Latest News - Saffron Walden Museum (May 2022)

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Saffron Walden Museum Summer

Museum News for May 2022


Visiting the Museum!

Our standard opening hours are:

Wednesday-Saturday 10-5pm

Sundays & Bank Holidays 2-5pm

Closed Mondays (apart from bank holidays)

Tuesdays are reserved for pre-booked group visits by schools and other parties.

butterfly drawer 5

Object of the Month

The Museum’s ‘Object of the Month’ provides an opportunity to explore interesting and unusual objects from our stores. 

Two drawers of British butterflies are our ‘Objects of the Month’ for May chosen by Natural Sciences Officer, Sarah Kenyon. They contain some of the butterflies that you might spot visiting your garden or local park during May.

These butterfly species are the Brimstone, Green-veined White, Holly Blue, Orange-tip, Peacock, Painted Lady, Red Admiral, Small White and Large White.  The drawers are from a wooden cabinet of butterfly specimens collected in Essex and other places in Britain between 1890 and 1968. The collection was donated to Saffron Walden Museum in 2002.

(pictured left: Drawer 5 containing Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock, Painted Lady, Red Admiral and Silver-washed Fritillary butterflies)

drawer 2

Want to find out more and brush up your butterfly identification skills? Visit the Museum to view the display of all seven May flying butterfly species. Or see our website You can buy a jigsaw based on this collection at the Museum shop.

(pictured left: Drawer 2 containing Small White, Green-veined White, Bath White, Orange-tip and Wood White butterflies)

fire exhib

Current Exhibition 

All Fired Up!

runs until 3rd July 2022

Essex Fire Museum & Saffron Walden Museum have collaborated to create a unique exhibition about the history of firefighting in Essex. 


The exhibits include a wide range of artefacts, photographs, uniforms and equipment which trace the history of firefighting from Victorian times to the present day.  It also features private and works’ fire brigades, which were particularly prominent in Essex during the 20th century. 


Along with discovering some of the technological developments which have influenced firefighting, visitors will also be able to discover heroic stories of bravery and the human stories behind some of the major incidents which have occurred in the county’s history. 


The exhibition touches upon some of the more obscure aspects of local fire-fighting history, including a troupe of fire-fighting scouts, a famous fire-fighting vicar and the story of how an obscure family pet caused a local mansion to go up in flames. 

jubilee 2

Have a right royal time with our Jubilee Activity Pack!

Create an amazing crown covered in sparkles, a swashbuckling sword and your very own celebration flag. Packs cost £5 each and contain the materials and instructions to do the three crafts at home, alternatively why not join us for one of our Museum Makes sessions on 31 May and we will help you make your crown.

Book here

bartlow hills plan

Up in Flames :

the lost Roman treasures of Bartlow Hills

The current exhibition All Fired Up! prompts us to consider the local history which has been lost due to fires.

The fire of 1847 at Great Easton Lodge destroyed some of the most remarkable Roman artefacts ever discovered in the area, from the lavish burials under mounds of Romano-British aristocrats at Bartlow Hills, on the Essex / Cambridgeshire border. Fortunately the finds had been illustrated and published between 1832 and 1840, so we have a good idea of the contents of these great burial mounds, and the luxury goods which accompanied the dead.

(pictured left) A Plan of the Bartlow Hills in the Parish of Ashdon in Essex by J G Lenny Surveyor Bury St Edmunds 1832

bartlow hills 2

Between 1832 and 1840, the barrows were excavated by John Gage (later known as John Gage Rokewood) for the landowner Henry, Viscount Maynard of Easton Lodge near Dunmow. Saffron Walden Museum’s archives include copies of the original illustrations, published in the journal Archaeologia by the Society of Antiquaries of London, and also large watercolour copies made in 1885 for display in the Museum by its first professional curator, George Nathan Maynard (not related to Viscount Maynard). This selection of images from the Museum’s archives shows just some of wonderful objects discovered, all dating from the first or second centuries AD.

(pictured right) A unique bronze enamelled vessel, like a miniature cauldron. This did survive the 1847 fire, though damaged, and was acquired by the British Museum. Saffron Walden Museum has a 19th-century painted plaster copy. (Society of Antiquaries, 1836)

Find out more on our website:

hadstock leather

The Hadstock ‘Daneskin’ – new research on an old mystery

One of the exciting research projects to involve Museum collections has featured the scrap of alleged ‘Viking skin’ from the ancient north door of St Botolph’s Church, Hadstock.

Local folklore suggests that it came from a Viking who was flayed alive as a punishment for raiding the Church. Similar stories of so-called ‘Daneskins’ are associated with church doors at Copford, Essex, and Westminster Abbey, London.

It is now 20 years since a tiny sample of the Hadstock skin was analysed at Oxford for the BBC TV series Blood of the Vikings (2001) and the results then suggested that its DNA profile was more cow-like than human.

Now University of Cambridge researcher Ruairidh Macleod has used a new DNA analysis technique to investigate the Hadstock, Copford and Westminster Abbey ‘Daneskins’ and presented the results at the UK Archaeological Sciences Conference in Aberdeen last week. There is also an article in the New Scientist

The results confirm that the Hadstock skin is indeed cowhide, and lends weight to the theory that high-status doors, such as important doors in churches, were given hide coverings in the medieval period.

world cultures

Greater in Spirit,

Larger in Outlook

Hot off the press is the news that Epping Forest District Museum in Waltham Abbey and Saffron Walden Museum have received an Arts Council National Lottery project grant of £100,000 to work in partnership on their world culture collections.

