Leading the Way: How Northampton Welcomed the Wounded

Leading the Way: How Northampton Welcomed the Wounded.

By Ellen Hackett.

Previously I have written about my upcoming talk on how Northampton cared for injured soldiers returning from the battlefields of World War 1


With the talk drawing nearer (22 September at 7pm at the museum) my co-presenter Liam and I have been delving deeper into the stories of local soldiers. There are some fascinating tales of the lives of Northamptonians against the backdrop of world-changing events, and we cannot wait to share these with you.

As a taster of what is to come I thought I would write about how very early on in our research a local person of interest emerged. His father was a former mayor of Northampton and his brother ran a town centre shop which still operates today and is still family run. He was a young man of fighting age but was not an enlisted man, another curiousity. He was very involved in fundraising and was prominent in Northampton General Hospital. Further research revealed that his family was extremely active in the war effort. But they weren’t alone.

You may be itching to hear the name of this person, but we’re keeping this close to our chests at the moment!

From Earls to Alderman and ordinary citizens alike, the town of Northampton reveals the stoicism of its citizens and a determination to win the war and contribute to the war effort. We can all be proud of what our town achieved. The efforts made by people in all walks of life are what won through in the end.

Our talk will demonstrate how Northampton faced the challenge of the War and cared for so many soldiers and will showcase some of the strong individuals whose efforts led to Northampton Leading the Way.

We hope to see you there.

Talk date/time: Tuesday 22 September, 7pm

Venue: Northampton Museum & Art Gallery

Tickets: Just £5, please call 01604 837 397 to book early (and a limited number of tickets will also available on the door)


Against the Tide – Northampton Conscientious Objectors in World War One

Against the Tide – Northampton Conscientious Objectors in World War One

Post talk blog by John Buckell

On the evening of the hottest July day on record (1st July 2015), nine people gathered at the Museum to listen to this talk. They included the granddaughter of a Northampton WW1 conscientious objector, and a Quaker lady from Bournemouth who had grown up in Northampton.

The talk was based on the stories of some of the 60 conscientious objectors (COs) who I have identified in the records of the Northamptonshire Appeals Tribunal. Northamptonshire is one of a very small number of counties that retained these records after the war. I began with an account of the rejection by Northampton Town Council in 1920 of Harold Croft, a nominee for alderman. A majority of councillors refused to accept a man who had been imprisoned as a conscientious objector during the recent war. The background to conscientious objection was then explained – the introduction of conscription in 1916, the insertion of a conscience clause in the legislation and the setting up of local and county tribunals to judge claims for exemption from military service.

Stories of individual COs were used to illustrate their varying religious, moral and political beliefs, as well as different outcomes to their appeals –non-combatant service, alternative “work of national importance,” or dismissal, sometimes leading to prison and the Home Office Scheme. Evidence from a Northampton man’s diary showed what happened to COs who refused to obey orders when conscripted into the army.

Albert Burrows

Albert Burrows


George Nutt

George Nutt

Conscientious objectors who became mayors of Northampton – left, Albert Burrows (1935); right, George Nutt (1959). Northampton Independent Northampton Central Library, courtesy of Northamptonshire Newspapers

Instances of public hostility to COs were given, but also evidence of a local support network – the No Conscription Fellowship, the Quakers and individuals prepared to testify to a man’s genuine conscientious objection to military service. A number of women also gave active moral support, including attendance at courts martial.

The talk concluded with an outline of the future careers of some Northampton COs.

Several questions arose from the talk. How, for example, did tribunals judge the sincerity (or otherwise) of men claiming conscientious objection? Some men were working on military orders for boots, others withdrew appeals and a small number had earlier attested their willingness to serve. These were a minority, however, and it took a strong commitment to principle to face a public tribunal, and possibly the ostracism of neighbours and workmates.

Did the numbers of skilled workers in the boot factories, essential for army boots, result in fewer men being conscripted in Northampton than elsewhere in the country? It is impossible to answer this without comparative figures, but of course many other towns also had their own essential industries. Being a key worker in one of these was certainly firm grounds for exemption, unless substitutes could be trained. Conscience cases were only a small proportion of total exemptions.

