Keswick Museum - 5 Favourite Objects

This week Jane, the manager of Keswick Museum, shows us her 5 favourite objects at the museum and why they are special to her.

Jane says "There are so many different items in our collection it is hard to choose my favourites, why not come along and chose your own ‘five favourite things'."

1 Electroliers 

"Electroliers are the copper light fittings designed specifically for the museum by the Keswick School of Industrial Art, still in use today, they remind me of how lucky I am to work in such a beautiful Arts and Crafts building. The Museum itself was built 125 years ago to house our collection which tells the history of the local area, when the Art Gallery was added in 1905 it was lit with electricity using the Electroliers."

2 The Musical Stones of Skiddaw

"The musical Stones of Skiddaw have travelled all over the country, even performing at Buckingham Palace for Queen Victoria. I would not like to be the baggage handler as the stones, bells, bars and drums which make up the instrument much weigh a ton. The forerunner of heavy rock music perhaps?"

The Musical Stones of Skiddaw are a number of lithophones (stone xylophones) built over two centuries using hornfel stone from nearby Skiddaw which is said to have a superior tone and longer ring than the more commonly used slate. The first one was built in 1785 by Peter Crosthwaite, a local eccentric inventor and this example was built Joseph Richardson, a local stonemason who toured the UK and Europe giving concerts. Although it is known to be made from Skiddaw stone, it is not known exactly where in the mountain the rock was taken from.

3 James Durden's portraits

"James Durden’s portraits of his daughter Betty light up our galleries; painted in the 1920’s they conjure up images of that decadent time, and I particularly love the colours used."

James’ work was first exhibited at the museum in 1952. He painted iconic portraits of his daughter, Betty, during the 1920s and they capture the spirit of the Jazz Age. 

4 Cannons

"200 years ago mock battles were waged against Derwent Isle from Keswick for the yearly regatta, retired naval commander Peter Crosthwaite attacked the island with a small fleet of boats loaded with these cannons. Just image the scene! Happily It always ended with a communal beer and beef supper."

In recent years the Regatta has been reprised with taster session and those all important mock battles, still with cannon fire.

5 Cumbria's oldest cat

"A firm favourite of museum visitors over the years the 700 year old cat from Clifton Church never fails to intrigue and repulse in equal measures. My cat might be old but he has some way to go before he beat’s this fellow!"
Did you know that Keswick Musem are home to Cumbria's oldest cat? He was found in the rafters of St. Cuthbert’s Church in Clifton, near Penrith in 1842. It is believed to have been entombed there around 700 years ago! There it was, between the slates and the plaster of the roof, curled up in a mummified condition. It had been mummified naturally, not deliberately. Was the cat put there to keep rodents at bay or to ward away witches? Who knows but either way, it looks like he may be the oldest cat in Cumbria.

If you've enjoyed this blog, why not head down to the Keswick Museum and pick your 5 favourite objects. 


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