Blake News-General Meeting Of Friends

Annual General Meeting of the Friends of Blake Museum

Some 25 members attended the AGM on 12 October. The main business was agreeing to an increase in subscriptions and to strengthening the committee numbers, to permit better management of the Museum.

The Officers and Committee for the next year are: Bryan Gillard (Chairman), Chris Leigh (Vice Chairman), Bernice Lashbrook (Secretary), Ian Boyer (Treasurer), and Charlotte Edmonds (Shop Manager), Nick Wallace (Programme Secretary), John Willcocks (Talks publicity), Tony Woolrich (Newsletter editor and Webmaster).

Co-opted non-voting members are: Paul Berryman, John Robins, Kay Robins, Maggie Sampson. The committee has powers to add to this number during the year as appropriate.

Full details can be found in the AGM minutes and other papers sent with this newsletter.

Death of Tony Sampson

As we go to press it is with sadness that we give the news of the death of Tony Sampson on 3 November 2009. He was a founder member of the FOBM in 2000. Over the years he served as Treasurer and then as Vice-Chairman from which post he stepped down at the recent AGM. Bridgwater born, Tony was an accountant by profession and together with his wife, supported many other organisations in the community. Our thoughts go out to Maggie and her family.

Successful fund-raising

An appeal organised by Eleanor Dixon and targeted at members of the Blake Family has raised in excess of £1,300 towards the cost of installing a hearing-aid loop system for the meeting room. It will include a hand-microphone so questioners’ voices can be relayed by the system. It is planned to install the system shortly, before the meeting room is finished by the laying of the carpet.

More Fund Raising – a date for your diary

On Saturday 5 December, the Friends are holding a Christmas Fayre to raise funds for the Museum. As last year there will be stalls selling cakes, books and craft items. Please talk to Charlotte Edmonds, Paul Berryman or Tony Woolrich for details and to arrange for delivery of donations for the sale.

Winter shut-down

The schedules have been prepared and published for the Winter Works and the Curatorial tasks during the shut down, November 2009 – March 2010. Not everyone is interested in the building side, but a great deal of attention needs to be given to the collection and its management.

A team of volunteers works every Monday on building and maintenance work, and recent jobs have included fitting a new fuse board for the electricity supply, and making a start at installing the boiler for the new central heating system. Con- tractors are shortly coming in to insulate the Museum’s roof and repair the roof of the Mill building.

Winter 2009

If you can help, either get in touch by the contact page of the Friends’ website, or come into the Museum and fill out a green form, which can be found on the table in the Hall, and leave it in the office. Or ring 01278 456127.


No schools have responded to our invitation to make use of the Museum’s resources, though a party did arrive unannounced, not having bothered to make a booking in advance. Another attempt will be made shortly to interest schools in what we can offer them, and plans are in hand to devise activities based on the archaeological collection.

We are very heartened by the response we have had from the sixth form colleges for either small groups or individuals who are coming regularly to work on the collections. Some come as part of their International Baccalaureate, and others to gain valuable experience towards obtaining a University placement next year.

One week we had six students at work – three cataloguing the underwear and swimwear collection, one recording and transcribing notes about archaeological objects and another researching and writing the text of a descriptive caption to accompany the display of medieval inlaid tiles. The sixth has been reviewing the Museum’s collection of videotapes, with regard to rationalisation and substitution with DVDs.

From the Learning Co-ordinator – Kay Robins

Since taking on the role of Learning Co-ordinator last June I have been looking at ways to enhance the Learning opportunities and experiences for our future school and college visitors. All the necessary legislation is in place and volunteers have come forward to help as and when needed.

I have been given opportunities to attend several courses and make contact with other people in similar roles. I travelled to London on the 22nd October to the National Gallery where I was able to learn about a project called “Take One…..Portrait” We are in the process of contacting several schools in our locality to take this idea forward. It will be a wonderful chance to work with school groups and encourage participation .The portrait we are going to use is the one of Bridgwater-built SV Irene. We have secured funding of £2,310 from the County Museum Heritage Service.

