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Wednesday, 23 January 2013
Colchester Museum: Connections (3)
Eric Rudsdale wrote a series of articles for the Essex Review (Vol LVI Nos 221-224, 1947) commemorating the centenary of the Colchester Museum (1846-1946). Concluded …
In 1926 a new agreement was reached between the Corporation and the Society. “For some time it had been felt that the system of keeping distinct the separate collections … was out of date and inconvenient, and after a joint meeting of the Museum Committee and the Council of the Society it was agreed … to amalgamate the two under the title of the Colchester and Essex Museum (EAS Vol xviii, 137). Only the Society’s Library and manuscripts were excluded from the amalgamation.”
In 1929, Holly Trees House, adjacent to the Castle, the home of the late Mr Charles Gray, which had been given to the Corporation in 1920 by Viscount Cowdray, was opened for the purpose of a “Museum of Later Antiquities, and as offices and Library of the Society”. (The Essex Society for Archaeology and History moved the Library to the University of Essex in 2000, but still has an office on site.) “There were store-rooms and a workshop in the basement.”
The Museum also took an interest in field-work: “in the Holly Trees Field from 1927-29, and at Sheepen Farm from 1931-39”. Major works were necessary to the Castle in the mid-1930s: the foundations needed to be secured and structure re-roofed. The outbreak of the Second World War meant that glassware has to be removed from the cases, wrapped and stored under sandbags on the ground floor of the building. Despite the war acquisitions continued to arrive: “the timber framing of a fifteenth century hall, formerly standing in Culver Street, was re-erected in the Castle”. Staff at the Museum also attended the bomb damaged Little Horkesley Church to rescue its monumental brasses and wooden effigies.
Dr Philip Laver died in 1941. “For many years after his retirement from practice in 1926 he was almost a daily visitor to the Museum and to the Essex Archaeological Society’s Library in the Holly Trees, to which he was such a generous donor. After a few hours working in the Library he would go downstairs to the workshop in the basement, and there sit in an old armchair, talking about new discoveries, or the chances of preserving some ancient house which the Town Council were anxious to destroy.”