Another query concerned the Friends Ambulance Unit (FAU), a Quaker founded body which tended the wounded at the front, in parallel with the official Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC). At least one Northampton CO served in the FAU, but it was oversubscribed and difficult to get into. A small number of Northampton COs did alternative medical work at home with the VAD (Voluntary Aid Detachment) of St. John Ambulance Brigade and Red Cross. Others refused even hospital work, on the grounds that it would release another man to fight and kill.

Once again, I am grateful to everyone who attended my talk, especially on such a fine evening, and for the interesting questions raised and answers suggested. Thanks are also due to the family of Wilfrid, William and Wesley Church for permission to use photographs and diary extracts.


Women on Wheels

Women on Wheels

On 7 May Northamptonshire hosted the first stage of The Women’s Tour – a race with over 100 of the world’s best female riders. The field included current and former Olympic medallists and World Champions competing to become the first-ever Women’s Tour champion.

Reigning World and Olympic champion Marianne Vos won the Tour, but we were excited to see that the best placed British riders were both local girls; Lucy Garner from Leicestershire in 7th and Hannah Barnes from Northamptonshire in 8th.

Women on Wheels

Women on Wheels

Northampton Museum & Art Gallery is celebrating the event and women’s cycling with its latest exhibition – WOW – Women on Wheels.

Part of the exhibition is looking at some of the best modern cyclists, including feature displays that focus on Lucy and Hannah. And we are sure you will feel inspired looking at the great action shots, equipment and memorabilia that makes competitive cycling one of the most popular and colourful sports to follow.

Women on Wheels

Women on Wheels

We are also delighted to include objects that belonged to Beryl Burton, arguably the best and most successful female cyclist. Beryl dominated in the world of cycling for over 20 years in the 1960s and 70s. Her speciality was that of time trialling, but she also excelled in road and pursuit races by winning titles in both at a national and international level and regularly outperforming male competitors.

Women on Wheels

Women on Wheels








Next cycling events with Northampton Museum & Art Gallery


Get Started

17 May 10am – 4pm | Free

Northampton Museum & Art Gallery



The Big Ride!

30 May 6 – 9pm

Northampton Museum & Art Gallery

Bar available


Corsets and Cabaret

Corsets and Cabaret

Deriving from the Italian word ‘burlesco’, meaning a joke or mockery the word Burlesque has been used since the 17th century, in the 19th century the word was used to describe comedy theatre. All female casts, often dressed as men, in tights, performed caricature, parody and extravaganza.

Burlesque was popular in the United States from the 1860s to the 1940s in a variety show format, often in cabarets and clubs, as well as theatres. In the early 1900s American Burlesque arrived in France. French cabarets created reviews and presented them creating the birth of famous, spectacular venues like the Les Folies Bergeres.

During this time, on the other side of the Atlantic, Burlesque events were increasing and icons were born; Josephine Baker and Anna Held are among the most famous. At this time jazz music was everywhere and numerous bands played in clubs, accompanying the dancers across the United States.

As the Second World War began and these shows began to diminish until the 1950s when pin-up girls then became fashionable. With the birth of Rock ‘n’ Roll the pin-up girls became forever linked with burlesque.

In the 70’s and 80’s, Burlesque had nearly disappeared. But since the 1990s there has been a resurgence of interest of this style of entertainment.

For more information please email museums@northampton.gov.uk


Imagination Museum

Imagination Museum

On Wednesday 9 April Northampton Museum and Art Gallery hosted the Imagination Museum, a contemporary dance performance devised by the award winning choreographer Katie Green.

Funded by the Arts Council the performance brought together art, history, dance and drama in an innovative piece that awoke everyone’s curiosity to explore museums.

