Latest acquisition

Our latest acquisition is a fabulous officer’s pattern sword.

It belonged to Lt Col Ronald Egerton Cotton but came to us via Police Scotland following a confiscation.

The sword, which has Cotton’s name, and ‘7th Battalion, The Yorkshire Regiment’ engraved on the inside of the knuckle guard was part of a collection of objects due to be disposed of by the force, but which caught the eye of keen historian, James Legge.

Luckily for us, he contacted the museum to see if we were interested, and even arranged a holiday south of the border to deliver it to us personally!

Ronald Cotton was born 8 March 1876.  He achieved the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the 7th (Service) Battalion, Yorkshire Regiment.

He fought in the Boer War between 1900 and 1901, and in the First World War, where he was wounded and mentioned in despatches three times. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) in 1919 for action carried out whilst attached to 10th Lancashire Fusiliers

“For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. When a counter-attack by the enemy threatened to envelope the right flank of 2 Bns, he went forward and restored the situation. This was the second occasion of his defeating a counter-attack, as he had previously, while reconnoitring the front line, discovered the enemy concentrating and, by promptly organising Bn HQ and a machine gun section dispersed them. His energy and courage on these occasions – both under heavy fire of all descriptions – were a fine example to his men.”

“I’m so pleased that I was able to play a part in preserving this small part of the regiment’s past,” says Mr Legge (pictured with Assistant Curator, Steve Erskine).

“It’s been great to be able to do a little bit of research about the owner, and whilst we have no idea about the details of its journey into our hands, I’m glad to have been able to place it into the museum’s care.”  Cotton died in Nairn on 3 September 1932.  The sword will now be accessioned into the museum’s collection. 

Stitched-Together

A display of textiles, created by military community groups, forms our latest special exhibition.

The exhibition, which has drawn on the museum’s uniform and textile collections for inspiration is providing an array of intricately worked pieces which are both practical and thought provoking.

Following its run at the museum, it will go on show at the NEC Birmingham and the SEC Glasgow next year.

The ‘Stitched Together’ project was launched by the Army Welfare Service to offer military families the opportunity to build relationships in their local community that would create support networks away from home.

“It’s grown from a small project to become much bigger than we could have ever have expected, and the project has had a huge impact on participants’ confidence,” explains Kerry Palmer, Community Support Development Worker at the Army Welfare Service.

Rural Arts, a community arts charity in Thirsk, managed the project, inviting two contemporary textile artists to share their skills, mentor the groups and help create pieces for the exhibition. Angela Hall, Director at Rural Arts, partnered with the Army Welfare Service to secure funding from Arts Council England, North Yorkshire County Council and the Armed Forces Covenant to run the project. “It’s fantastic to see Stitched Together getting national recognition for the beautiful work the participants have made and the incredible effort the artists have put in.”

Artists Dionne Swift and CarolAnn Allen worked with four groups at Catterick Garrison, Topcliffe, and Dishforth over a period of two years. In the first year, lead artist Dionne taught the groups basic sewing skills, and then the artists encouraged the participants to explore more creative undertakings.

Inspired by the museum’s textile collection, the group have created messenger bags for the exhibition that reflect their experiences of military life and the sewing skills they have learnt. “The messenger bags are a twist on the bags that soldiers would use to carry their armaments” explains Dionne. “Textiles lend themselves to bringing people together. They’re really a vehicle to galvanise the group and to allow the women to support one another as a surrogate family.” Both Dionne and CarolAnn will share their own new work alongside the project at the exhibitions.

Lynda Powell, Director at The Green Howards Museum commented, “Many of the pieces created draw inspiration from the uniforms and objects we have at the museum, and it’s great to be able to see those references in this exciting new exhibition.”

In March 2018 the project will be shown at The Sewing and Stitching Show at Glasgow’s SEC, followed by the Fashion and Embroidery Show at Birmingham’s NEC.

While the Stitched Together project funding has now ended, the activities have been so popular that many of the military families continue to meet weekly. Lucinda, who attended the Catterick Garrison group, said, “to give you an idea of how much this group means to me – tonight is my 20th wedding anniversary but my husband was happy that I was intending to go to Stitched Together!”.

The group will be open to newcomers in the new year, and is seeking any donations of fabric or expertise.  Please get in touch…

The Stitched-Together exhibition runs until 23 December – entry is included in museum admission.

