Tell me why…I don’t like Maundys


As many of you will be aware the Queen is visiting Blackburn on April 17th and whilst the visit of a reigning monarch is always special, this one is more so for one important reason. Royal Maundy.

Royal Maundy is the tradition of gifting special coins to worth citizens and are given the awards for the work they have done with their church and denominations. It is unusual as it is the only ceremony where the queen will go to the recipients, rather than them visiting her. This change in protocol reflects the history of the tradition that goes back to the middle ages. Originally the monarchs would wash the feet of beggars or gift the poor in imitation of the ways of Jesus and through using his teachings.


There is one man and one woman chosen for every year the queen has lived so there will be 172 recipients this year (88 men, 88 women) and they receive four coins. Luckily the museum has some Maundy coins to show what they would look like. The first set is from the 1980’s and the recipients in Blackburn this year can look forward to something very similar. The coins given are 1p,2p,3p and 4p denominations.Image

The other coin we have, however, is Maundy money from the reign of Queen Victoria. What makes it extra special though is what is on the back.

Those with a keen eye will be able to see the Lord’s Prayer. What you see dwarfing this 1869 example of Maundy money is a modern 5p. Which makes the workmanship on this coin even more impressive!

On Your Marks, Get Set…..BAKE!!!

Amateur bakers (myself included) rejoice! For in the archives of Blackburn Museum & Art Gallery is the key to all your baking woes in the form of ‘A Collection of Recipes’, courtesy of The Darwen Division Conservative and Unionist Association. In this charming pamphlet you’ll discover incredibly short, simple and very easy recipes for all manner of sweet and savoury treats from Queen Cakes, Rock Buns and Rice Biscuits.


And did I mention that these were all written in the 1920s?

These recipes are so easy and uncomplicated because half the ingredients obtainable for bakers nowadays weren’t nearly as readily available for those baking in 1920s Blackburn. For example a regular sponge cake made today would have around three or four eggs in the mixture, whereas those in the pamphlet often only have one, and they were all made without the help of fancy electric whisks or food processors!


Each recipe has been sent in by a member of the association and is only about four or five lines long. With no pictures, these straightforward and uncomplicated recipes are surprisingly straightforward. I know this as I tried some out for myself. I tackled D. Newbold’s Iced Chocolate Cake, Mrs Ballantyne’s Empire Biscuits and Mrs Counsell’s Rock Buns. Although I faced some challenges, such as guessing what temperature to turn my oven to, as none of the recipes provided this, the end results were all deliciously sweet, if a little dry due to the lack of egg. But by baking 1920s style, I found that these simple and straight to the point instructions made it a lot less fussy and a lot more fun!

So next time you fancy putting your oven gloves on, think back to those bakers baking in the 1920s, making the most out of the ingredients available, except maybe don’t hold back on the egg!

Saahnd as a Paahnd

(Or ‘sound as a pound’ if you live outside Dagenham)

It was Budget day again this week. The annual day where you rejoice and lament at the same time. You find that the cost of beer has gone down (Hurrah!!) but the price of fuel goes up (Booo!!) and at the end of the day, you are exactly where you started.

But this Budget brings exciting news! That of a brand new £1 coin. A 12 sided coin which will be the hardest in the world to fake will soon be rattling away in our pockets.

I’m excited.

It’s very rare that coins completely change shape and size. That doesn’t mean, however, that these changes are not constantly being planned. We have examples within the collection of coins that never made it into production, but show a continual desire from the mint to improve the design and manufacturing technique.

A good example of this is decimalisation. Decimalisation day occurred in 1971. When did the UK first start thinking about decimal coinage though? 1960’s? 1940’s?

Well, in the museum we have examples of Victorian decimal coinage. It was never adopted but shows the idea of decimalisation was alive for over a century before it actually happened.


A Victorian Centum – Not £100, but a tenth of a pound



A bi-metal coin from the Victorian period. Maybe we’re not as advance as we think we are!


And the final picture is of a bi-metal proof. It is a coin, made with two metals. It’s a wonderful example of seeing a mint trying to understand new techniques and new styles.


Look closely. Two faces, Two colours, Two metals, One Love

 So, if you think that the new one pound coins have only been designed recently you’re probably wrong. The techniques and designs will have been around for a long time!  

The lights are green…and it’s GO GO GO

Clare is a placement student with the museum. She found some interesting items in the collection and they made a perfect blog. she explains the rest…

I can wholeheartedly say that I hate cleaning. Especially hoovering. But one day at Blackburn Museum & Art Gallery I spotted in the corner of my eye a 70 year old Ewbank Hoover. Normally I would have instantly forgotten about it because to me hoovering is the most mundane activity that you could possibly do. However, positioned directly next to the Ewbank was a 1960s American Hoover from The Hoover Company. The clear contrast in the appearance and manufacture of the two Hoovers led me to thinking about Hoovers today and how some people will pay over £300 for the latest lightweight, cordless, awe-inspiring, turbine dust buster. But surely all Hoovers fulfil the same purpose of essentially just cleaning your floor? So why is there so much fuss over modern manufacture and changing appearances? How much can a Hoover from the 1940s really differ to a Dyson? To find out I put the Hoovers of Blackburn Museum to the test.


