I confess this post is mostly to satisfy my love of the textiles exhibition at York Castle Museum! On Monday, I had the morning to myself as T had to work, so I went to check out Clifford’s Tower. Building of the current tower began in 1245, though there’s been a castle on the site since William the Conqueror’s time (around 1068). My favourite features were the accessible walk along the top wall, and the surprisingly intact chapel, with ornate (though badly deteriorated) arches that hint at the splendour with which it must have been adorned.
From there, I went across to the museum. While I’m a sucker for ruins and the outdoors, I’d say this museum is a must-see. It features a series of carefully constructed rooms that compare the living conditions of the rich and poor in the Georgian, Victorian, and Jacobean periods through a lens of the city’s history of chocolate. Other exhibits include: an extensive First World War collection; a toy collection spanning 150 years; the 18th century York castle prison (it’s part of the building and features genuine cells & inmate stories); a Victorian Street modelled after York’s Kirkgate; and my favourite: 400 Years of Fashion, Food & Life!
The Victorian street is pretty great because it includes back alleys to include the way the poor lived, alongside authentic local businesses, genuine windows and storefronts, and a staggering collection of authentic artifacts- ALL based on genuine local businesses that operated between 1870 and 1901. It even includes a schoolroom, Handsom cab, police cell, and cobbled street from the original 1938 exhibit. I think the classroom looks a wee bit more inviting than the prison cell…
Unsurprisingly, the textiles shop was my favourite, but in a close second was the Pharmaceutical Chemists shop. There, I spoke with the costumed volunteer, Steve. His father was John Charles Packard, and the cabinets that are on display in the museum are from his shop. When Steve learned that he could volunteer in this part of the museum, standing next to the same cabinets where his father stood and worked for so many years has been very special for him. He spoke of his father partnering with a woman named Elizabeth Sherwin. As I recall, it was her family who started the business and so it was always called Sherwin’s, and was the chemists on Bishy Road from 1901.
I think the picture of Steve, standing proudly in this space, is one of my favourites. It’s these real connections that bring a city’s rich history to life.
That’s enough out of me- here, enjoy some beautiful textiles! If you want more information about any of the items, just let me know (I don’t want to bore the non-textile lovers with paragraph after paragraph of info!). xo