York’s First Umbrella? New Display at York Castle Museum to Showcase Rare Finds

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York’s First Umbrella? New Display at York Castle Museum To Showcase Rare Finds

17 April 2018

An umbrella which is said to be the first brought to York will go on show later this week in a new display to mark the 80th anniversary of York Castle Museum. The museum’s accession register says that the umbrella was given to William Lockwood, who was Sheriff of York, in 1837.

It was donated to York Castle Museum in 1939 by J Triffitt from Heworth, and will now go on show as part of the 80th anniversary celebrations taking place on Saturday April 21, Sunday April 22 and Monday April 23.

Rob Wake, collections facilitator, said:

“Like many objects at York Castle Museum, this is an ordinary, everyday item with an incredible story. Much of what we know about it is from the short note in the accession register, which describes it as being the first umbrella to be brought to York. This statement sets it apart as something remarkable and fires the imagination – you can imagine William Lockwood walking through the centre of York in the April Showers, sheltering from the rain while others look on, slightly bemused by the strange sight.

“The umbrella will be going on show with some of the earliest objects donated to the museum alongside some of the most unusual. These include apple corers, a mahogany coffee mill, the world’s oldest printed Valentine’s Card and vases donated by Queen Mary following her visit to the museum.”

The Victorian umbrella has a bone handle shaped into a serpent’s head. The stick is made of wood and the frame of whalebone ribs tipped with brass. The cover is made of dark blue cotton.

Other items going on display include firemarks which were used by insurance companies to highlight the buildings which had fire cover. These came in a variety of styles and were collected with a passion by Dr Kirk, as were truncheons which will also be going on display. Other unusual items will be a snuff box, witch stones, a wooden instrument for corking bottles and a naval cutlass said to have been used by Dr Kirk’s uncle to cut down a burglar.

The display will open on April 21 as part of the Museum’s 80th anniversary celebrations. Over the weekend and on Monday April 23 (the actual anniversary) there will be re-enactors on Kirkgate, the recreated Victorian Street, playing founder Dr Kirk and one of the first curators, Violet Rodgers. A series of guided talks will take place and a model has been commissioned revealing the intricate details of the Prison building. There will also be birthday themed craft activities and chocolate making in the Kitchen Studio.

York Castle Museum first opened on April 23 (which is St George’s Day) 1938, with people queuing around the Eye of York to come and see its ground breaking displays and street scene. More than 32 million people have visited since.

For more information on the museum’s 80th anniversary click here.

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