Without wanting to create a mess, I decided to test the Hoovers on their speed skills around an assault course in the museum’s very own Nürburgring, aka the Watercolor Gallery. I started with the oldest, so the trusty but slightly aged Ewbank went first. Although the smallest, the Ewbank was not without its problems, particularly round the sharp corners, proving that angles are not its strong suit. Second to face the challenge was the retro Hoover, which is surprisingly lighter than it seems. The next Hoover put to the test was a delightfully solid blue model from the 1990s, which was very practically made without wheels, so I had to carry it around the course, knocking down part of it on its way. Last but not least the modern day Dyson faced the track and even as an amateur cleaner, I noticed the difference in its weight, speed and ability to tackle tricky corners.


And with that race analysis, the results are in…

4th place the Ewbank with a time of 24.4 seconds

3rd place the 1990s Hoover just making the podium at 23.5

2nd place the 1960’s Hoover at 21.5

1st place the Dyson in poll position with a speedy 17.7 seconds

The final times just go to show the advancement that Hoovers have made in the last 70 years and putting them to test was anything but mundane.

Christmas comes but once a year, the build up lasts forever

And so it begins

I think it was early November, Halloween was almost upon us and there it was. I heard it. The first Christmas song of the year. The person on the radio that requested the song thought it was great fun.

And now we enter December.

Any constraint being shown by retailers, radio stations and the media is officially gone. Its Christmas season. Now, don’t go painting me as a scrooge. I thoroughly enjoy Christmas. I love the opportunity to spend time with family and to eat and drink myself silly. What is annoying is the long, long build up and the feeling that every year a new ‘tradition’ is introduced and Christmas is becoming more commercial. But is it?

I had a look into the collection to see how Christmases were celebrated in the past. More restraint? Less fun? Or perhaps they were more sophisticated than our sparkly, jangly modern day Xmas?


What did I find in the collection? Tinsel, Christmas cards, crepe decorations, fairies and Christmas frost. It seems that as usual, we have looked back through rose tinted glasses at previous generations. It seems they loved a sparkly, colourful Christmas just as much as we did!

One way they did differ was the language in Christmas Cards. The words used harked back to an older age and perhaps this is one area we could look to return to. So this year, rather than just write ‘Merry Christmas’, you could be a little more traditional:

‘This same old wish

That’s ever new

This Christmastide

Is sent to you’

They call me the Captain…

How do you compare to your peers? What do you use to compare yourself to your peers?

Salary? Speed in a 100m race? Speed in a 10k race? Your education? Your shoe size?

The question I am asking is, are you better than them? Do you need to be better than them? As with most things the answer lies somewhere in the middle. Compared to a friend I may find that one of us is a better sprinter, gamer and dancer, whilst the other earns more, is a better cricketer and a faster long distance runner.

Sometimes in life, however, you meet people who just seem to be better… At everything. They are better looking, went to a top university, are incredible athletes, are wealthy and are probably better dancers than you. No matter what they put their hand to, they seem to be successful. And it is one of these people that we are featuring in the blog today.

Anyone with a keen interest in Blackburn’s history will realise that a few moneyed families dominated public and political life. It is not unusual to find the same surnames popping up and one of the most iconic is Hornby. William Henry Hornby, of whom there is a statue in Blackburn town centre, was a hugely wealthy industrialist who was amongst other things: the mayor of Blackburn, chairman of the Conservative Party and an MP for Blackburn for 8 years. I’m sure you agree that he was a truly impressive gentleman, so then what makes his son, Albert; stand out even more than him.


If only Monkey Hornby was around today. He could have defeated the Aussies with the Lions, and then come home to finish the job in the Ashes

Albert, more commonly known as Monkey, was a good sportsman. In fact, he was an excellent sportsman. He was the only Lancashire player to score a century for the club between 1870 and 1881. He was so good that he captained England at Cricket. He also captained England at Rugby. Even more remarkable was that he achieved both accomplishments in the same year, 1882.

1882. Ring a bell? Yep, the Ashes. Whilst they weren’t known as ‘The Ashes’ back then, it was under Monkey Hornby’s captaincy England lost the infamous game that led to the newspaper article, that led to the urn, that led to…well, you know the rest.

In a way it’s a shame that for all his sporting achievements, outside of Blackburn it is this incident that he is best remembered. Does this tarnish his reputation as a sportsman? I don’t believe it does, he has given the world one of the greatest sporting rivalries of all time. Anyway, what would you imagine the English Cricket and Rugby captain would get up to in his spare time? Gardening? Nope, he managed to play a few games for Blackburn Rovers.

Danger Danger, High Voltage…

Earlier on today I made a shocking discovery.

The longer you work in a museum the less the collections can surprise you. Even then, you will always find an electric object that sends a spark up your spine.

Like this object…


Obviously it’s a…well, erm……maybe a….

When I found it I was genuinely puzzled as to what it was. There are two dials, one allows you to pick between two voltage settings the other increases the power. There also appear to be a selection of lights or probes which fit into the microphone style extension.

