Shoe of the Month – Tuscan Craftsmanship

Tuscan Craftsmanship

A very elegant pair of women’s ankle strap sandals with an unusual crossed double strap at the front. The classic pale green leather, oval toes and ankle strap are more reminiscent of the 1920s and 1930s than the 1990s, when they were made.

Bruno Manetti is a family company based in Tuscany and embody the Italian design aesthetic which embraces natural materials and traditional workmanship.

Ankle Strap Sandals

Ankle Strap Sandals

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First World War Tank in Abington Park

First World War Tank in Abington Park

Between 1920 and 1935 Abington Park was home to a First World War tank. It was gifted to Northampton in 1919 in recognition of the money raised by the town for the war savings campaign. Also situated in the park at this time were 2 Boer war field guns, 3 First World War German Field Guns and a ships cannon.

Tanks were offered to 265 towns who had held ‘Tank Weeks’ to raise money for the war savings campaign.

The tank weighed 30 tons and was transported to Northampton’s Castle Station by rail on the 24th October 1919. The plan was to then drive the tank to Abington Park where there would be a naming ceremony a week later. However, the tank would not start and due to its great weight there was no other way to get it to the park.

The tank eventually arrived on 16th April 1920. A brass plaque was fixed that read:

‘Presented by the National War Savings Committee to the citizens of Northampton in recognition of the readiness with which they loaned their money to the country in the financial campaign carried out by the local War Savings Committee during the Great War 1914-18’

Abington Park was used numerous times between 1914 and 1918 for fundraising events to support prisoners of war, refugees and soldiers serving overseas. Pictured here an Abington Park Fete programme (1918).

Abington Park Fete Programme

Abington Park Fete Programme

The tank was named Steelback in honour of the Northamptonshire Regiment. It was situated next to the mound near the bandstand and was used mainly as a climbing frame by the local children. The mound is still often referred to as ‘Tanky Hill’.

The tank was a Mark IV ‘male’ tank – the most common First World War tank with over 1000 made. The ‘male’ tanks had a 6 pounder gun where ‘female’ tanks had machine guns. They were very unreliable and many broke down before they reached the front, much like the Abington tank breaking down at the station. These tanks had an 8 man crew. They require four people to drive and four people to operate the weaponry. It would have been very hot and cramped inside with a high risk of carbon monoxide poisoning as exhaust fumes filled the tank.

Mark IV tanks had a top speed of 4mph and a range of 15-20 miles on flat ground but a much shorter distance cross-country.

The Abington Park tank had the number 2324 which makes it one of the 100 male Mark IVs built by William Foster & Co at the Wellington Foundry in Lincoln.

1925 Map of Abington Park showing the Armoured Tank (National Library of Scotland)

1925 Map with Tank

1925 Map with Tank

Local Quakers opposed the tank and guns being kept in the park. They submitted a petition to the council to have them removed and the council voted in agreement. Councillor Barratt argued that the presence of the guns and the tank created a ‘war mind’ and were ‘a danger to the moral welfare of our young people and society generally’ (Northampton Mercury, Friday 13 April 1934)

Once it had been decided that the tank and guns would be removed from the park there was great debate over how they should be moved, especially considering the weight of the tank. One suggestion was that the tank should be buried in the park. This gave rise to the myth that the tank is buried under ‘Tanky Hill’. In fact the tank was purchased by a Sheffield-based company for scrap and in February 1935 the tank and the guns were cut up using oxyacetylene cutting torches and removed from the park.

Please visit the Conflict & Community digital archive containing over 300 objects, documents and oral history clips relating to the First World War: www.flickr.com/people/conflict_and_community

 

Grenades

Grenades

During the First World War trench warfare encouraged the use of mortars, grenades and clubs and knives for close combat. With heavy artillery, rifles and machine guns being used in field operations, soldiers sought refuge from the bullets in the trenches. To infiltrate enemy lines high explosive shells, hand grenades and gas were used to disorientate soldiers and disrupt defences.

Here are two examples of grenades from the collections at Northampton Museums & Art Gallery:

Hand Grenade:

British Hand Grenade

British Hand Grenade

No. 27 British hand grenade (175mm)

Introduced in 1916, this grenade contained white phosphorus and had a brass housing fitted with copper detonator with 7-second delay. Lightweight, sheet metal cylinder with screw threaded tube fitted to one end and a ring fitted with a split pin.

Grenades containing white phosphorus were first introduced by the British army in 1916 and were used throughout future conflicts including the Second World War (1939–1945). The grenades produced a dense white smoke ideal to create a smokescreen to conceal military operations.

Hales Rifle Grenade:  

Hales Rifle Grenade

Hales Rifle Grenade

The Hales rifle grenade, No. 20, Mk 2.

The Hales rifle grenade is the name for several rifle grenades used by British forces during the First World War. Rifle grenades were produced in 1914 and based on a design by Frederick Marten Hale.

The grenade was attached to a rod, which was inserted into the barrel of a rifle that was pre-loaded with a blank cartridge. The soldier aimed the rifle at a high angle, removed the safety pin and fired the weapon. The fuse would ignite once fired at high speed and the grenade would explode upon impact with the ground or a solid object.

In 2018, objects like these and many more will be made available online for you to explore through a First World War digital archive. For more information on the Conflict & Community Project please click here.

