Friday, August 28, 2015

The Extraordinary Life of Charles Waterton

Charles Waterton is being brought to life by three fantastic local illustrators.

A comic book version (or graphic novel, or sequential art if you prefer) of the life of Wakefield’s famous pioneering naturalist, writer and explorer, Charles Waterton of Walton Hall is currently in production.

It is a major part of the Nightingale Festival, celebrating the life of the naturalist who passed away 150 years ago this year.

The comic is in three parts, each part illustrated by a different local artist:

Charles Waterton Part One: The Early Years follows Waterton as a young boy, first climbing trees and gathering bird eggs at his home of Walton Hall, through his schoolboy adventures and mishaps avoiding prefects and schoolmasters wielding rods of correction, to his first travels to Spain where he narrowly avoided death at the hands of the Black Vomit plaque.

Part One is drawn by John Welding. John Welding has been drawing comics in one form or another for the last 25 years.

He started in the Eighties drawing for small press publications and fanzines and in the Nineties he penned and self-published a range of comics, the most acclaimed being his autobiographical Goathland Diary Comic series.

Work in progress. John Welding adds ink to pages from the Early Years.  Image courtesy of John Welding's blog

Work in progress. John Welding adds ink to pages from the Early Years.  Image courtesy of John Welding's blog

Charles Waterton Part Two: The Quest for Adventure is based on Charles Waterton’s celebrated book Wanderings in South America. The story follows Waterton’s quest to learn more about the deadly poison Wourali (now called curare) used by the local South American Amerindian tribes to tip their blow pipe darts, and his encounter with a twelve foot caiman that is now the centrepiece of Wakefield Museum’s displays.

Part Two is drawn by Staz Johnson. Staz is a comic book artist and penciller, best known for his work on DC Comics' Robin and Catwoman series. He has worked for 2000 AD, Dark Horse and Marvel comics to name a few. He grew up in Walton and lives in Horbury.

A thumbnail draft image from Staz Johnson's Quest for Adventure story

Charles Waterton Part Three: The Defence of Nature follows Charles Waterton’s attempts to build the world’s first nature park in the grounds of his home. Nobody had ever done this before and he had to deal with hungry poachers and polluting soap factories not to mention his own son who spent much of the family fortune on gambling and rings (more about this in December).

The opening panel from Richard Bell's The Defence of Nature comic

Part three is drawn by Richard Bell. Richard Bell was born at Walton Hall (then a maternity hospital) in 1951 and he studied natural history illustration at the Royal College of Art. His first book, A Sketchbook of the Natural History of Wakefield, includes a comic strip feature about Charles Waterton and the world’s first nature reserve. Richard Bell’s acrylic on canvas painting Waterton’s World is in the permanent collection of the Hepworth Gallery, Wakefield. He writes a nature diary for the Dalesman magazine and his local publications include Walks in the Rhubarb Triangle and Waterton’s Park, a trail guide to the history of Walton Park.

John Welding and John Whitaker will be running a workshop about the production of the comic for 8-12 year olds as part of Wakefield's Lit Fest. It is a free but bookable event on 26 September 3.30 to 5pm.

John Welding will also be running two bookable sessions for us as part of the Big Draw in October - a family event on Tuesday 27 October, and an adult event on the evening of Wednesday 28 October.  Watch this space for booking details coming soon!

Big Draw event - create a mini-explorer with John Welding! More details to follow
A special exhibition called the Extraordinary Life of Charles Waterton (30th September – 7th November) will open at Wakefield Museum, charting the development of the comic and displaying some of the finished original artwork.

The comic itself will be available in a limited edition print from the end of October.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Bake-off Beauties

We have become a little bit cake obsessed recently.  

What started as a quick look for an image for our Twitter feed to tie in with the Great British Bake Off, turned into an appreciation of the range of amazing cake-stands we have!

