Easter Eggs-hibits at Buxton Museum

Buxton Museum and Art Gallery

Museums commonly deal with old things and creatures that have long shuffled off the mortal coil. You would not immediately associate them with a holiday like Easter which celebrates new life. However, among the collections at Buxton Museum, there are a few peculiar eggs; traditional symbols at this time of year. We thought we would share some of them with you while we are closed for renovation.

Eggs made from rock, minerals and gemstones were popular in the Victorian and Edwardian eras. We can only speculate why. With no internet, the people of these eras had to resort to talking to each other so perhaps such novelties inspired cheerful conversation. Indeed, Buxton Museum still sells quite a lot of colourful marble eggs in its gift shop. They look pretty and feel pleasingly tactile in the palm of your hand.

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This egg has been crafted from the local rare mineral called…

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Dove Holes is an Incredible Place!

It’s good to get out into the landscape and get a sense of where exactly Buxton Museum’s artefacts have come from. Some of the staff braved the winter weather last Friday to visit local Stone Age monument The Bull Ring, where flint tools have been discovered. The plucky adventurers were accompanied by experimental archaeologist and expert flintknapper James Dilley.

Dove Holes is a village just over three miles away from Buxton. Despite being a quiet and unassuming place that most people just drive through to get to somewhere else, it has a rich heritage. Apart from the henge known as The Bull Ring, the local quarry has yielded remains of some remarkable prehistoric animals such as the mastodon and the scimitar-toothed cat. The remnants of these dentally-challenged creatures are an insight into how different the Peak District must have been thousands of years ago although the snow, wind and sub-zero temperatures made it easier to imagine an ice age!

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photo by Laura Waters

The Bull Ring is clearly sign-posted about halfway along the main road but its location seems at odds with the patchwork arrangement of the village. The circular earthwork has had a fight for survival over the centuries. Apparently, the stones from the henge were removed and used on the Peak Forest Tramway in the late 1700s. Developments in the 19th century caused further damage and until recently, the annual village bonfire was held here. In terms of history, The Bull Ring is as vital as the other famous local stone circle, Arbor Low, but it has not been quite so lucky. Arbor Low still sits majestic and mysterious, largely undisturbed and surrounded by the rugged landscape of the Peak District. Fortunately, both monuments are protected these days and are free for visitors to speculate on their exact purpose and meaning. It is interesting to note that both henges are accompanied by burial mounds. The barrows lend weight to the sense of ancient significance.

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Dove Holes 15,000 years BC

You can visit The Bull Ring for yourself. The closest part of Buxton is Fairfield where I have already explored a wealth of history, including the barrow known as Fairfield Low or Skeleton Wood or even Skelebob Wood so you could include this on the same tour but the land is private so seek permission from the adjacent farm first.

Buxton Museum and Art Gallery reopens on May 1st 2017 and the brand new Wonders of the Peak gallery will feature artefacts found in Dove Holes. Like us, you may come to think of the village as the home of The Bull Ring and the scimitar-toothed cat.

Mummified Moggy Added to Collection

The first object to be entered into the collection this year is a rather gruesome find, donated to the museum by resident Maxine Chuwen.

The dead cat was found during renovations down the road from the museum in Buxton’s town centre. Not remarkable, until you consider that the unfortunate feline had been sealed in a space above a ceiling possibly for over a century, halting its decomposition and leaving it a dried-out husk. Such macabre discoveries are not unknown but did curiosity kill the cat or was the creature placed there deliberately? There is an ancient superstition which involves sealing a cat into a house to bring good luck and ward off evil spirits. Although strange and cruel by modern day standards, such practices would have been common as recent as the 19th century.

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The unlucky puss dropped out of the ceiling onto builders renovating the former post office in The Quadrant and was saved from the skip by the building’s owner. Her first instinct was to give the cat a proper burial but Maxine decided to bring it to the museum. She was curious to know whether there might be a connection between the entombed cat and newspapers dating to the 1890s found in the same space. In which case, kitty apparently stalked the streets of a very different town.

The staff at Buxton Museum are no strangers to prehistoric animal remains but were startled to see a more recent and well-preserved domestic specimen. Collections Development Officer Joe Perry had to take action to preserve what was left:

We gently cleaned the cat. A white residue had begun to form on the skin since coming into contact with the open air – probably a build-up of salts. Once clean, we securing the body in a sealed, low humidity environment to keep it dry and stable. When it is displayed to the public it will need a new, environmentally secure display case – so it’s come to us at the perfect moment as we’ll be having some brand new cases installed this year.

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The Buxton Museum team were initially undecided whether to accept the cat corpse and display it. However, as custodians of a stuffed bear and a famous mermaid, they know that creepy characters are extremely popular with visitors. So they intend to exhibit the Buxton Cat.

