Collection Creatives

by Wes White, Library Development Officer

The Collection Creatives meet at Canada Water Library every four weeks to hear the stories of objects from the Cuming Collection, brought by our Curator Judy Aitken, and respond creatively! Here are some of our outcomes from earlier in the year.

At the end of 2018 some of the Collection’s toys and games came to the library. We were especially intrigued by a ‘mutton bone doll’ collected by Edward Lovett. Children whose families couldn’t afford shop-bought dolls sometimes dressed up bones instead. They became very attached to them and Lovett approached a number of children before he found one who was willing to trade theirs with him. The girl who gave this doll to Lovett’s collection was offered a new ‘real’ doll in its place – but which was really more ‘real’?

2018 12 Toys and Games1

2018 12 Toys and Games2

In January we looked at artefacts related to tobacco, alcohol and other narcotics; including a snuff box, clay pipes and drinking vessels. This was a busy session but we only have a couple of pieces of work captured from it – if you were there and have sketches or note from the day, do send them to us to be included here!

2019 01 Narcotics

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February’s theme was jewellery, and the set included an emerald ring said to have been at one time a gift made by Charles I to his Gentleman of the Bedchamber Thomas Herbert, Victorian mourning jewellery, ‘Druidical’ beads marked as ancient (but we’re not sure…) and a necklace from Southern Africa which features a whistle said to charm away thunder.

2019 02 Jewellery

One of the jewellery pieces was a bronze ring found on the banks of the Thames, and in March we learned all about mudlarking – the riverside equivalent of beachcombing. In modern times this might be thought of as a recreational pursuit (albeit requiring a licence), but back in the 18th and 19th centuries children could be found scraping a meagre living from whatever they could find to sell in the mud – in what were dangerous and unpleasant conditions.

2019 03 Mudlarkers

And in April, to tie in with April Fools, our featured objects were all jokes and puzzles. The ‘Poisson d’Avril’ – April Fish – is a popular take on this in France. We have our own ‘Poisson d’Avril’ in France, which along with squirt rings, puzzle jugs and magic tricks inspired our Creatives in many different directions.

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Collection Creatives

by Wes White, Library Development Officer

Collection Creatives is a new group meeting once a month at Canada Water Library, in the spirit of the Mystery Object Group.  At each meeting we hear the stories of a group of objects from the Cuming Collection from the Curator, Judy Aitken; with time given to respond creatively to the artifacts in writing, artwork, or however group members are inspired.

Tiger Skull

In our first meeting in September 2018, we focused on the skull of a tiger from the Royal Surrey Zoological Gardens  – as well as an image of a tiger at that zoo, being visited by Queen Victoria.

tiger 01tiger 02tiger 03tiger 04tiger 02 jean batestiger 03 maria sestini

tiger 04 alison clayburn

Egyptian amulets

In October, a selection of ancient Egyptian amulets was brought to the group, and we heard the stories of some of the beliefs associated with them, including the fact that some of them were believed to be the key to a safe passage to the afterlife, while others representing dangerous animals like snakes and hippos were also supposed to confer protection from those animals.

 

Scrimshaw

For the Illuminate Rotherhithe festival in November, we had a special evening session in which we learned about scrimshaw in the collection and the link to whaling hundreds of years ago in the local docks. Scrimshaw is whalebone which was often carved by sailors in quiet times between sightings of their prey. Herman Melville describes scrimshaw in Moby Dick as “Lively sketches of Whales and Whaling scenes, graven by the fishermen themselves on Sperm Whale teeth or ladies’ busks wrought out of the Right Whale bone and other Scrimshander articles.”

scrimshaw 04 wes violascrimshaw 01 janet dunning

scrimshaw 05 preetha leela chockalingam 1

scrimshaw 05 preetha leela chockalingam 2

by Preetha Leela Chockalingam

Scrimshaw 06 Peter LePetit

Collection Creatives meets next at Canada Water Library on Tuesday 22 January  2019, where we’ll be learning about some of the objects in the collection related to smoking and drinking! The group, which is free to join, welcomes anyone in the local area seeking creative inspiration, from beginners to professionals. And as you see, if you take part, your work could feature on the Southwark Heritage blog!

The Poet’s Bridge in Rotherhithe

by Wes White, Library Development Officer

On Tuesday 5 December, the footbridge over Salter Road was named ‘The Poet’s Bridge’ in a short ceremony which also involved the unveiling of twin weathering steel plaques at its centre. The specific poet for whom the bridge has been named is David Jones, whose epic war poem ‘In Parenthesis’ was described by TS Eliot as “a work of genius” and by WH Auden as “a masterpiece”. It is a quote from this poem that now decorates the bridge:

“The returning sun climbed over the hill, to lessen the shadows of small and great things”

Jones was a visual artist as well as a wordsmith. These words are rendered in the shape of Jones’ calligraphic script and accompanied by a reproduction of his woodcut ‘Holy Ghost as Dove’. The panels were designed by the artist Parm Rai and finished at the workshop in Deptford. The work was funded by Southwark Council through the Bermondsey and Rotherhithe community council.

Plaque with shadows

The local area is significant in Jones’ life and in his writing. A section in his other great written work, ‘The Anathemata’, is titled ‘REDRIFF’; and this features the voice of Eb Bradshaw. In real life Eb was Jones’ grandfather – he was parish clerk of St Mary the Virgin in Rotherhithe, and a maker of masts and sails in the Surrey Docks. Furthermore, a character in ‘In Parenthesis’ is given no name but simply referred to as ‘the man from Rotherhithe’. Before the naming ceremony, Anne Price of the David Jones Society speculated that this character might stand for the author himself. It is therefore very appropriate that David Jones should be commemorated here.

The new name for the bridge, though, can also stand for all poets, and the bridge already has a lyrical history going back to the start of this millennium. Every spring half term for the last seventeen years, the staff of the nearby Rotherhithe Primary School have taken to the bridge to read poems aloud. Headmaster Mickey Kelly – who conceived of and organised the naming of ‘Poet’s Bridge’ with assistance from the ‘Cleaner, Greener, Safer’ fund – describes “letting the words hang in the Rotherhithe air”.

The lines quoted from ‘In Parenthesis’ refer to the minutes before the ‘zero hour’ of the battle of the Somme – the moment when the whistle would trigger the attack in the battle of the Somme – when “the world falls apart at last to siren screech”, as the poem has it. Whilst harking forever back to this moment, the words find new meaning on the bridge, where light shines through the stencilled iron and casts shadows where we walk.

Sign, looking over bridge