Later research showed the device to be an electric shock machine. It doesn’t appear to send huge amounts of electricity so I assumed it wasn’t being used for torture or interrogation. Perhaps it had a medical use?


A close-up with some of the attachments

Further research brought up the answer. The device had a more ‘erotic’ purpose to it, and may be better known to some as a violet wand. Objects like this are fascinating as you can never really find out how widespread their use was. Their use is not widely documented as many people would be embarrassed or unwilling to openly admit using or even owning this. I assume people would have similar reservations and be a little shy if I started asking about their private life. Although after seeing some hen parties on a night out I’m led to believe not everyone is so prudish.

Perhaps these matters were widely discussed in the pubs or on the streets of Blackburn and such devices were widely owned. Perhaps this was used by a person or couple who would have been viewed as deviant by their peers? Unfortunately, we will never know.

In many of these blogs I take funny staged photos in the galleries using the items. After finding out what it was used for, trying to take an amusing photo became a lot more difficult and as I don’t know who used it or how, I’m being very careful about what bits I touch!

Box-ing Clever

Krista is a student on placement here at the museum. She is gaining experience of how to manage a museum collection and also learning a few things she wouldn’t find on her course. In this instance, the power of curiosity…

I am hopeless with a Rubik’s™ cube. I have a friend who can solve one in under a minute and then move onto bigger ones with even more squares! I am satisfied if I can get one face to be all the same colour. That is, what I call, Krista solved.

Today I found a different kind of puzzle. It drove me crazy trying to open it so that I could find out what secrets lay undiscovered inside. I thought that there may be some sort of treasure from a distant land, or a secret note, maybe even a map to a lost island. I would have even settled for a HSBC advert


It opens…But it doesn’t.

Every time I think I’ve worked it out I hit another wall. After 20 minutes of twisting and pushing and pulling to try and get this thing open, I make a break through. A quick tip upside down, a click and the top slides open to reveal the secrets inside.


I even tried saying ‘Open Sesame’!

Empty. What a let-down. Perhaps I can leave a note for the next fortunate person who finds this and works out its secret. They’ll probably crack it faster than I did, that’s for sure.

Come on baby light my fire…

…try to set the night on fire.

sang Jim Morrison. Did he mean it literally? Probably not. I assume he meant that a friend should join him and have a good time, not that he needed a hand with the camp-fire!

If Jim Morrison was ever in this neck of the woods I would have no hesitation in sending him to the Albion Hotel in Darwen. The subject of this blog, the pub’s matchbox holder, would have been perfect should he have wanted to set the night on fire.


One of the most stylish matchbox holders I’ve ever seen. In fact, one of the only matchbox holders I’ve ever seen.

But it’s more than the matchbox that would have attracted Jim. It’s the poem on the side.

‘At the Albion Hotel I’m thinking,

I have several good reasons for drinking,

And one has just entered my head;

If a man should not drink while he’s living,

How the h*** can he drink when he’s dead?’


If only Descartes had thought of something this philosophical

Sentiments i’m sure Jim Morrison would have agreed with!

You might find this object displayed on the DarwenDays website. We are working together and they have photographed some of our collection and this is one of the things they are showcasing. Have a look at their site and you will find some of our other Darwen objects! 

Hat’s all folks

Krista is an MA student currently on a placement here at the museum. Whilst workign withthe collections she found some objects which not only confused her, but reminded her of her past. Here she tells you why…

My parents love to wear Stetsons, blue jeans and cowboy boots. Once when I was being picked up to go to a youth group, the friend who gave me a lift commented on the fact that he had just driven past two cowboys standing on the corner of my street with guitar cases. To my embarrassment, I had to admit that they were related to me and they were waiting for a lift to a folk club (Oh the shame).


If only Achilles had worn a hat into battle then no-one would have noticed his heel!

When I first came across these diminutive hats a number of ideas flitted through my mind. Perhaps they were made to be hats for the dolls of rich children, or hats for babies. How you would keep the hats on a baby’s head, I don’t know (elastic bands?). Perhaps they were made for costume in a travelling show? Or maybe a family of borrowers have moved into the museum archives and I have unwittingly stumbled across their wardrobe? If it is the latter and the (tech savvy) borrowers are reading this, don’t panic, I’ll return them shortly.


I think Daniel Thwaites looks wonderful,it complements his moustache. He doesn’t seem so pleased about it though!

Milliners are professional hat maker, for example, the Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland is a milliner. This profession holds the responsibility for the creation of Stetsons (named after John B. Stetson) and other such hats (did I mention that my mother also owns a number of bonnets?). When milliners travelled around to sell hats they couldn’t carry around all of the hats that they are capable of making. Even a small selection would be too bulky and difficult to manage. In order to show their customers what sort of hats they may want the milliners made model hats. This way they could whip out an example of their craft in a ‘here’s one I made earlier’ kind of moment then take orders for the actual size version. Let’s just not invite them to my parents’ house or who knows my family’s next hat craze might be.

Blackburn Museum can be found in Blackburn, Lancashire. It houses objects documenting Blackburn's industrial past as well as a world class collection of Fine Art, Japanese prints, Icons, Numismatics and Manuscripts. Come and visit us to find out more.

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