All posts by curatorstevenage

Suffrage stories, Stevenage and North Herts – interns wanted!

We are looking for two interns working on average one day a week for six months to help us deliver this exciting project. The rate of pay is £8 an hour and the hours are flexible but some Tuesdays and occasional weekend or evening work may be required.

Here’s what you will be doing:

Editorial intern

This role would suit someone who is interested in pursuing a career in publishing. We need someone to assist in the proof reading and editing of a collection of articles telling local suffrage stories. The successful candidate will also liaise with the designers and printers to produce a professional final product and then help with the launch.

Here are the skills and experience you will need:

  • An interest in working in publishing or editing
  • Excellent communication skills, particularly in the written form
  • An understanding of equality and diversity and how to welcome all volunteers, whatever their needs and background
  • Good organisational skills
  • An eye for detail
  • Ability to work as part of a team
  • Ability to work independently
  • Ability to work to deadlines and under pressure
  • Good IT skills
  • Experience of editing and proof-reading

Museum intern

This role is more general and would suit someone interested in a career in the museum sector. We need someone to assist the project officer and the partner organisations to deliver the Suffrage Stories project. This includes: working with young volunteers; research for blog posts; updating social media (Twitter and Facebook); helping with exhibitions; staffing galleries and running a handling table during busy periods and helping organise and deliver events.

Here are the skills and experience you will need:

  • An interest in working in museums
  • Excellent communication skills, both written and in person
  • An understanding of equality and diversity and how to welcome all volunteers and visitors, whatever their needs and background
  • Good organisational skills
  • Ability to work as part of a team
  • Ability to work independently
  • Confident, friendly nature and ability to interact with a number of different museum visitors and users
  • Good IT skills, particularly the use of social media
  • Experience of working a front of house or visitor services role, such as retail or tourism
  • For this role we will carry out a DBS check

To apply

The deadline is Friday 10 August at 5pm. Please send us a CV along with a brief (maximum 300 words) covering letter explaining why you would like the job and what you think you would bring to the role.

Email it to museum@stevenage.gov.uk

We will be in touch during the following week to arrange interviews.

To find out a bit more about the project, visit our previous post, Suffrage stories

Suffrage stories, Stevenage and North Herts

Stevenage Museum, working with North Herts Museum, Knebworth House, the Garden City Collection and YC Hertfordshire, have received National Lottery support from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for Stevenage and North Herts Suffrage Stories: 100 years of votes for women. Made possible by National Lottery players, the project focuses on the local stories of women’s campaign for the vote.

The project will look at key players in the national movement who have links with the area, like Lady Constance Lytton of Knebworth House, alongside other local women of all ages and backgrounds who joined the fight for the right to vote: Elizabeth Impey of Hitchin, and Rachel Peace, who used the alias Jane Short and lodged in Letchworth are just two of the fascinating stories that will be explored . There will be exhibitions at North Herts. Museum and Stevenage Museum, with many related events.

Young people aged 14-24 will have the opportunity to get involved in research including trips to Knebworth House archive, the Museum of London and the Women’s Library at the London School of Economics over the summer. They will write exhibition text and articles and share their findings via social media. In the autumn they will work with an artist to devise an installation what will light up the town centre in Stevenage and the Town Hall in Hitchin, the latter a building that hosted many public meetings calling for votes for women; speakers like Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst addressed the audience while outside police horses held back an angry crowd who were opposed.

Wczesne powiązania Stevenage z Polską

Stevenage Muzeum badało polaczenia miasta z Polską i obecnie gości wystawę „Polskie Wycinanki” z Muzeum Horniman (do 3 Marca 2018).

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Shephalbury Manor w krótkim czasie po zbudowaniu w 1865r.

Podczas II Wojny Światowej, Shephalbury Manor był domem rekonwalescencyjnym dla Polskich oficerów. Po wojnie, w 1950 r., został otwarty jako szkoła z internatem aby edukować i być domem dla Polskich osieroconych dzieci. Z czasem dzieci Polskich uchodźców również zaczęły uczęszczać do tej szkoły.

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Klasa w Polskiej szkole Shephalbury w 1954r.

