his wings and the baby will turn his head and look directly at you. You are afraid to disturb pacification of this place even by a sigh and this pacification begins to penetrate into your soul. Having seen the "Adoration " tapestry I have changed my view on this kind of art. I have understood that it is impossible to approach tapestries the same way as you usually approach pictures. Near a tapestry it is necessary to stop and wait until it allows you to penetrate into it and after that the people on it will come alive, flowers will produce aroma, birds will sing and the century-old dust will whisper to you about everything that this tapestry has seen during its existence."
I am really happy that the presence of one of the finest Merton Abbey tapestries in St. Petersburg is not only an "illustration" for our lessons on Morris but a source of inspiration for my students which makes them think, appreciate and even practice this form of art. (It was quite notable that one of my students was considering the making of tapestries herself). As a teacher I am very pleased that my students appreciated Morris's ideals and practices, which despite the century-long gap are still able to attract and inspire a new generation.
Editor’s note: The full article can be seen in a copy of the Summer 2006 Newsletter of William Morris Society in the United States in the museum, and will appear on their website morrissociety.org later this year.
A clearer image of the tapestry can be seen at http://www.hermitagemuseum.org/html_En/03/hm3_11_5_0.html or go to www.hermitagemuseum.org go to ‘Collection Highlights’, click on ‘General Staff Building’ and then ‘Art Nouveau’. The thumbnail of the Adoration is the first item, click on it for the larger image.
The loss of Michael as our Webb continues to be disappointing. As the chart on the next page shows, the presence of an active webmaster constantly reviewing and updating the site has an immediate impact on the ratings, and therefore the activity, of the site, or, conversely in our case, the loss of such a person results in an immediate and dramatic drop in that activity.
The site is not much worse than it was a year ago. We still occasionally get enquiries generated by it. What we don’t get is page ranking, and if your site does not appear on the first couple of pages when a search is made on the web, then you are invisible, to all intents and purposes.
A year ago, if you just typed in ‘Wandle’ into your search engine, our site came in first or second item on the first page.
This is therefore not just a question of buying in help for the occasional task. Somehow we must look for a volunteer who is prepared to devote silly amounts of time on a daily basis to fine tuning and changes for the site.
In the meantime I will try and keep the site ticking over.