Three cheers! The brand new catalogue of our material relating to Sir John Franklin, his family and friends, can now be viewed on our online catalogue in collection D8760.
Archives Revealed funding and the help of volunteers has enabled us to catalogue in much greater detail than we normally would. This means there are now four times more catalogue entries than there were before! That’s a lot to browse through, so if you’d like to search the Franklin material instead, click on ‘Search our catalogue’, put ‘D8760*’ (don’t forget the asterisk at the end) into the ‘Reference number’ box, and then add your keywords into the ‘Any Text’ box at the top. You can also add a date range to narrow down your search.
Over 1000 letters have also been exported into a spreadsheet. If you are interested in Franklin, or just 19th century letters in general, the spreadsheet enables you to keyword…
There are a series of sharp edged limestone ridges on the north side of the upper Dove Valley where, 340 million years ago coral reefs formed the edges of tropical lagoons.
Look east as you travel out of Buxton on the A53 towards Staffordshire. The leaning, sharpened peaks of Parkhouse and Chrome Hill are out of place amongst the softer landscape. And at only 425m you look down on them, a mini Switzerland sunken amongst rolling hills.
Typical of limestone landscapes these hills are riddled with a network of cave systems formed by swallets and resurgence waters which in later and colder times became places of hibernation, shelter and burial. There are notable caves; Dowel Cave was a burial place 6,000 years ago, the skulls and skeletons of ten people were found here but charcoal fragments reveal its use as far back as 11,000 years. Nearby Fox Hole cave on the pyramid shaped High Wheeldon had human bone, pottery, an axe and sharpened antler points that date the occupation of the cave at 15,000 years ago and excavations at Hitter Hill uncovered two cists and four rock cut graves. The finds are in Buxton Museum. Then there is the potholers’ favourite, the huge but hidden Owl Hole and the mysteriously deep and lesser known Etches cave, named after the family who farm the land.
The view from Hitter Hill is stunning and can easily be accessed from a footpath running behind The Quiet Woman pub at Earl Sterndale. It is this same view that features in Buxton Museum’s Wonder of the Peak gallery. From here the ridge of Parkhouse looms tall and imposing and the ‘spine’ of Chrome Hill clearly articulated giving rise to its local name ‘The Dragons Back’. Sharp sunlight adds vividity to this view when both crags cast their dense shadows into the valley accentuating the amphitheatre they create around Glutton and Dowel Dale.
Take a walk here and you will sense this area is indeed unique giving the impression that you are simultaneously in expansive space and yet closed in on all sides.
It is here in the valley of Dowel Dale that two artists, Tony Wild and Brian Holdcroft decided to plot their materials and their ideas to take their work on a journey for twelve months.
Both artists originally hail from the Potteries. Tony having worked in the arts ever since studying at Burslem School of Art in the late 1950’s, and Brian developing his art form in more or less isolation from other artists until meeting Tony over twenty years ago. Over the years their work has diverged and returned to the landscape many times.
This exhibition is a culmination of work they created throughout the year from spring 2018 to spring 2019.
Most months are inclement here in the Peaks, they needed shelter. And so they hired a barn from farmer Mr Etches to store their materials, keep a stove and when needed take refuge.
Throughout the twelve months they drew, explored, walked and photographed. Their work shows the industry of their origins both in its output and how it now appears in series and variations.
Tony’s work falls into set of images. Chrome Hill and groups of trees appear as a repeated motif in small heavily textured and expressive paintings, their energy punching out from their size. Butterflies are lost in the textures of limestone and the microscopic world of lichens are honed in and magnified into much larger paintings. And there is colour, lots of it.
He has two folders of work on display. One has sets of ink drawings created on the spot reminiscent of Japanese Sumi-e painting. The other, a series of photo montages cut from striking images of the hills, close-ups of tracks and the limestone’s lichen, again with a repeat motif. There seems to be four or more threads to Tony’s work, each with the potential to go on a journey of their own from this same central point.
Brian’s work evolves into series; growth, erosion and mapping, as he considers the layered histories of the area and the interactions between its geology, materials, animal and human activity. He uses beeswax, pigment, ink and earth in his paintings. All were created outside at Chrome Hill.
Also on display are Brian’s lead bowls- lead runs through the veins of the hills here- and note books he buried behind the barn they hired. Later exhumed they become objects in themselves that have withstood compression and change – albeit for a short period- as did the giant brachiopod fossils abundant at Chrome Hill. What do they contain?