Szkoła była prowadzona przez Komitet ds. Edukacji Polaków w Wielkiej Brytanii i była finansowana przez Ministra Edukacji. Kiedy szkoła została otwarta 1go Marca 1950r, trzydzieścioro dzieci w wieku od 5 do 11 lat zostało przeniesionych z National Assistance Board Camp (Narodowe Asystujące Obozy) dla sierot wojennych w Cheshire. Do 1954r uczęszczało tu 93 dzieci. Wszystkie lekcje przeprowadzane były w języku angielskim łącznie z przedmiotami takimi jak pisanie, matematyka i historia i wielu uczniów uczęszczało później do szkoły gramatycznej. Jednakże, jak wyjaśnił dyrektor szkoły Pan Jaworski, postęp akademicki nie był jedynym obowiązkiem szkoły: „Musimy dać tym dzieciom dobre serce i ciepłą atmosferę”, powiedział, „To ma być nie tylko dobra szkoła, and również ma być dobrym domem”.

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Grupa dzieci w Polski Szkole, Shephalbury Manor, znanych jak Krakowscy Tancerze, zdjęcie zrobine we wczesnych latach ’50.

 

 

Polish connections

The museum is currently hosting an exhibition of Polish Papercuts from the Horniman Museum (on until 3 March 2018) and we’ve been exploring the town’s Polish connections.

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Shephalbury Manor soon after it was built in 1865.

During the Second World War, Shephalbury Manor was a convalescent home for Polish officers. After the war, in 1950, it opened as a boarding school to house and educate Polish orphans. Later the children of Polish refugees also attended the school.

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A classroom at the Polish School in Shephalbury in 1954.

The school was run by the committee for the Education of Poles in Great Britain and financed by the Ministry of Education. When the school opened on 1 March 1950 thirty children aged 5 to 11 were brought from a National Assistance Board camp for war orphans in Cheshire. By 1954 93 children attended. All lessons were conducted in English with subjects including writing, arithmetic and history and many of the children later went on to grammar schools. But as the head teacher Mr Jaworski explained, academic progress was not the school’s only duty. “We must give the children good heart and a warm atmosphere” he said. “It must not only be a good school, it must be a good home, also.”

The Polish school closed in the late 1950s and it seems Mr Jaworski succeeded as many of the children who attended have happy memories of their time at the school. The house became a boarding school for children from London with behavioural problems, then  it stood empty for a while before the Coptic Church took it over.

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A group of children at the Polish School, Shepalbury Manor, known as the Krakov Dancers, taken in the early 1950s.

 

 

Fairlands Valley and Lakes

We recently answered an enquiry from a local resident who is leading a walk in Fairlands Valley Park as part of a Festival of Walking. He wanted to know more about the history of the park. Here is what we found out for him.

Everyone in Stevenage (and beyond) has made use of Fairland’s Valley and Lakes, whether for picnicking, sports, or even Dragon Boating. But what’s the history of Fairlands? It wasn’t always the public space as we know it today!

The Valley had initially been farmland, and although it was owned by many different families, the last family to work on the farm was the Marriotts family. The Marriotts’ farm provided milk to the residents of Stevenage. As the site was designated as parkland, the last sale of cattle was in 1957, and its last harvest in 1968. The barns stayed in place until 1973 when they were finally demolished, but the farmhouse is still there and was used until recently by local artists from the Digswell Arts Trust.

The Valley was designated as parkland in 1966, as proposed in the Master Plan and work began to develop the valley and the lakes in 1971. The work included building a dam across the valley to help create the lakes. Did you know the lakes are filled with rainwater? The water in the lakes depends entirely on rainfall! The lakes were then opened in 1972 in by Sir Alec Rose, only one year after work began.

Although it is easy to enjoy Fairlands, there are a few rules to follow when making use of the spaces:

  • Remember to take all litter home or use bins provided
  • Make sure dogs are kept under proper control
  • Make sure to read and comply with the bylaws displayed in the park and can be seen at the Sailing Centre Clubhouse

And most importantly, as noted in the first guidebook for the valley: Do not play transistor radios too loudly!

