As you enter, you are standing in the Reception area where our Museum Shop is housed. Prominently on display is our unique medieval wall-painting which was discovered in Tudor Rose Cottage in Long Street. Created c. 1480, it probably features Richard Beauchamp, Bishop of Salisbury 1450-81 with a devil in a boot, known to be the attribute of a popular cult figure named John Schorne, a pious man who was said to have created a healing spring for his parishioners in North Marston, Bucks, as well as banishing demons.
The Bishop was responsible for having his bones translated and blessed, after which Schorne's relics were the focus of one of the most popular pilgrimages during the 15th and 16th centuries and a great source of revenue. Schorne was the subject of many rood-screens and wall paintings throughout the South of England and the "devil-in-the-boot" may well have been the origin of the jack-in-the-box toy!
Also on the Ground Floor:
Here you will see our fossil collection including ammonites, pholadomya and micraster and echinocorys urchins from the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods when this part of Dorset was a shallow warm sea.
The prehistoric case includes a Palaeolithic polished hand axe, various Neolithic flint tools and fragments of Bronze Age cooking vessels as well as an astonishing find by responsible metal-detectorists
at Bradford Abbas; a Bronze Age palstave axe-head (i.e. cast in a two-piece mould), circa 1500-1300 BCE. Also on display are items from Tinney’s Lane in Sherborne, representing an important
Late Bronze Age pottery workshop.
In this room you will also find Roman and Medieval cases, underneath the former is a new and beautiful set of display drawers in which we hope to show off even more fossils and archaeology. The 17th century case contains artefacts from the Civil War and is amplified by a model of the Old Castle, constructed by James Gibb.
We are also displaying finds from Nether Compton, kindly gifted to us by community archaeology group The Dorset Diggers, including two coins from the famous Hoard, faunal remains and black burnished ware. Spot the piece of plaster with a thumbprint on it!
Moving through into the Hallway you will observe on the left spoons crafted by the Ardon family, notable local silversmiths during the 17th century, and
a Newark Shilling dated 1646 - one of the spectacular emergency coins struck in towns under siege during the Civil war to supply Royalist areas, made from odd shaped pieces of silver plate.
Note the result of our “visible storage” project where new glass doors reveal our previously hidden but fascinating small library. This was funded by generous grants from the Dorset Museums Association and local firm Valmiera Glass.
The Link is a corridor from the original part of the Museum into its extension (formerly a shoe shop) and includes artefacts associated with manufacturing and agricultural practices as well as old inn signs and pole-heads paraded by the Sherborne Friendly Society.
Also displayed is a new exhibition featuring the town’s former willow-working industry.
The Gardner Room holds temporary exhibitions, some of which are assembled by local schools. For the 2017 season we are featuring an exhibition on wartime nursing in Sherborne and its pioneering role.
A popular feature of this gallery is a podium and touch-screen linked to a computerised database, where you can access and order many themed images from our extensive photographic archives.
We have also created a large child-friendly area with exciting sensory toys and a nursery-rhyme box.
On permanent display are items pertaining to the Abbey and Almshouse, and a particular highlight is the popular touch-screen electronic version of the Sherborne Missal: "Turning the Pages". The Missal contains the text and music needed to perform the Christian Mass throughout the year with variants for special points in the liturgy and for saint's feast-days. Created in the early 15th century for the town's Benedictine Abbey, it is one of the finest examples of medieval book-painting and a major masterpiece of English art in the International Gothic style. It is especially famous for its marginal series of naturalistic birds, many of which are native to the local area and given their dialect names. Our touch-screen emphasises its lavish decoration and colour and will provide close-ups as well as an audio facility with music, from both humans and birds! DON'T MISS THE MISSAL.
For those unable to take the stairs, there is a DVD screen in the Gardner room with a programme which allows a viewing of the first-floor gallery. If you do make the ascent note the changing displays of paintings from our Art Collection and a bust of Gerald Pitman, founder member of the Museum, on the way up.
Opened in 2016, this room celebrates the area’s rich natural heritage. It is named after Ruth Gervis, a founder member who was a Trustee and volunteer for over 20 years. She was also a popular and accomplished children’s book illustrator. She created the three collages of woodland, downland and riverbank from observations made by local schoolchildren.
There is a major permanent display featuring the life and work of pioneering botanical artist Diana Ruth Fyson, née Wilson, together with an archive which the serious student can study by appointment. Born at The Green in Sherborne in 1886 and a pupil of St. Anthony's and Sherborne Girls', Diana started painting a series of local flora when she was only 16; after her marriage, she moved to Madras and helped to create a benchmark text on the botany of the Southern Indian Hill-stations, being one of the first to promote conservation methods and the study of plants in their ecological context. We are fortunate enough to possess almost 200 of her scientifically detailed early watercolours of the flora of West Dorset which also provide a historical record of plants that, since the turn of the 20th century, have become rare or extinct.
The room also features a cabinet containing an historic birds’ egg collection, a shell collection and other curious specimens. Thanks to a community grant from the Castles Rotary Club there will be a digital microscope and a hundred biological slides with which to view the world in extreme close up.
Here you will find displays on Sherborne’s silk and gloving industries as well as the José Wilson Case which features items from our costume collection. For 2017 we are displaying three costumes that have recently been brought to light from the museum’s extensive collection, including a peacock-blue late Victorian wedding gown. Later in the year, we hope to show some of the clothes worn by wartime volunteers. There is also a quirky display of instruments used in measuring. The work of Benjamin Jesty, a local farmer and early pioneer of the smallpox vaccine, will also be honoured thanks to the generosity of his descendants.
In the Marsden Room is a rocking horse and fine examples of doll's houses in what has become known as Clara's Corner, or children's area:
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