Posts Tagged ‘Museum’

Purbeck Mineral and Mining Museum

June 9, 2016

I thought this museum was fantastic, even though some is outside and the day we were there was very, very rainy.

The museum is sited at the Norden station of the Swanage Railway. This has a large car park and gives scope for a grand day out. But the museum is somewhere not to miss.

The bits of tramway are just lovely. They look the part and I love this junction for hand pushed mine trucks.


That square of metal in the background is a sort of four way junction.image004In better weather we might have spent more time outside. There are good explanation boards and things to see. But it was throwing it down so we headed for the recreation of a mine head.

The ball clay that was mined had all sorts of use.


It was ideal for clay pipes but also used in products from insulators to a cleansing agent for piano key hammers.

A very child friendly model of a pit tramway. Well, it amused me!


When ready you can descend into the mine. There had been a mine here but this is pure re-creation and 100% above ground. But as you descend you’ll forget that you are well above ground level. It has the feel and atmosphere of a mine. It is dimly lit – enough to see by, but I used flash to show up mine and wife.


At the end of the mine you get to the clay face.



Having admired all there is to see you turn to the right and find yourself outside and right by the entrance to the site.

Guess what. It’s free but donations are requested with a suggestion of a pound a person. Having seen it, it is worth more – a lovely bonus for a day out on Purbeck.

Tullie House

June 23, 2015

Tullie House is a museum in Carlisle. The museum first came to my attention back in the 1990s when I was asked to write a review of a piece of software called Frontier 2000. This was software for schools – and very good it was too with all the problem solving activities centred on Carlisle and the borders. Tullie House had clearly supported the development of this project and provided resources which meant it all came in quite a big pack.

image002There’s the pack and here are some of the contents.


There are blasts from the past there in the shape of an audio cassette and a VHS video.

The software itself is on a couple of discs.


There’ll be a whole generation of youngsters who have no idea what these are now. The so called floppy disc arrived and vanished in a short space of time.

Tullie House provided a bit of Roman wood to enthuse youngsters.


This came from an original Roman fort in Carlisle.

Now let’s move forward to June 2015 and take a look at the museum which is in a rather ugly (my opinion) modern building.

Once inside, though, the building doesn’t matter. There’s a large museum and all the staff we met were very friendly and helpful. There are lots of fun activities for children and, of course, lots and lots of artefacts. Photography is allowed although some items have a no photography sticker by them for copyright reasons. So here are some items which caught my eye.


This, I understand, is a Roman mason mark. Fantastic and we have more Roman masonry below.


What a curious trio.

But not all is Roman. Railways feature and here we have a rather austere mock-up of third class rail travel.


My other railway artefact isn’t in the museum it is in the subway under a very busy road that makes it easy to get from castle to museum.


The big sign has obvious meaning. The smaller one above is addressed to men. It means make sure you do up your flies after using the loo!

Tullie House was well worth the visit.

Amberley Chalk Pits Museum

April 5, 2015

Amberley is a very pretty little village in West Sussex. It has the good fortune to have a railway service with a basic  hourly service to London and the south coast. It must make it a desirable place to live.

And nearby, set in old chalk pits in the south downs you’ll find the Chalk Pits Museum which is now called the Amberley Museum and Heritage Centre.

My mother in law spent time volunteering in the café there, many years ago and had a mug as a sort of souvenir. The mug has now been passed down to us.


The mug gives a clue as to theme which was very much transport based. The other side of the mug gives the museum name.


We have visited the museum and I must have photos somewhere – but from pre-digital days. So for now the mug serves as the memento. From memory I should say it dates from around 1980.

The Railway at Clifden

December 20, 2013

I first visited Clifden in Connemara, Ireland in 1971. I never noticed anything to do with a railway back then. I was on honeymoon so maybe I had other things on my mind.

We revisited to celebrate our Ruby Wedding Anniversary in 2011. It’s odd how a railway which closed in 1935 should seemingly reappear more than fifty years later. Or maybe it was me that changed!

If you haven’t been to Connemara it will be hard to imagine how this little town, with a population of just over 2000, can be so important. The truth is that it is very much the only town in Connemara and it serves as the capital of this large area. As a result it has streets of shops – far more than might be expected. It has hotels and facilities for people. And for just forty years it had a railway to connect it to Galway.

By 2011 we were in the times of ‘heritage’. Now I’m all for this. I do not live in the past but I do think the past has shaped the present and an understanding of times past helps with an understanding of the present. Heritage also means preserving things that are or were of importance to help people in the future have an understanding.

So Clifden now honours its long gone railway.


Railway signs have appeared on buildings.



A semaphore signal adds to the atmosphere and ‘pretend tracks have been laid on the ground.


The old engine shed has been converted into a general museum.



This building looks the part and amongst the amazing history of this area, there is a section devoted to the railway so we can see what it was like.


There’s much to love about Connemara – whether you are a nerd or not. It’s a grand part of the world.