Two Day Event – Volunteers needed to help

There will be a Two-Day Event in Angel Place called “Take One Hour” on the 19th & 20th February 2010. It will cover two full days. Representatives from Blake Museum, The Brick & Tile Museum and Westonzoyland Pumping Station be on hand to talk to members of the public about their organisation to encourage them to get involved with us as new volunteers. We shall have displays of information and artefacts and members of the Bridgwater Garrison will be on hand in costume to give out leaflets etc.

This is a great opportunity for FOBM volunteers to come forward to give some time on either of these days. We need to establish a rota, so please contact Bryan Gillard if you are interested.

Museum Library developments

The Town Council has purchased for the Museum’s Library a collection of CDs of the Somerset Census records for 1841-1901. These will be valuable for family history researchers and local historians, since they show the pattern of occupation of named properties as well as the make up of named family groups at particular dates. More bookcases are being installed, and we plan to add to the Library’s book stock.

Flower display

Many visitors have commented favourably on the elegant appearance of the entrance hall, which since the re-opening has been enhanced by the beautiful floral arrangements provided by Rosemary Bulled of the Bridgwater Floral Art Club. She deserves our grateful thanks for doing this.

Museum Information website

Development work has begun on the Museum Resources website ( see bottom of next column). Already the popular pages of the sets of Electors’ names have been put up. Images of coins, together with other scanned documents, have been added, and then thumbnails of photographs will follow. An image bank of the Bairdwear Collection of lingerie is in preparation. Information about the Library resources has been posted, as has the popular collection of Chubb images that visitors saw on the large screen in the meeting room. Two collections of magic lantern slides about Blake and Monmouth from the 1930s have been added.

Because of the many sections of the Collections, a novel tree navigation system is being developed which should ensure that the information needed is never more than three clicks away from the index page.

Any reader with experience in website development is very welcome to assist in maintaining this website as it promises to grow as more material is added to it.


Two exhibitions have been hosted at the Museum this month. One was about the Bridgwater Choral Society, whose 60th birthday occurred this year. It proved very popular and was extended by a week. The Museum’s new Hi-Tech facilities were made good use of, for a slide slide-show of images of the Society at work was played on the big screen, and at the same time a CD of Choral Society performances played quietly in the background. The sound could be turned off by remotely by the Custodian in the Hall when no-one was there.

The other was a display in the Gallery of the work of Wembdon Art Club, and this too has been extended by another week to end of Monday 9 November

Looped shots

Looped slide show with sound © Tony Woolrich, October 2009

art club

Wembdon Art Club. © Tony Woolrich, Oct 2009
A third exhibition was mounted 3-12 November of historic

photographs of Bridgwater Carnival Gangs found recently in the archive. Taken 50-80 years ago , they show the wealth of costume designs. A number of the photographs have the names of participants.

New donations to the Museum

Items presented to the museum since the last Newsletter have included memorabilia of Mr W. B. Trunks, a mariner who worked on vessels sailing out of Bridgwater early in the last century, a 2009 lapel badge for the Gremlins Carnival Club, and a little pocket-watch winding key. Just over an inch long, it was marked with the name and address of a watchmaker in Eastover, and is probably Edwardian. The barrel had a square hole in it to fit a stem about 1/16in across.

Bridgwater Choral Society has given its collection of posters, programmes and photographs to the Museum. A record book dating from 1910 has been presented to the Museum relating to the working of the rail link to the Docks from the main line.

A fascinating item was a copy of the Bridgwater Mercury for December 1913, donated to the Museum for the advertising interest. Though not a complete issue – some of the inner news pages are missing – it includes a news story on the back page about a traveller who fell from a GWR train as it was passing through Bridgwater on the way to Bristol. Though suffering bad head injuries he was able to crawl to the gardener’s cottage at Bristol Road cemetery and ask for aid. The police procured a handcart and took him to Bridgwater Infirmary, where he was tended by a lady surgeon. It reads like a Conan Doyle short story! Was he pushed, or did he fall? What happened next? Did he marry the surgeon, or perhaps she was his long-lost sister who was stolen by the gypsies as a child?

Published by The Friends of Blake Museum,
5 Blake Street, Bridgwater, TA6 3NB Registered Charity No 1099815
© November 2009
Tel: 01278 456127; email: Websites:
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