The aim of the project is to ensure the museums and their collections reflect their diverse communities by working directly with cultural groups to research different objects and tell their stories.

The project’s title, ‘Greater in Spirit, Larger in Outlook’ is inspired by Haile Selassie, Emperor of Ethiopia from 1930 to 1974. Museum staff will work with relevant community groups including the Ethiopian History Society, to explore, explain and exhibit the collection leading to a new permanent display at Epping Forest District Museum, due to be completed in 2022.

A spokesperson from Ethiopian History Society UK said: We are delighted to partner with Epping Forest District and Saffron Walden Museums for this vital project.”

Other cultures represented in the collections include West and East Africa, India, Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands.

Both museums are looking to work with relevant community and cultural groups linked to these collections which will lead to a major temporary exhibition in 2023.

Hazel Edwards, Area Director (South East) for Arts Council England, said:

We’re delighted to be able to support a project that will see source communities for these exciting collections given the important opportunity to work with Epping Forest District and Saffron Walden Museums to research, reinterpret and redisplay the material for audiences to engage with, explore and enjoy.

I look forward to the resulting exhibitions and seeing how it might inspire other museums to work with cultural organisations to deliver similar projects.”

Join the team

Funding for the project is being used to support 2 new part-time positions.

Community Connector Collections

Community Connector Audiences

To find out more about the roles or to apply visit

Deadline extended now until Monday 16th May 2022

For more about the project:

(pictured left): Image of Saffron Walden Museum's world cultures gallery. 


Lost Language of Nature Project

We love hearing your memories, old stories and beliefs about common birds in Britain. The stories or connections don’t even need to be that old. Avocets returned to Britain after the Second World War on land that had been reflooded and unoccupied along the Suffolk & Norfolk coast, and were given the codename ‘zebras’ to keep their return secret from hunters. Their return echoed the return of soldiers from Europe, and avocets quickly became a true icon (an avocet is still the logo of the RSPB) but, as their numbers have increased, they’ve gained a new reputation. In some areas, people now call them ‘Exocets’ for their aggression. Do you remember any stories around avocets returning to Britain in the late 1940s and 50s? Where and when did you first see an avocet in Britain? Do you know any other stories about them? To send us your stories or find out more about Lost Language of Nature, pick up a form from Curiosity Corner in the Museum, or follow this link:


Bronze sculpture returns


It’s a very exciting time for those of you who took part in our Bronze and Bubbles workshops earlier in the year. Everyone who sculpted a wax blank has now had their creation cast in bronze by Kabir Hussain at Walnut Works foundry in Suffolk, and they look fantastic! Please come along to the Museum to collect your sculpture during normal opening hours Wednesday-Sunday, or on a Tuesday. We look forward to seeing you soon!

sea urchin2

Object Identifications

We identify your mystery objects for free – fossils, rocks, plants or animals, household items, archaeology and almost anything else. This small fossil in flint from near Wethersfield is a mould of the outer surface of a plate from the shell of an ancient sea urchin which lived 66-100 million years ago. The plate itself has dissolved away over time.

The larger fossil preserved in chalk is of a similar sea urchin, Stereocidaris sceptrifera, and is on display in the Museum’s geology gallery ‘How Did They Live’ display. Do you have something that needs identifying? Just bring your item in to the Museum or send us a photo and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can, usually within 4-6 weeks.

loan boxes

Learning & Outreach

Saffron Walden Museum is committed to sharing stories from its collections through its learning and outreach services.

We welcome schools and community groups to the Museum or offer outreach sessions. 

Why not book for the next school term or for your community group.

Our loan boxes are also available for hire, £18 for 6 weeks, and will be quarantined in between hires to ensure they are Covid secure.

larger hedgehog

Shop Focus

This month we are featuring Hedgehogs, as they have recently emerged from hibernation.

We’ve got beautiful greetings cards and cute soft toy hedgehogs on sale in the museum shop.

Greetings Card £2.75  Watercolour illustration by Daniel Mackie.

The arching back of this hedgehog is made from pink clover flowers, dandelion heads and dainty meadow grasses.

Printed on High quality 330gsm card. Cards are 18cm x 12.07 cm (7"x5" size) and blank inside for your own message, each card is packed with a cream envelope and cello wrapped. 

Soft Toy Hedgehog from Living Nature: product size 9cm / 3", £3.50 each




A few announcements this month...

We wish Welcome Volunteer Christine a very Happy Birthday

(pictured left, wearing the yellow striped top)



We are delighted to announce a new member has joined ‘Team Saffron Walden Museum’, Tricia will be providing adhoc ‘cover’ for our regular shift Welcome volunteers when they have planned absences such as holidays, hospital appointments, etc.

We are always looking for additional new volunteers to join our welcome desk team on a regular basis and currently have a position on alternate Fridays between the hours of 12.30 and 2.30pm. 

To find out more about these and ‘Learning and Support’ volunteer opportunities please contact the museum using the details below.

(Pictured left): Our colour co-ordinated team running the Welcome desk this morning! (26th April)



Phone: 01799 510333