Further reading:

British Library: Weapons of World War One

Embroidered Silk Postcards

Embroidered Silk Postcards

Embroidered silk postcards were popular items for British soldiers to send home during the First World War. These precious and expensive gifts represented skilled local craftsmanship and contained intricate details and were often sent home for a special occasion such as a birthday or Christmas. Designs varied considerably but usually the postcards featured a patriotic or personal theme and contained bright colours.

Embroidered Silk Postcards

Embroidered Silk Postcards

Embroidered silk postcards, 1914-1915

Northampton Museum holds a framed example of these postcards. The writing in the frame reads ‘Embroidered silk postcards made in Paris during the 1914-18 war. Presented by Mrs D.H. Simmonds in memory of her husband’. There are three cards in this frame: two silk and one smaller paper card. The first silk postcard includes an embroidered badge of the Northamptonshire Imperial Yeomanry and the second silk card has a Christmas theme with holly and three flags representing the allied powers: Russia, Italy and Great Britain. The smaller paper card reads ‘To bring you Luck’.

Many of these silk postcards were produced by civilians in France and Belgium and the popularity with British soldiers supported the craft industry and the local economy in some of the smaller towns and villages.

Many of the silk designs would have been standardised and drafted by a professional. The wording, like ‘Christmas’, would have been swapped according to the occasion and designed to fit within the pre-made card frames to allow them to be posted. The message would then have been written on the back of the card.

The design would have been transferred to silk organdie and then stitched with silk floss. The technique is called ‘silk shading’ and predominately uses satin stitch and long and short stitch. These items would have been stitched by a competent embroiderer, most likely using a hoop and then sold to soldiers to send home.

In 2018, objects like these and many more will be made available online for you to explore through a First World War digital archive. For more information on the Conflict & Community Project please click here.

Further information:

Imperial War Museum: Embroidered Silk Postcards

Constance Howard ‘Northamptonshire Churches and Buildings’

Constance Howard ‘Northamptonshire Churches and Buildings’

Earlier this month some of the Collections team un-rolled one of the famous Constance Howard hangings she designed and made for the museum in 1973. We had to take over a conference room in the Guildhall for an afternoon as it was the only space big enough for the 330cm by 505cm textile.

Constance Howard was part of the vanguard of the modern embroidery renaissance and in her role as Head of Textile and Fashion at Goldsmiths she influenced generations of embroiderers and textile artists. With her iconic green hair Howard pioneered the re-interpretation of traditional embroidery techniques like Gold work and Crewel work using modern materials, including household items like tin foil and milk bottle tops. She was born in Northampton and trained as an illustrator and engraver before setting up the Embroidery depart at Goldsmiths in 1948.

 

 

 

 

 

The hanging depicts buildings around Northamptonshire and celebrates the varied architecture of the county and its role in historical events. The Iron Age Desborough Mirror, now held by the British Museum, has a prominent place as does the Althorp House.

 

This is one of a pair of wall hangings that were commissioned by the Friends of the Northampton Museum, the companion hanging celebrates the Fashion and Footwear history of the town. We are hoping to put both of the hangings on display when the expanded museum re-opens so their condition needs to be assessed to ensure that they won’t be damaged by being on display.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To do this we first unrolled the wall hanging so that we could look at it in detailed looking for any areas of damage where the 45 year old textile that would need to be stabilised by a conservator. The very liner design harks back to her training as an engraver. Although she designed the hanging to be stitched in sections, by herself and a team of embroiderers, the pieces merge together effortlessly.

 

 

 

 

 

It was fascinating to get up close to Howard’s embroidery to see how delicate and detailed her stitches are even on an object designed to be viewed from afar. She used lots of different materials and threads to create a layered effect evoking the textures of the buildings through applique and a variety of different stitches. Though, unfortunately none of her famous milk bottle tops.

 

 

 

 

 

After completing our condition report for both the front and back we re-rolled the hanging so that it could be returned to the museum store until we are ready to prepare it to go on display.

 

 

For more information about Constance Howard http://www.gold.ac.uk/textile-collection/constance/

 

Shoe of the Month – Clown Jam Shoes

Clown Jam

This pair of customised bright pink glitter shoes were worn by Clown Jam. Clown Jam was one of Northampton’s most popular faces.

Clown Jam was a member of Clowns International for 40 years. He worked with many famous circuses including Zippo Circus and Billy Smart’s Circus. He regularly undertook charity work, entertaining children here and abroad. He appeared at the Lord Mayor’s show every year and was a member of the royal variety club of Great Britain.

Clown Jam Shoes

Clown Jam Shoes

 

We also have Clown Jam’s outfit in the collection too.

Shoe of the Month – Red or Dead

Red or Dead

In 1982 Wayne Hemingway and his wife rented a stall on Camden Market selling second-hand clothes and footwear. Their selling was a success and within a year they had expanded to 16 stalls to be followed by a string of shops. At first they sold 1950s and 60s canvas shoes and Dr Martens.

In 1986 Red or Dead launched their first original footwear range. This included the ‘Watch Shoe’ which was made popular by the boy band Bros. In 1989 they produced their ‘Space Baby’ range.

Red or Dead Space Baby Shoe

Red or Dead Space Baby Shoe

Red or Dead is a reference to Wayne Hemmingway’s ancestry. He is the son of Billy Two Rivers, a Mohawk Indian chief who became heavy weight champion of the world in the 1950s.