Katie has created a wonderful introduction to dance theatre inspired by the diverse artefacts found in museum collections nationwide. Every collection contains a vast amount of material and each object has a story to tell. This piece helps people to connect with their local heritage through these stories and suggests different ways of thinking about something you find in a museum.

Imagination Museum

Imagination Museum

Led by three amazing dancers, all professional and great at character performance, the audience were taken on a tour of the museum. These eccentric tour guides brought to life a series of artefacts through words and movement and encouraged audience participation…and dusting!

The Imagination Museum was very popular in Northampton and lots of positive comments from everyone lucky enough to attend. To see for yourself click on the links below.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a948RiMOa9w

Website: www.madebykatiegreen.co.uk

Interview with shoe designer Atalanta Weller

Interview with shoe designer Atalanta Weller

A woman designing for women

Since she began in 2009, Atalanta Weller’s eponymous brand, now in its 7th season, has been steadily captivating its global fan-base.  Described by the fashion industry as one-to-watch, Weller continues to make the transition from hot young thing to fully-fledged designer brand.

Show-stopping collaborations with avant-garde UK designers Gareth Pugh, Henry Holland and Sinha Stanic led directly to Atalanta Weller’s first solo collection and instant NEWGEN recognition, which she won for three consecutive seasons.

For Weller the technical aspects of shoe design are the first and foremost when constructing shoe. This drives the creation of her exceptional, beautiful and luxurious shoes. Whether a flat or a 6-inch stiletto it must be comfortable.  She is a woman designing for women.

Atalanta Weller Portrait

Atalanta Weller Portrait

Well known for her avant-garde concept shoes, her creativity sparks from the cross-pollination of London’s fashion, art and design scene.

Atalanta’s innovative style has developed from experience acquired through work with Clarks, Hugo Boss and John Richmond, and others. Weller is already inspiring the next generation as a guest lecturer on the MA course at the London College of Fashion and was guest judge on the prestigious panel of the Footwear Friends Award 2011.

Atalanta Weller’s designs will be on display from the 11th until the 29th September at Westfield Shopping Centre London as part of a pop up exhibition from Northampton Museum and Art Gallery’s shoe collection. Atalanta has chosen a vintage shoe from the Northampton Museums and Art Gallery archive which is displayed alongside a shoe from her current collection.

The interview below with Atalanta was conducted by Ellen Sampson, Cinderella project Curator. For more information on the ground breaking Cinderella project go to http://www.northampton.gov.uk/thecinderellasyndrome

Or follow us on twitter or facebook

Where do you design and what is your workspace like?

I was based in East London for 12 years, but I recently moved to a new studio in Notting hill, which I love.

I have many shoes all over the studio walls, from different decades and countries and each has a story to tell…

I work at two desks, one from where I manage the business side of the brand and the other is my designing space/ work shop where I can draw, make clay models and come up with new ideas.  It’s great to have the split between the two.

How does your design process work?  

I usually begin with three starting points – the Shape, the Material and the Feeling; the end purpose for the shoe and how the wearer should feel in it. I tend to work on all three at the same time.

I start with some research, in galleries, museums, books, films, things and people I see on the street. I collect images and sketch ideas, both on paper, and on the Last (the form the shoe is built on). I then make models in clay and in paper and in leather and once I’m satisfied with the first prototypes, I go to the factory either in Portugal or Spain where I work more on the shoes with developers over the following couple of months to perfect each idea and shoe before it is finally shown to the buyers and press.

What inspires you when you design?  

The desire to create fine luxury shoes for amazing and inspirational women around me. I’m inspired by many things – sometimes a new design come from a feeling, or a shape, something I see on the street, or in a museum. I love to reference films, usually something with a modern, yet retro feel with an element of fantasy. 

My background is in sculpture, I’m a great fan of the sculptor Barbara Hepworth and also Salvatore Ferragamo, but I am drawn to the technical complexities of shoes and finding an aesthetical balance. It is a constant quest to create something that is new, but also comfortable and wearable. My ultimate mission is to create a shoe that in turn inspires the wearer to do great things.

How do historic/vintage shoes inspire your designs?  

