History Group Visit Charlbury Museum

On July 24th 14 members of the History group visited Charlbury museum and a talk by the Curator on the history of how it all began. This was when a historical exhibition was held showcasing residents’ family possessions that connected with Charlbury’s history in 1949. After it finished it seemed a good idea to keep exhibits, donated or lent, to show as part of the town’s history in a museum which in time was opened in part of the old Corner House that is now the Town Hall and Library, a historical building built by a Quaker resident. We gathered first in the entrance room where special exhibitions are held and today it was all to do with items from Henry Allen a draper, who in the later part of the Victorian period and up to 1912 clothed the well to do, made their hats, provided dressmaking materials with examples of his work displayed together with antique sewing machines together with documents from his business. Displayed were beautifully made white linen dresses including a farm worker’s smock and pleated woman’s bonnet. The Curator and her assistant gave two very interesting talks on what was displayed and then we were free to wander around the other four small rooms crammed with items concerned with Charlbury’s past. In the 2nd room were fossils, Roman pottery and Anglo Saxon items and into modern times with both World Wars items Charlbury souvenir china and 19th century costumes which included corsets (womens!). The next room displayed a typical Victorian kitchen with a black leaded range taken from a local cottage and the usual kitchen items of that time, domestic help equipment and lovely floor length white linen maids aprons. Onto the next room where we saw the famed Charlbury industry of glove making, with the patterns, special sewing machines and the finished items; this trade was a major source of employment in the town and only closed down in 1968. In this room were also more of the town’s industrial past with a mock up of a blacksmith shop, a collection of boot and shoe making equipment and the finished products and also the tools of carpenters, thatchers and other artisans. The last room was a special exhibition of women’s Victorian black mourning clothes which came about after Queen Victoria’s husband Albert died and they became a fashion. So much to see in this town museum and a reminder of how we need to preserve a town’s past which Charlbury has done so well.

The next visit was to Shorthampton church which I cannot comment on since our car toured around the Cotswolds for ages looking for it, which included going through Charlbury twice more. (Thank you, driver, for doing your best). I have since found out that Shorthampton is a hamlet with a few houses and reached by a lane. The rest of our party made it to the church which is famous for its wall paintings. These you can see on the website for the church as I did and can recommend that you do.       WENDY MORGAN

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