Find out more about the organisations involved…

Rural Arts is a charity dedicated to providing access to the arts for those in rural communities through community projects, arts and digital workshops, exhibitions and ON Tour, a programme of professional performance in community venues. Rural Arts supports its charitable work through an artisan gallery/shop, award-winning café and room hire in its Grade II-listed arts centre in Thirsk’s restored Courthouse.

The Army Welfare Service is the Army’s professional welfare provider; it delivers a comprehensive and confidential welfare service responsive to the needs of individuals and families and the Chain of Command in order to maximize the operational effectiveness of our servicemen and women. The Army Welfare Service’s remit includes Regular Soldiers, their families and communities, the Army Reserve and Reservists and, in certain circumstances, Veterans, other Services and MoD civilians serving overseas.

Dionne Swift is an award-winning textile artist and tutor, who uses the scale, emotion and energy of landscapes to inspire energetic drawings and textiles. Dionne is a graduate of Goldsmith’s College, she has a Masters in Textiles from UCE, Birmingham and has over 26 years of creative practice experience. Now based in Holmfirth, Yorkshire, she exhibits and tutors internationally.

CarolAnn Allen has a BA (Hons) in Contemporary Surface Design and Textiles and specialises in embroidery and print.

The Armed Forces Covenant Fund is a fund established in August 2015, providing £10 million each year to support the armed forces community across the UK. The funding is provided through different priorities, each of which has its own funding levels and applications timeframes. The funding is for projects that respond to the local needs of the Armed Forces Community, improve recognition of the Armed Forces Covenant, help integrate Armed Forces and civilian communities across the UK, and/or deliver valuable local services to the armed forces community.

Arts Council England champions, develops and invests in artistic and cultural experiences that enrich people’s lives. They support activities across the arts, museums and libraries – from theatre to digital art, reading to dance, music to literature, and crafts to collections. Between 2015 and 2018, they will invest £1.1 billion of public money from government and an estimated £700 million from the National Lottery to help create art and culture experiences for everyone, everywhere.

Uniforms from all angles

We’re creating an online collection featuring 360 degree rotations of ten precious uniform items.

It’s another strand in our ‘Textiles with Tales’ project.  As well as the online gallery, the two year uniform project involves a range of activity including, improved storage of archive uniforms, improved display system of uniforms on show in the museum galleries and specialist staff training.

“We have more than 1000 items of uniform; it’s impossible to display them all, but they form a very important part of our archive. explains Director and Curator, Lynda Powell.  “The quality and significance of our uniform collection is well known within military and specialist circles; there’s less awareness in other sectors, but no reason for that to continue to be the case and our digital project will make these special uniforms available for all to see.”

The museum team have been working with York based web company, Maraid Design and professional photographer, Peter Byrne, to create the online uniform gallery.

A trial run, using a specially created lazy-susan style rotating base, was a success and the team will photograph the tunics, coats and jackets at the end of September, ready for online viewing in spring 2018.

“This is a really interesting job,” says photographer Peter Byrne. “Firstly the uniforms are fascinating, and secondly there are a number of technical problems to be solved during the photoshoot. Firstly we used studio lights to light the uniform evenly on a white background and we had to spend a considerable amount of time ensuring everything lines up perfectly! The dummy wearing the uniform needs to stand perfectly straight, spin on an axis, and we need to turn it in increments of 36 to one full rotation. The lens of the camera also needs to be exactly in line with the centre of the dummy so there is no wobble on the final 360 degree spin. When the 36 photos are taken they will be cleaned up on the computer and all alignments are double checked.”

The ten uniform collection items included in the project are:
• Townsend’s full dress coat 1780
• Stansfield’s coatee 1829 – 1837
• Stansfield’s frockcoat 1829 – 1837
• Private’s coatee (Crimean War) 1854
• Kirke’s patrol jacket 1867 – 1881
• Levin’s tunic 1869 – 1879
• Eden’s tunic 1881 – 1899
• Carr’s militia coatee c1806
• Mickelson’s militia coatee 1820
• Captain’s militia patrol jacket

To enable us to complete the project, selected uniform items have been removed from the galleries.  Please bear this in mind when planning your visit.  The museum team are on hand to help with any queries you may have regarding the uniforms and the wider project. All uniforms will be returned to their display cases by Friday 6 October.

Textiles with Tales has been made possible through Arts Council England’s Museum Resilience Funding.

