Friday, 28 June 2013

Collections Through Cake!

We all love cake, right? As curators, educators, organisers and museums workers we most certainly love objects. Now, if only there was an oppurtunity for the two passions to meet?

Earlier this month Culture Themes designated June 16th Museum Cake Day. That's right. Cakes inspired by objects. Not to be outdone by other institutions, here at Leeds Museums and Galleries, we are going to follow the model and Fridays will become Collections Through Cake!* We will tweet, then we will eat!

What inspiration will our intrepid curators take? Leeds has magnificent collections. Will there be gingerbread Roman sandals from Dalton Parlours? Could there be cupcake fungi from our Natural Science collection? Could we indeed copy the baked goods already in our collections?

Will it be (out of season) Christmas Cake?

Or a beautiful, festive, Greek wedding bread?


First up is Lucy Moore, Archaeology Curator. Lucy was inspired by our wonderful West Yorkshire Hoard, which is currently on display in the City Museum.

And here is the real thing:

Indistinguishable I think you'll find!

We're already having lots of fun with Colelctions through Cake, and it brought smiles to all our faces on this drizzly Friday!
Follow @LeedsMuseums and look out for our posts about our wonderful objects and the confections they will inspire!

*Museum Cake Day has been a Twitter phenomenon and you can catch up on hastag #MusCake

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

A New Display of Frank Savery's collection of
Chinese ceramics at Leeds City Museum in the
Collector's Cabinet gallery

by Angel Choi On Ki

Are you a fan of ancient Chinese ceramics? Recently a Chinese intern at Leeds Museums and Galleries, Rane Pike, made a selection from the generous bequest of more than 270 rare Chinese ceramics by Frank Savery, for a display in the Collector's Cabinet gallery at Leeds City Museum. Now her display is on show, allowing visitors to Leeds city centre to see 42 pieces from this collection, which is also on show at Lotherton Hall, near Aberford, to the northeast of Leeds. The Savery bequest came to Leeds in 1966, after many years of collaboration between the collector and the city's Art Gallery service. Born in Huddersfield, Savery gradually built up his collection whilst working for the Foreign Office. He was the Consul General in Warsaw for many years until the outbreak of World War II in 1939, and then served in the exiled Polish embassy in London. He mainly acquired his pieces by purchase from the London antique dealers, Bluett and Sons. Unusually for the time, Savery had a deep interest in early Chinese ceramics, rather than the better known blue and white porcelains, or later multi-colored enamels.

Located next to a large introductory text panel with a map of the main kiln sites in China, the ceramics are neatly arranged in a four-shelved glass cupboard. The text panel discusses the four topics chosen for display, from celadons on the top shelf, sancai or three colour glazes on the next, then chazhan (tea bowls), and finally a range of different techiques on the bottom shelf.  This selection came out of an in depth review of the collection as a whole, picking up on previous display strengths and the personal interest of the intern guiding the preparations. It should appeal to both the general visitors and those already converted to an appreciation of  early Chinese ceramics.

The display is very carefully arranged and uses some of the original Chinese silk covered gift boxes to vary and increase the height of presentation on each shelf (as here with two of the tea bowls). This was an issue as many of the ceramics are quite small and might otherwise not attract much attention. The intern and curator had to plan carefully which shelf to use for which selection, and the tea bowls with their delicate internal patterning are most easily visible on the third shelf. It is a little harder to appreciate the range of watery greens of the celadons on the top shelf. 
Among the different ceramics shown, there is a sancai vase which captured my attention immediately. The vase is brilliant, with three lively colors combining evenly - brown, green and yellow. Also the shape is beautiful – a flat mouth, a narrow neck, a round body mimicking a melon, followed by a base which expands outwards. Personally I love sancai (its other name is Tang sancai as it was so popular in the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD). It demonstrates the vibrant history of China, as the ceramic technique of applying and mixing these glazes was so amazingly advanced at the time. I also think its origin is intriguing, as the sancai ceramics were mainly, if not all, found in tombs, where they were placed to accompany the deceased into the afterlife. Related to death, the vase shows another side of life and leads me to think about the many issues of life and death. 

In the future the display could maybe be improved by introducing a few angled mirrors to enable more details of particular ceramics to be visible to the visitor, by reflecting the image downwards. Perhaps some of the very lovely details on the tea bowls could be emphasised by photographic enlargements placed nearby. And maybe it would be good to have a glimpse of the other Savery pieces on show at Lotherton Hall by having a digital slide show on a small screen inside the case. Many visitors might like to know a bit more about the popular tea culture in China, both in the Song dynasty and now, and this could be presented in the format of a Find Out More A4 information sheet, as elsewhere in the City Museum.  To conclude, I enjoyed the exhibition very much, and it gives a good impression of this wide ranging Chinese ceramics collection. Some pices I have never even seen in my home country as well. It is definitely worth a visit!

Friday, 14 June 2013

Benjamin Marshall, Water Caster - a medical fraudster?

This blog entry is written by local history research volunteer Becki Robertson, who has been helping to research deeper into the Leeds social history collections.

Benjamin Marshall was allegedly a late 19th/early 20th century healer, using a technique described as “water casting.” I was looking into an advert of his, which advertised his business. On the reverse of this advertisement were a number of testimonials from people who claimed that they had been completely healed by Mr Marshall’s technique. Many of these people had been suffering from cancer, and yet had been cured in full by this “water casting,” where the doctors had failed (This is a common theme throughout the testimonials). I was researching into who these people were, attempting to discover if they had ever really existed.