If you enjoy the lakes and other outdoor spaces why not take a look at http://walksaroundbritain.co.uk/walkingfestivals to find local walking festivals.

 

Stevenage Charter Fair

Did you know the history of the town’s Charter Fair dates back to 1281, when Edward I issued a royal charter granting the town the right to hold a fair and market?

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Visitors to the fair in the early 1900s

On the outskirts were to be seen the caravans where the showmen and their families lived … Then there were the shooting galleries, where young women pressed you to try your luck, the swings, in which many too old to be called children enjoyed themselves. Passing there in safety, which required care, you were asked to have a throw at a cocoa-nut. The steam round-a-bouts with their music were much patronised; then there was a booth with a performing pony, a young girl on a tight-rope; in the next booth animals and birds went through various tricks; in another large tent there was a very good ghost illusion, also many other attractions. But alas, this year there was no wild beast show …

From the local newspaper, 1886

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The merry-go-round in 1907

Owing to the lateness of the harvest and the fine weather, the fair this year was a greater success than ever and the travellers all seemed to be doing a roaring trade. Special trains were run from Hitchin and other places, while brakes etc. brought people in from all the surrounding villages, so that at one time on Monday evening when the High Street got simply impassable it was computed that upwards of 9,000 persons were present. The old shows of the fat women, wild man of the woods etc., seemed much out of date, and were not nearly so well patronised as were the more modern cinematograph shows, of which there were three, with their newest attraction of singing living pictures . . .

From the local newspaper, 1907

The Astonia cinema

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Astonia in 1969 from Stevenage Museum photo collection
The museum regularly gets new donations to add to the store of knowledge about the town. These can be photographs and objects, but sometimes they are memories. We recently received this from Margaret, who wanted to share her memories of the cinema of her youth, the Astonia.

How sad to see another landmark in the Stevenage of my youth now gone, I’m referring to the Astonia cinema in Pound Avenue, which eventually was turned into a snooker club.

The Home Guard in 1944 on the steps of the Astonia
The Home Guard in 1944 on the steps of the Astonia from Stevenage Museum photo collection

The Astonia Cinema was a beacon of excitement in the 1950s and 1960s. We couldn’t wait to go to “the flicks”, usually Friday or Saturday night, except for the Saturday morning kids’ cinema. The favourite latest films or epics of the day would be a “must-see” and I can remember waiting in queues which stretched might round the corner of Pound Avenue into Sish Lane, and even across the road outside the Stevenage Knitting Company, which is also now gone and the space built on.

The cinema lady usher would let a group of people in gradually, shuffling up the steps until the seats were filled. It was almost like a military procedure, all very calm and with little bad behaviour from the “younger set” anxious to get in. I also remember “big George”, who I understood was an ex-boxer who was always on hand to deal with any unruly lads who would cat-call and whistle at any unplanned breakdown in the film or hurl things across the rows of seats. Any unruly lads were soon deposited outside on the pavement!

If there was a lovey-dovey romantic film on, there was a natural clamour for the back row, a bit more expenixsive then the fronts stalls. Any impropriety was usually spotted and the couple were warned by a flash from the cinema usher’s torch. Acceptable behaviour was a clinch and kissing in the back row with an arm around your shoulders, sometimes there was more action there than on the screen!

The journey to the Astonia was usually Shanks’s pony as the finance was kept for the cinema ticket and food. You could buy sweets , popcorn and soft drinks from a kiosk in the foyer. As we were not old enough to frequent the old town pubs, places to buy food at that time were limited. There was a window of opportunity at the White Lion in the High Street where, from a small window near the saloon bar, you could get a hot steak and kidney pie or a bag of chips and a soft drink. Otherwise it was fish and chips from Fishy Furr’s, the open-plan style fish shop where the delicious aroma meandered almost the length of the High Street. This topped off a night out at the flicks except for getting home by bus which meant a long wait in an even longer queue. Many of us gave up and it was Shanks’s pony home too.

An alternative cinema called Publix on the Bowling Green end of the High Street was not so popular as it was much smaller and had a high staircase to get to the seats. Also there were residents scampering inside which could be heard, but that’s another story!

Typed by Jamie, Museum Volunteer