Skye Folk Life Museum

December 18, 2013

Back in 2010 we holidayed in the Hebrides, crossing over the Isle of Skye. Our time was a bit less than we planned because I developed what turned out to be a non-serious eye condition which necessitated a change of plan and a trip to the hospital in Inverness. Reassured, we continued our holiday for a briefer than planned visit to Skye.

We camped on the west coast, at Uig, and found we were near the Skye Folk Life Museum. Local museums about local people are often the best as far as I am concerned. I can relate to ordinary folk far more than I can to the ‘great’ leaders and the powerful people. I liked this museum up in the north west of the island.

A couple of times, fairly recently I have written about shepherding, both as a lad and as a grown man. I have kept sheep, I have shorn sheep, and we (my wife and I) have carded and spun wool. We have died it using locally found colorants and we have woven the result.

So there’s an area of folk life I really can understand and enjoy – and they had this at the Skye museum.


I love that wool which is far better in quality than anything I ever produced. And what gorgeous colours – including that in the woven cloth in the background.

The loom they had on display is far bigger than anything we ever used. It’s a grand bit of simple, understandable machinery – all human powered, of course.


As you might expect on a Hebridean island, the situation for this museum is coastal and dramatic.


There’s a range of small agricultural devices – all well painted against the hostile, salty environment.

The buildings at the museum are traditional in style and give a reminder of the wild, west coast conditions. A thatched roof needs some weight to hold it in place against the power of the wind.


And what better than hefty rocks.

It’s a museum that is well worth a visit. But then so are the Hebrides in general – both inner and outer.

Kempton Steam Museum

November 18, 2013

A Nerd’s Day Out

Honest, it wasn’t my idea that we went to the Kempton Steam Museum. It was brother-in law’s scheme and so, together with our ever loyal wives we made up a foursome.

We’d better start with the ‘ticket’. This is a singularly large one because it doubles up as a clock card you can use in the original workers clocking in machine.


So this is the ticket – all 30 cm long of it and it is double sided.The clocking in part took me back more than forty years to student days. Each year I got a summer holiday job and sometimes this meant using a clocking in card. Are such things still in use? I do not know.

Obviously the ticket also has information – very useful information which can help you to make the most of the museum.

The engine hall is a beautiful building in its own right – for those that love the water works style, for this museum was a Metropolitan Water Board pumping station, sending water from Kempton in south west London to ‘The Northern Heights’ of London – places like Hampstead.

It houses two simply enormous steam engines for doing the work and had space in the middle for a third which was never built. Technology changed and a couple of much smaller and more efficient steam turbine pumps were installed.

By steam engine standards, the triple expansion engines are not old at something around the age of 85 years. One is restored to working order and the other is available for guided tours


With a quick look at the magnificent building, on a glorious November day, let’s take a look inside at the magnificent triple expansion steam engines.


This is the working engine (not actually running at this instant) and the size of it can be gauged from the people. See that engineer with green overalls on the second tier? He really gives the place scale. And note, we can’t see the bottom of it in this shot.

Apparently, the engines are more or less identical to the marine engines in the Titanic. When you see the size of them, you’d wonder how the ship ever floated at all with two such engines to power it. We gathered that, from time to time the engine hall is converted into the Titanic engine room for film sequences.

Maybe that was what was going on today.

Here, a couple of white suited guides/engineers/were ready to set the auxiliary little engine into motion. The little engine can start the main one turning. It can’t start its self.


And a film crew were recording every action.


That wheel controlled steam flow to the small engine and once that was running smoothly the gears were engaged to start the big engine turning.


You can click here to see a video of this happening.

When the engine has been able to create a bit of a vacuum, the main engine can power itself and it runs freely and beautifully.

You can click here to see the engine running.

It was last used for its real water pumping purpose in 1980.

But it turns again in preservation and the sights sounds and smells are all there. Look, there is even a puff of escaping steam.


I will, no doubt, have further posts about this museum and a nerd’s day out.

At the M Shed

April 14, 2013

The M Shed seems to be the rather unlikely name of a museum at Bristol.

The other day I was lucky enough to be able to look at items the museum has in store.


This area certainly had enough wheels to keep me happy even if I’m not sure what it is all about.

There was a sign I loved.


The experts will know where this was once sited. For me it just conjures up images of cars following a slow bicycle whilst faster two wheelers can pedal hard and get past. And don’t bother to try overtaking if you happen to ride a tricycle.

Signs of all sorts tell a story. These all come from one photo I took in that store.


The Devonian looks like a carriage board from a named train. The train ran from Bradford in Yorkshire to Paignton in Devon.


There always seemed to be characters in comics called Bill Stickers who spent their life panicking about being prosecuted!


Railway signs! The top three date from British Railways days. The bottom two probably were made for the GWR – Great Western Railway.

The Yatton station sign is what collectors call a totem sign, I think. The station still exists and has a good service with trains to Bristol, Cardiff, Weston Super Mare and Taunton.

It’s a good museum – well worth a visit if you can.