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Museum Mysteries – Unusual Objects from the York Castle Museum Collection

York Castle Museum opened on 23 April 1938 thanks to the passion of a local doctor from Pickering called John Lamplugh Kirk. Dr Kirk collected everyday objects which he thought would become obsolete or unwanted in the future. We’re revealing some of these finds as part of our 80th birthday celebrations.

Click on the images below to see them in full – can you guess what they are?

Image 1: Count Your Blessings

Made of a horse or bullock vertebra, a Blessing Parson was a painted bone ornament. In the past, many people believed that certain objects such as these would help protect them from evil. Superstitions and good luck charms were prevalent in rural Yorkshire and took a variety of forms. Many superstitions are still believed today whilst others have long been forgotten. Dr Kirk collected a variety of talismans that were an important part of rural life in Yorkshire.

Image 2: A Tasty Tool

This example of an apple corer is made of bone, but they were also made from wood, ivory, or even silver. Bone was a useful material to use as it didn’t rust or taint the apple. Dr Kirk loved everyday items such as this, and he collected a number of apple corers in the early 1900s.

Image 3: It’s a Puzzle!

Acquired in 1938 not long after the museum opened, this object was described as a ‘20 sided piece of wood in light and dark alternately. 12 points to it and a round knob on each point’. Its use was not listed when it entered the museum and we still don’t know what its purpose was! Maybe Dr Kirk knew?

Image 4: A Farmer’s Find

‘Stott’ refers to a young bullock or steer. Their bones were often used to make rural items such as these, which would have been attached to a plough. The plough would have been paraded door-to-door in York on or just before Plough Monday. This was the first Monday after the Twelfth Day (6 January) and marked the start of the ploughing season. Objects like this give us an insight into rural traditions of the past.

Did you guess correctly?

Make a visit to see more of Dr Kirk’s unusual and early collection items, or click here to visit our website for ‘Collection Highlights’ including our automaton clock, miniature marvels, and wartime Christmas cards.