 

Private’s pride of place

A display of objects, some of which helped identify a ‘lost’ First World War soldier, are now on display in the museum.

Items found with the remains of Private Henry Parker, including a belt buckle, buttons, shoulder badges and a cut-throat razor, have been donated to The Green Howards Museum by his family and are now available to view, free of charge, in the entrance gallery of the museum in Richmond.

“Human remains were found in a field near the village of Martinpuich on the Somme and we were contacted by the Ministry of Defence’s Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre (JCCC) at the end of 2015 to see if we could help,” explains the museum’s Director and Curator, Lynda Powell.  “396 men from the regiment had died in or around the location where the remains had been found, but we gradually reduced the number of possible candidates down to 12.  The shoulder badges showing that he was a territorial soldier in the 5th Battalion had helped in that process of elimination.  Our archive information and research had played their part; next, we simply had to wait and hope that the soldier who had been discovered was one of ‘ours’.”

Next, the JCCC’s forensic team took DNA from the femur of the remains and compared it to that belonging to family members of some of the shortlisted soldiers who had agreed to be tested.

A match was found, and Private Parker, who died, age 22 on 26 September 1916 during the Battle of the Somme, was reburied with full military honours, at Warlencourt Cemetery in France, on 17 May 2017, with 25 members of his family in attendance.  A memorial service in his home village of Wansford followed, and two boxes, containing the items which had lain with Henry in that field in France for the last 100 years, given to the museum by the modern-day Parker family.

“It feels really special to handle these items which are not only so very old, but which also link to a real person whose identity is finally known,” says Olivia Wallis, A-level history student at Richmond School, currently on work placement at the museum.  “The whole Henry Parker story is fascinating to me in the way that it has linked this soldier who was ‘lost’ for so long, with his modern day family and a whole network of people who have been involved in finding him, want to learn more about him, and make sure his sacrifice is not forgotten.  It’s reinforced to me that history is always relevant, and it’s always human.”

The museum is open 10am to 4.30pm seven days a week until the end of August.

Shell jacket

Collections Assistant Zoe Utley has chosen an item from our collection which hints at the glamour of being a militiaman in mid 19th century Richmond…

“Recent visitors to the museum may have been able to sneak a peek into one of our archive stores.  That’s because we’re currently working hard on our Uniform Collection Project.

The archive lies behind a rather unassuming door, which leads to a small hoard of uniform dating back as far as the late 18th century.

As a part of the Uniform Collection Project, an inventory is currently underway of this collection and is bringing to light some of the star items the museum looks after. The inventory gives us a good  opportunity to check storage conditions and maintain records but it’s also the perfect time to have a good rummage through the items that we can’t have on permanent display.

After going through multiple pairs of rather smelly boots, coming across an object such as this shell jacket is a welcome relief.  It would have been worn by a member of the North Yorkshire Militia.

Although the museum is primarily the home of the Green Howards Regiment, we also look after a significant collection of Militia and Volunteer uniforms. Militia units were originally raised by ballot, but in 1852 service in the Militia became voluntary.

Men could enlist into the North Yorkshire Militia to take advantage of the extra pay, the excitement of an annual camp away from home and the glamour of the uniform. The Militia was a domestic force, acting as an early Territorial Army.

Richmond was the hub of the 2nd battalion and training for the North Yorkshire Militia took place here.

While training, the officers stayed, or ‘messed’ at The King’s Head Hotel. This shell jacket is most likely of the type worn just across the road from this very museum at some point between 1854-1870.

Militia uniforms were becoming more standardised, following the colours and style of the regular army more closely than previously. However, mess uniform was still often highly decorated and provided the opportunity to display a person’s status.

This particular shell jacket is one of the most highly decorated jackets in the collection.

The embroidered foliage covers the sleeves, collar, shoulders and the back of the jacket.

Black velvet has been used to decorate the cuffs and collar.

The braided decoration across the front of the jacket is known as ‘frogging’ and is created by looping braid across the body.

This type of decoration is more often found, in a much simplified version, on patrol jackets worn while on duty.

The high quality material and decoration suggests a wealthy man who wished to display his status and wealth to the other officers of the mess.

This extravagance extends even to the lining of the jacket which is also decorated with a stitched foliage motif.

Outward displays of status are mirrored throughout the mess, such as the regimental silver which was once used on a regular basis.

Such extravagance, pomp and circumstance served to highlight the same social barriers of class found in civilian society.”