From sweet novelty designs such as this umbrella
Umbrella cake stand, made by Midwinter (1960-65)

to the use of the wonderfully exciting material - plastic - in the 1950s

1950s plastic cake stand

and of course wonderful Bagley's glass, made in Knottingley.

Bagley's Glass 'Katherine Wheel' design 3187 (1950-1975)

To see more Bagley's glass, be sure to visit Pontefract Museum where there is a whole room dedicated to beautiful and colourful pieces from the collection.

Bagley's Glass 'fish scale' pattern design 3067

This piece is probably our favourite.  Which is yours?
Bagley's Glass Lady - part-frosted (acid etched) cake stand design 3182

For even more Bagley's glass, see our online catalogue.

Bagley's 'Fish plate' design 3123 (1939-75)

Some of our pieces can be very easily dated, such as this cake stand from 1887 - from Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee!

Jubilee cake stand, 1887

Finally, what would Paul and Mary make of this? A cake decoration used (presumably on a wedding cake) in 1908.  

Cake decoration used by Eliza Richards nee-Young on 19/09/1908

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Recommend and Repeat

We have just launched a campaign to encourage visitors who have had a great time at our museums to recommend us and come back and visit again.

These credit card sized prompts ask visitors to make a recommendation, they can be picked up at our museum sites.

Word of mouth and recommendation is a crucial and important method of attracting new visitors.  Encouraging repeat visits is important too, it is often said that 20% of your visitors make up 80% of your visits!  We work really hard at the museums to continuously improve the visitor experience, from providing exciting and relevant exhibitions and displays, to hands-on opportunities for children and friendly and welcoming front of house staff.

Follow us on  Twitter @WFMuseums

Read our recommendations on Trip advisor and add your own

Castleford Museum & Library

Wakefield Museum

Pontefract Museum

Tell your friends and family what a great place our museums are to visit and keep coming back again and again....

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Collections Highlights: Addingley's liquorice tin

Wakefield Museums hold over 120,000 historic objects that have been acquired on behalf of those who live, work in or visit the Wakefield district.

Many of the objects are on display at our museum venues, but we can't display everything at once! This series of blog posts will highlight some of the collections, both on display and off, by showing a photograph and some information about the object.
We'd love to know your thoughts about the objects featured in this series so if you have a memory linked to an object or if you can add some more background information about them please do leave a comment for us.
Addingley's liquorice tin
This box is about 120 years old. It dates from a time when Pontefract had 10 or more 'spice' factories. Today Addingley’s has gone but Wilkinson's lives on in Pontefract as Trebor Bassett and Dunhill's as Haribo. Pontefract Museum probably has the largest collection of old liquorice packaging anywhere. Small tins, like this one, had the advert on the outside. Larger tins often had plain tops and the advert on the inside of the lid. This was so that they could be set out open in shops to tempt customers.
Apart from the company name, one of the ways to date this tin is by the style of the advert. The swirly plant forms are typical of the 'art nouveau' style. It came from Paris around the 1900s. This 'nouveau' or new style was a real change from what went before. Going back to nature and the shapes of plants, insects and birds was a break with the past (the front of Pontefract Museum and its tiled entrance hall are great examples).
Another way of dating this tin is from the picture of the castle. The ruins of the castle were turned into a park and open-air museum around 1890. Rockeries and follies were added to make the site more 'romantic'. One of the towers was half taken down so that the road (North Baileygate) could go round the castle. The other change was to knock a hole through the wall of the keep so that you could see the distant church of Saint Giles framed by the castle ruins! People looked at history in a very different way then and they thought that this damage improved the site. Twenty years later the wall with the hole collapsed. This tin shows us a bit of local archaeology that no longer exists.
You can see lots of examples of liquorice packaging and other tools of the trade at Pontefract Museum
Displays of packaging.  The picture on the right is of a 'Thumper' using a Liquorice stamp to decorate Pontefract Cakes

Visit Pontefract Museum on 12 August 11am - 2pm and take part in a free family workshop - Luscious Liqourice .  Make a liquorice themed paper collage to take home.