Many would describe both artists’ work as abstract or expressive. Brian’s more so but the colours are naturalistic- and having experienced this area first hand- particular and precise. The work of both artist is lively and not always recognisable or descriptive, preferring to reveal its imagery and topography slowly as you immerse yourself into it, walk along with it, much as a landscape or a view unravels itself on a journey or by simply observing it quietly, in increments. In essence it’s all here.
The exhibition continues at Buxton Museum and Art Gallery until Saturday 23rd November 2019
More information on the artists can be found here:
Part of the BM125 project involved taking ideas about the Collections back into the landscapes a lot of those collections came from. In July, as one of our public events, Creeping Toad teamed up with Borderland Voices to host a poetry and art day at the Dove Valley Centre in the Upper Dove Valley fitting the day into the Buxton Fringe Festival
26 people joined us for a day of walking and wandering, scribbling ideas, sharing words, creating pictures and eating cake. We didn’t tie the day to any particular artefacts but drew upon the historic landscapes of the Moorlands and poems unfolded about the flowers we met, the drystone walls and the agricultural history of the area. The clear night-time skies over the dales inspired solar system pictures while other people focussed in to capture the flowers of traditional haymeadows.
Poems from the day are being posted on the Creeping Toad blog and some of the shorter pieces, especially the riddles, will be logged onto the Wonders of the Peak app to tempt people out walking to create their own
Have a go yourself?
A quick haiku activity: go outside and sit down on the ground if you can. There, a) look at the sky above, b) touch the ground below, c) reflect on how these sensations make you feel. Turn those three thoughts into 3 lines. You might use the syllable convention ( 5 syllables, 7 then 5 again) but you don’t have to! Go for short, clear images and hold onto room to breathe….(Looking up, reaching down are a good pair of sensations, you could use others!)
Whispers in the grass
Little rustles through small stems
Wind flowing freely
Wind playing its instruments
Grass whispers softly
Thanks to our Whispers poets and artists
The opening poem is by Mary King,
for the others we haven’t got notes of the poets names!
Celebrating the years that something has been standing stuffed but still growling in a museum may seem a bit odd, but “The Buxton Bear” has been a feature of the Museum since its arrival 30 years ago. When the Museum redesigned its Wonders of the Peak galleries in 2017 there was much debate about “whether the bear should go”.
After all, this is not a local bear (probably a North American Black Bear, maybe a Brown). It isn’t an established part of the Collection – it was brought in to give the museum a bear in a cave as an example of the excitements of life in the Peak District a few thousand years ago (although at the time our bears were probably larger and didn’t growl in trans-Atlantic accents). The Bear, however, is well known, well loved (by some), well loathed (by others) and well dreaded by adults who were growled at when they were (presumably) much younger. The Museum just wouldn’t be the same without The Bear rumbling away in a corner.
So, The Bear stayed.
And this year marks 30 years of growling away in a corner of the Gallery. Over the summer, the Museum staff have been encouraging the Bear into new looks. We have seen a Boating Bear, a Wimbledon Bear, a Holiday bear, a Pride Bear.
The Museum’s regular event artists (including myself), have also been joining in with assorted Bearday activities. There have been bear masks, bear finger puppets, drawing big bears, making cards of small bears, bear heads. On Sunday just gone, we had a Teddy Bear’s Picnic out on the Slopes in front of the Town Hall. Here, between sandwiches and running around, we made bear badges and bear bunting. There were
crowns for teddy bears (and cuddly zebras and pigs). There were Bearday Cards (sorry, Bear, they all went home with the children who made them!) and a general sense of ursine cheerfulness
So if you are in Buxton, please do drop into the Museum and say hallo to our Bear. She (or he? Not quite sure) is definitely one of the family.
and thanks to all all our Bear event participants and to Richard Johnson for the original bear line drawings we used for the badges!
*the bear stole a honey diamond from the snail who owned and guarded it….
Our crowdfunding campaign for packaging the objects from our Franklin collection has reached its £1000 target! A huge thank you to everyone who has donated – your support is much appreciated.
The Franklin objects have made us realise that we have other fabulous, exciting – and sometimes downright strange – objects in some of our other collections, which should also be properly packaged in museum quality boxes. So we’ve decided that any extra money we receive through our crowdfunding campaign will be spent on looking after those items. We’re sure to discover more of them as we start hunting through our collections, but to give you an idea of the kind of objects we have:
An Ashbourne Shrovetide football from the 1930’s:
A beautiful piece of embroidery from 1937, showing Bakewell Market Place:
And a collection of textile samples, including this elephant pattern: