SUFFOLK’S MUSEUM OBJECT OF THE YEAR
EACH year we invite the public to vote for Suffolk’s museum Object of the Year. It’s a chance to highlight a tiny fraction of the weird, wonderful and important items in museum collections across the county.
This time around the museums were given the added challenge of coming up with something connected with sport or play. There were some fascinating contenders! The vote is now over but you can still view all the entries below and then scroll down to see who won this year’s Award.
Of course we hope people will be inspired to go and see these objects (and many more) “in the flesh” when they pay a visit to these museums.
Long Shop Museum: Leiston Works lady footballers
This fabulous photograph of three of the Garrett Engineering Works Ladies Football team dates from 1917, which means it was taken during the First World War when many women were finding their feet in changing roles at home and in the workplace. The three players in the picture are Gertie Rook, Ruby Meadows and Lena Barker.
The Red House – Benjamin Britten’s Tennis Racket
The world-famous composer was a keen sportsman and one of the reasons that he moved to The Red House at Aldeburgh in 1957 was to enjoy playing tennis on its beautiful grass court. Britten was a very strong tennis player, with a lightening serve and volley. This racket dates from around 1953 and is a Dunlop Maxply Fort, one of the most popular wooden rackets ever made and still being manufactured well into the 1980s.
Saxmundham Museum: Lawn Tennis Tournament
This programme, dating from 1888, recalls the heyday of the Saxmundham Lawn Tennis Tournament. Held in the grounds of historic Hurts Hall, it was started 1883, which apparently makes it the second oldest tennis tournament in England (after Wimbledon)! It quickly became popular, both locally and nationally, and by 1900 nine courts were in operation. After the First World War the Tournament was moved to Framlingham, where it still flourishes today.
Museum of East Anglian Life: Pair of Ice Skates
These were used on the lake at Abbot’s Hall, once a private home and now part of the Museum of East Anglian Life in Stowmarket. From the late 1850s the Prentice family opened up their gardens to local townspeople when the lake was frozen. The tradition was continued into the 1890s, when a successor, John Hayward, added occasional ice carnivals to the festivities. Participants would skate wearing fancy dress and refreshments were served from an island in the middle of the lake.
Halesworth Museum: Dwile Flonking Trophy
The pewter trophy (seen held in the front row) was made in the style of a chamber pot and used in the ‘ancient’ Suffolk game of dwile flonking. When a flonker failed to hit anyone with the dwile (an ale soaked dishcloth) he had to consume all the beer in the pot. Presented by Adnams Southwold Brewey, the Blyth Valley Dwile Flonkers (pictured) retained the Waveney Valley trophy after winning it three years running (1968-1970)
Moyse’s Hall Museum: 15th Century Gaming Piece
This Medieval Knight on horseback is the better preserved of two beautifully detailed gaming pieces found in the Abbey precinct during excavations in the mid 19th century. (The other is of a Queen, also mounted on a horse). Little is known about it, although research suggests it originated on the Continent. It was chosen as Moyse’s Object of the Year by a visiting language school work experience student, and keen chess fan!
Beccles Museum: Toy Train made by a German Prisoner of War
From 1946 to 1948 a work camp at RAF Beccles housed 1,000 German Prisoners of War, who worked as labourers on local farms. With hostilities over, they were allowed a certain amount of freedom, providing they were back in the camp for ‘lights out’. Local families were encouraged to invite prisoners for Christmas lunch and various recreational facilities, such as a reading room, were set up for them in the town. This toy train may well have been given as a form of reciprocation, or possibly it was exchanged for some luxuries.
Southwold Museum: “Bung & Snips” drawings 1905
Sport and local politics come together in a pair of early drawings by famed cartoonist Reg Carter (of saucy seaside postcard fame). The cartoons relate to a dispute between two local businessmen – Ernest Adnams (depicted as ‘Bung’ the barrel-shaped brewer) and Mr Denny (seen as ‘Snip’ the emaciated-looking tailor). At the time the duo were at loggerheads over plans to install wooden groynes on Southwold beach, a dispute which the 19-year-old Carter turns into a game of football. Snip (who supported the installation) is seen to score the winning goal. The Adnams and Denny names still live on in the businesses of the town today.
Mildenhall Museum: Sicilian Mule and Cart made by an Italian Prisoner of War
This extraordinary wooden toy is inscribed POW 85 and appears to be painted in the (red, white and green) colours of the Italian flag. It was made for Dr Parsons, a local GP looking after the Victory camp on the outskirts of Mildenhall, and given to his son Michael. Dr Parsons was one of the Museum’s founders and today the mule stands proudly in its “Toy Shop” window display.
Orford Museum: Dabchick Sailing Club brooch
Orford’s Dabchick Sailing Club was founded in 1922 by G. Brinkley, J. Lewis, F. Chambers, W. Green, G. Whayman, V. Brinkley and T. Brinkley. A dabchick is the name of a small water bird (the little grebe). The Club stuck with the original name until 1973, after which it became (and still is) the Orford Sailing Club. This member’s brooch belonged to Elisabeth (Betty) Russell, who would have received it sometime before 1937.
Gainsborough’s House : “Patience in a Punt”
By the Suffolk-born artist Henry William Bunbury (1750–1811) this amusing watercolour (over pencil on paper) dates from the 1780s and features what is still one of Britain’s most popular participatory sports – fishing. Featuring three elderly gentlemen being propelled by punt down the River Thames by a young boy, it is just one of many original drawings by Bunbury in the collection of Gainsborough’s House, the birthplace museum of painter, Thomas Gainsborough.
Ipswich Museum: Anglo-Saxon Horse Harness Mount
This ornate copper alloy triangular mount, decorated with redand green enamel, comes from the Rendlesham Collection, found at the site now believed to have housed the richest of royal Saxon palaces, a few miles from Sutton Hoo. East Anglia’s kings would have come here to feast, administer justice, collect dues and, quite possibly, watch some horse-racing. Anglo-Saxon warriors were fond of demonstrating their sporting prowess, not only on horseback but in wrestling, weight-lifting and foot-races too.
West Stow Anglo Saxon Village: 5th-6th Century Die
The Anglo Saxons were fond of dice and board games, often using these as a symbolic way to recall battles. The die was one of many “curious relics” presented to the Suffolk Archaeological Institute for cataloguing by Rev. E. R Benyon, owner of West Stow Heath in the 1850s. The discoveries were made when soil was removed from the heath to procure gravel for the ballasting of barges.
National Heritage Centre for Horseracing & Sporting Art :”Fighting Stallions”
This oil painting is from the British Sporting Art collection on display in the Packard Galleries at Palace House in Newmarket. It is by George Stubbs, whose extraordinary animal portraits often featured famous racehorses. This picture belongs to a period in the 1770s and 1780s when the artist developed a fascination for exploring animal temperament in natural surroundings.