Turning the clock back at Berwick

Recently I got a chance to wind up an historic clock. At the Barracks in Berwick-upon-Tweed is Berwick Museum and Art Gallery, a Museum dating back to the 1880s but located within the Clock Block of the barracks since the mid-1980s. The clock needs to be wound and corrected regularly, using its original keys. As I am quite short this has proved a little bit tricky to reach when turning the handle, but it’s great to feel part of keeping the clock running.

I’ll be hopefully getting the chance to explore more in the Museum over the next few months, and in its fascinating and diverse collections.


The reverse of the clock of the Clock Block, Berwick Museum and Art Gallery

A long ambition

Recently I got to realise a long held ambition – for many years I have seen the mining banners display at Woodhorn Museum being rotated, but never got the chance to be involved in the process. Woodhorn Museum has 35 banners, mostly of miner’s unions and made of painted silk. They are rotated to prevent excessive light and dust damage, with only 5 on display at any one time. The rest remain rolled up in a cool dark storage room, hibernating underneath Tyvek.


This is a long and difficult process as the banners are heavy, unwieldy and fragile. After being brought from the strongroom on their individual rolls, they are unrolled on flat tables. They are then thoroughly checked over and threaded onto the pole, which is then screwed to a support that will winch it into the position it is due to hang in for the next few months.


However before this can be done the previous banner must be lowered down, laid out, examined and cleaned on the tables, before the tricky procedure of covering in tissue and rolling can begin. The roll is then wrapped in more tissue before being covered in a protective layer of foam, then Tyvek.



Here are some images of the process, and the one below is a focus on part of my favourite, the Whittle banner, which has at some time, perhaps during the mid-1980s had some of the original cartouches replaced with newer paintings, one of the colliery as it stood then, and the other of William Jobling’s gibbet at Jarrow Slake. This has always intrigued me in its message, ‘let the lessons of the past serve the future’. Jobling was executed for his alleged murder of a magistrate during the 1832 strike, though it was argued he was innocent. Perhaps a warning to the 1984-5 strikers? Or a reminder of past injustices against striking miners?


Happy Northumberland Day!

Today is Northumberland Day, so I thought I would share some of my favourite little-known Northumbrians I have come across in my nerdy research over the years. They are favourites for their interesting stories, or simply having more interesting or unusual names. I haven’t included sources, but if you would like to know more drop me a comment. Hope you enjoy, and happy Northumberland Day.


  • William Puffin, who lived in Thirston.
  • Bartram Dawson, born in Warenton near Bamburgh, who lived in York in 1506, had to prove his accent was Northumbrian, not Scottish, to prevent his trade being damaged in a time of difficulty between the countries.
  • Phelyx, daughter of John Roddam of Roddam.
  • Robert Jolef of Russedene who was arrested Continue reading

Green Team

A few months ago I went with some colleagues to a Happy Museum conference, where we discussed how museums can become more sustainable and focused on wellbeing. I took lots of good ideas away with me to use for our Green Team.

The Green Team began back in 2014 and I have been in the chair for the last two years. Any team member who wants to can come along once a month on a Thursday morning before the site opens. We spend twenty minutes to half an hour looking at all the environmentally friendly changes made and challenges met in the last month. From light bulbs to tulip bulbs, food banks to food waste, Continue reading

Atten…shun! In the Rothbury Trenches


Photo from Rothbury Trenches project Facebook page

Over the summer I have been helping with a great new project, the Rothbury  Trenches, with our Education department. The project is raising awareness of the practice trenches constructed for the 18th Battalion of the Northumberland Fusiliers on the moors above Rothbury. The practice was essential for a pioneer battalion who would be digging trenches, laying barbed wire and other practical Continue reading

Happy Museum!

Earlier this week I travelled with a few colleagues from my museum trust to Canterbury for a meeting with the team from the Happy Museum, and the other museums involved. The Happy Museum Project aims to create a more sustainable future for museums by promoting wellbeing and green issues. From their website:

“It provides a leadership framework for museums to develop a holistic approach to  wellbeing and sustainability.  The project re-imagines the museum’s purpose as steward of people, place and planet, supporting institutional and community wellbeing and resilience in the face of global challenges.”


Continue reading

Pondering a potential holloway

On a walk at Chatton recently I stumbled on this lovely lane:


Aside from being quite picturesque, it got me thinking. I wondered if this might be an old holloway. A holloway or hollow way is defined by Hoskins as consisting of banks thrown up on either side of a ditch to mark a boundary. It was steeper sided than it looks here, and teh hedges clearly stand on a slight rise on either side. It could simply be that the bank has been thrown higher, but looking at the maps on Northumberland communities it has certainly been a gap between two fields since the 1840s. Though Keys to the Past only gives one Hollow way in the area it covers, in Edmundbyers, it would be interesting to see if there are any others that could possibly be hollow ways in Northumberland.

Putting Stannington to bed

Over the last year and a bit I’ve been busy at the Northumberland Archives on the Stannington Sanatorium project, a Wellcome Trust funded project to preserve and digitise  4095 of the patient files from the former Stannington Sanatorium and Children’s Hospital. I’ve been busy re-packaging, conserving and blogging away on various subject we have uncovered,looking at the children’s lives, the files themselves, and the staff. I’ve really enjoyed researching the subjects, from founders to farm workers, South Africa to Sports day, and records to radio four. Some of my favourites looked at the photographs taken by nurses in the 1920s. If you would like to read any you can find them here.

I will still be blogging for the Manorial Documents Register project, and it might also mean I get more time/words left in me to blog more here too!

Duddo stones and other monuments

I finally ticked another Northumbrian must-see off my list today, and visited Duddo stone circle. Dating from the Bronze age, five of the original seven stones remain, and the reason for the location of the circle becomes apparent once you reach it.


It has such good visibility from all sides (or would have, there are modern plantations), and make a really prominent mark on the landscape.


You can really see the deep marks in the soft stone where rain has worn channels over the Continue reading