The writers of the letters had very generously provided their address, and in many cases, the date of the letter. With this information, I decided to visit Leeds library and use the genealogy websites as a starting point. (

The first person I began looking for was a Robert Flowitt, who had been cured of a tumour on his forehead, and, at the time of his testimonial (June 21st, 1890) was living at 7, Springfield Avenue in Burmantofts. Ancestry did not yield any matching results at first. On the 1891 census there was only one Robert Flowitt listed, and he was nine years old at the time. However, in the 1890 Directory of Leeds and District (Slaters), there was a Robert Flowitt living at 147 Hunslet Road, which sadly is a different address to the one noted in the testimonial (written in the same year). I had the same problem with R.S. Terrington, who gave his address as 86 Harold Grove, in a letter dated 1891. The 1891 directory listed a Robert S. Terrington. It seemed that this must be the same man, as the intials matched and there was no other R. Terrington listed. However, again the addresses did not match. The Robert Terrington in the directory was living at 116 Westfield Road. This seems to imply that Mr Marshall had used names of real people, but had created false addresses for them.

Working my way through the list, I quickly discovered that there were a number of people who I simply could not trace. Mrs Gaunt and Richard Pallister had both provided dated letters with addresses, but there seemed to be no one of these names listed as living in Leeds at the time the letters were written. Similarly, I failed to find matches for William Yates, Mrs Weatherhill, Mrs Pickthall, or Mrs Pickard. I began to think that I was not going to find any of the people that Mr Marshall had referenced on his advertisement.

However, the next testimonial I started looking into was written by Saint Luke Lake, then at 45 Rosebank Grove. He had a young daughter who was also suffering from a tumour on her forehead. Mr Lake had rejected the solution offered by the doctors, and instead took her to Mr Marshall, who cured her perfectly. Initially this was quite difficult to research as I did not have the name of Saint Luke Lake’s daughter, and the letter was undated. However Saint Luke Lake is not a common name. I picked up the 1890 Directory of Leeds more or less at random, and immediately came across Saint Luke Lake, who was a tanner, living at 45 Rosebank Grove. I therefore knew that the letter writer, at least, was a real person. The next step was to find any record of his daughter. Returning to Ancestry, I discovered that Saint Luke Lake had married and was listed in the 1881 as 32 years old, but there was no record of a child at this time. However, in 1891,he had a little girl called Anne Lake, who was a year old. I therefore knew that not only was the letter writer real, but that he did have a child (who was still alive and well in 1901). It would be interesting to see if any medical records from this time can be accessed, as Anne was apparently taken to the LGI at some point. However, it does not seem likely that detailed individual records have survived.

Another letter was written by H.Wardman in 1906, who had been cured of a rupture. I discovered a Henry Wardman in the 1906 Directory (Robinson), living at 1 Leighton Street (which was the correct address) and his occupation was that of a furniture mover. This was quite interesting, as it does seem to be a career which could easily result in a rupture. Mr Henry Wardman was still alive and well in 1911. (1911 census).

Then I came to Mrs Driver, suffering from a white leg. This was another tricky one as I did not have a first name. However, she had kindly provided her address and a date (8 Ashford Street, 1884). Using this, I discovered a John Driver living at 8 Ashford street, which was then a Post Office. (Leeds Directory 1882-3). So I had a Mr Driver. I then checked this new information against the censuses. In 1881 John Driver was listed as living at 8 Ashford Street, along with his spouse, Elizabeth Driver. So I had another real person. Whether or not any of the people listed above had really provided the alleged testimonials cannot be proved one way or the other, but it is of interest that at least some of the people had existed, and the details on the advertisement were correct.

In regards to Benjamin Marshall himself, I noted that on his advertisement, he was based at 32 Marsh Street, having relocated from 41 York Street. I checked the Leeds directories for him, and discovered he was listed at York Street in 1888, and was still there in 1907. (the date of the last testimonial was in 1906). However, in 1908 and 1909 there was no record of him at either York Street nor Marsh Street. It seems likely therefore that the advertisement was an attempt to drum up business after his relocation, an attempt which, sadly, seems to have failed.

If any reader of this blog has any clearer idea of what being a "Water Caster" may have involved, we would love to know.  It may have been related to homeopathy orhave involved some other mystical medical practice.  It has echoes of religious practices relating to baptism and the power of Holy water.  Any ideas welcome.

(Research and blog entry courtesy of Becki Robertson, volunteer)

Monday, 3 June 2013

The Coronation - how Leeds marked it 60 years ago

John Waddington Ltd. of Leeds were never a firm to miss an opportunity to market a new game.  This is the card game they produced to celebrate The Coronation on 2nd June 1953.

Titled "Crown the Queen", the game was invented by Elaine Burton, Member of Parliament, who was then the Labour MP for the constituency of Coventry South (which she held from 1950-1959).

Below are a few other items from the Leeds museum collections which show how the city celebrated the occasion.

The official Leeds programme

printer's proof for the Leeds Industrial Co-operative Society Ltd. Record, Coronation Number 1953

pencil design for an advertisement for  Youngmans restaurant,
by Dickinson Display Ltd.

Leeds Amateur Operatic Society, "Merrie  England" by Edward German, as part of the City of  Leeds Coronation Operatic Festival, Temple Newsam  Park, May 30th- June 10th 1953

Coronation souvenir playing cards,
printed  by Alf Cooke Ltd., Leeds

Ballot for free coronation seats at Montague Burton Ltd.,
announced by the Lord Mayor of Leeds, Donald George Cowling

Coronation bunting in a street in Harehills, Leeds. 
Courtesy of Yorkshire Post Newspapers Ltd.

Quarry Hill Mount, Leeds.
Courtesy of Yorkshire Post Newspapers Ltd.