The museum reopens after extensive refurbishment on May 1 2017 but the mummified moggy may not be on display until the end of the year. You can read regular updates on Buxton Museum and Art Gallery by visiting the website and blog

For more information contact Ros Westwood at Buxton Museum on 01629 533540

8 Things we Learnt from our Pop up Museum

Whilst Buxton Museum and Art Gallery is closed for refurbishment, the staff have taken the opportunity to do something unusual. Equipped with a rather swanky gazebo and an assortment of artefacts, we have braved the single-figure temperatures and taken our “pop-up museum” out into the landscape. You may have seen us around. Our aim is to tell people a bit about the history of the Peak District and the Collections in the Landscape project. We try to draw attention to the fact that this part of the world was inhabited by brachiopods, mastodons and Romans and how its story can be told through objects. The education worked both ways and we actually learnt a few things ourselves:

Plesiosaurs are reptiles, not dinosaurs

The Peak District was not a land mass at the time of the dinosaurs but there is a piece of fossilised Plesiosaur from Dorset in Buxton Museum’s collection. However, as one clever young man was quick to point out, although these creatures flourished during the Jurassic era, they are classified as reptilian. We knew that – honest!

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There were underground toilets on Buxton Market Place

Many people are interested in how the landscape has changed within their own lifetime. When we popped-up at the Buxton market, we exhibited a few old photographs and residents were reminded of the subterranean water closet that can be seen in this 1929 photograph by J.R. Board. More conveniences were situated at the bottom of The Slopes. Apparently, they were both filled in and tarmacked over in the 1970s.

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Collections Assistant Laura Waters made a couple of observations whilst running the pop-up museum:

Keep it real

I noticed pretty quickly that people weren’t interested in replicas – so when I went with Gordon to Dovedale in half term and I had the replica coins, as soon as people realised they weren’t real they weren’t bothered about them at all: they only wanted to see and handle real stuff.

Look with your fingers

Also people really love just being able to touch things – so parents will come up telling their kids ‘do not touch anything’ or adults will come up really sheepishly assuming you can only look at things and then be amazed to discover that you can handle it all. It’s great to see how happy it makes people being able to actually get hands on with historic objects which isn’t something you get to do very often.

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Events Coordinator Gordon MacLellan, aka Creeping Toad also had some revelations:

Any excuse to talk but we need to listen

Objects are good starting points, but people want to talk as much as listen to us, so we need to be ready to listen to their stories of things found, treasures lost and wonders to be discovered

Connections to immediate environment

Our handling collection largely comes from the Peak District and it helps a lot to have a good sense of just where objects have come from and to be able to talk about those sites. But where objects have come from this immediate location that generates even more reaction; or again being able to talk about artefacts found here is really good for getting people talking and looking beyond the walls of our pop-up museum; being specific helps.

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Have something to do: Mix standing and chatting with an activity

We have drawn huge pictures on long rolls of paper, made boxes to keep personal treasures in, given out clipboards and invited people to go drawings; keep everything active -not everyone will participate but the opportunity is valued

Enjoy the opportunity

Relax, let go of worries about other work not being done and just enjoy meeting people and sharing these fascinating artefacts….

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Keep an eye on our website for more events. If you spot our pop-up museum when you’re out and about, come and say hello and tell us something we don’t know!

7 Buildings in Buxton That No Longer Exist

Buxton Museum and Art Gallery

It is natural for people to affectionately remember places that were once part of their daily lives. A town the size and age of Buxton has seen many changes. Businesses have changed hands countless times and shop fronts have transformed with the fashions of the age. These seven buildings are just a selection of notable structures that have vanished from the landscape altogether.

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Cavendish Girl’s School, Corbar Road

For nearly 300 years, Buxton had segregated comprehensive schools. The boys went to Buxton College on College Road, now the co-educational Community School. No longer required, the girl’s school was flattened in the 1990s and swiftly replaced by a housing estate. I did the first year of my English A Level here and I recall that having to cross the playground as a shy teenager through a swarm of young ladies was a minor test of courage. There was a well-established belief…

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A Fascination with the Victorians

Buxton Museum and Art Gallery

Volunteer archivist Ian Gregory often finds meaning in a an object and sparks a discussion which, at the end of the day, is what museums are all about! Over to you, Ian:

Today at Buxton Museum, I’m cataloguing photographs of objects in the collection. I have come to an image of a thermometer made from Ashford Black Marble with inlaid decoration and a pointed top.

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This object reminds me that there is currently much interest in the nineteenth century; it is the subject of television shows like Victoria, Ripper Street, Victorian Railways and The Victorian Show. The visual arts and furniture of that age are not so popular but stories and documentaries about it are all over the schedules.

Why a surge of interest in this particular epoch? It’s easy enough to talk of nostalgia but can we go deeper?

Today, we are often being told, rightly or wrongly, that…

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While the Museum is Closed …

Buxton Museum and Art Gallery

It’s been two weeks since Buxton Museum and Art Gallery closed for refurbishment and there have already been dramatic changes to the building. The staff room has been emptied to make way for a lift and the builders have ripped out the old toilets. This means the museum staff are temporarily having lunch in an empty art gallery and visiting a portable lavatory. We are happy to endure these provisional measures to improve the facilities for you, dear public.

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Closure has given us the opportunity to take stock of the museum shop and pack everything away. This entails counting hundreds of imitation Roman coins, gemstones and Woolly Mammoths. The retail is actually part of the redevelopment. Arts Council England are kindly funding Buxton Museum to help improve both the shop and the merchandise. Some of the items on sale when we re-open next Spring are based on the collections and…

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