When I was a sculpture student I found an old pair of Palter / Deliso 1940s shoes in a charity shop. They were the most beautiful thing I had ever seen, I fell for the simplicity, the lines, the shape and the functionality.

From then on I knew what I wanted to do and my path was set – by an old pair of shoes!

Shoe making is such an ancient craft, and it’s always both humbling and inspiring to see what was done before,  e.g. specific techniques, crazy styles, stitching, pattern developments, or something technical which has pushed material boundaries in that time.

It’s inspiring to try to follow in that tradition, to build on that knowledge and to create new shoes

Describe the historic/vintage shoe you picked?

The shoe I have chosen is a men’s welted oxford lace up with the ¾ vamp in Vinyl.  I love how this traditional men’s style becomes something totally new when made in Vinyl.

Why did you pick it? What do you love about it?

I picked it for its combination of traditional shoemaking craft, which, when combined with an extraordinary material becomes something completely new.

Interview with shoe designer Sophie Cox

 Interview with shoe designer Sophie Cox

‘Fashion that felt good’

Sophie Cox is a 31 year old footwear designer who was born in Sydney, Australia. She had an unusual beginning for a footwear designer, growing up in either riding boots or spending the summers in Australia with bare feet.

Her path to fashion was far from glamorous also, as one of only a handful of female students in a four year industrial design course. However, here she learnt of the relationship between shoes and design innovation, illustrating a practical streak, which is what makes Cox so interesting. This encouraged her to invent a shoe that flipped from a flat to a high heel, designing ‘beauty you could walk in…’.

She later won the Drapers Student footwear designer of the year award and graduated from the London College of Fashion in 2009.

Sophie-Cox Portrait

Sophie-Cox Portrait

Sophie Cox ‘s designs will be on display from the 11th until the 29th September at Westfield Shopping Centre London as part of a pop up exhibition from Northampton Museum and Art Gallery’s shoe collection. Sophie has chosen a vintage shoe from the Northampton Museums and Art Gallery archive which is displayed alongside a shoe from her current collection.

The interview below with Sophie was conducted by Ellen Sampson, Cinderella project Curator. For more information on the groundbreaking Cinderella project go to http://www.northampton.gov.uk/thecinderellasyndrome

Or follow us on twitter or facebook

 Where do you design and what is your workspace like?

I design in my office at home or my hotel in Italy when I am visiting the factory. Sometimes I find working away from your usual environment can bring about the best ideas because you can really concentrate on your work without distractions. I often think of ideas away from my desk and I will sketch them down on a notepad and come back to them later when I am developing the collection.

My desk starts off ordered and then becomes increasingly cluttered as the design process moves forward. I like to have a clean desk before I start sketching.

 How does your design process work?

I usually start with research and sketch ideas and combine the two to create a mood for the season. I pin up research images on my notice board along with things that I find interesting like textures, certain photographic images, vintage looks and architectural images. I refer to them during the design process to give me inspiration.

What inspires you when you design?

I am inspired by discrete couture, frosty French glamour, film noir and the hard candy glamour of 80s French fashion photography. The style references I take from these elements are subtle: the silk satin tip of a shoe evoking the lapel of a YSL Smoking, an hand sculpted Perspex heel nodding to Helmut Newton.

How do historic/vintage shoes inspire your designs?  

Historic design influences the way I design. I like to reinterpret what has been done in the past using new techniques and materials. I look at historic shoes to see how to reinterpret them with modern influences. Most shoes have been made using the same artisanal techniques for centuries. It is this element of craft that is wonderful.

Why did you pick it? What do you love about it?

I have picked a pair of early 1930s women’s blue suede lace tie shoes. They have an intricate cut out design on the vamp. I love the  ‘Peek-A-Boo’ design created by the intricate cut out design details. I appreciate the craftsmanship involved in making them, as it is a complex pattern. I usually like to use materials that create this type of intricate detail in my shoes. The mesh and nappa detailing of the Divine Breath shoe also creates a similar effect