Filed under: museum

Mr Hemmings’ Hat & Other Curiosities

Mr Hemmings’ Hat
At Abingdon County Hall Museum there is a new temporary exhibition, made of artifacts from the museum collection,  called Mr Hemmings’ Hat & Other Curiosities. (running from 11th January to the 29th March 2020). 2020 is the centenary of the creation of the museum.
Mr Hemmings’ Hat
A display board at the exhibition tells of the history of the museum. Abingdon Town Council established a museum committee in February 1920 and the committee first met in March 1920. The earliest collection were Natural History for education. In the 1930s fossils, shells and corals still dominated with a few antiquities. Then about 1935 more antiquities arrived including stone weapons and tools, Roman coins, a model of St. Nicolas Church and some of the Saxon artifacts dug up in 1934 from the Saxton Road development. In the 1970s Mieneke Cox took over and deplored the lack of visitor numbers. People from the town might visit once and not come again. There were more tourists than town visitors in those days. She set about making the museum more interesting with displays and exhibitions to interest local people. There was another revamp in the 1990s and more recently a major refurbishment in 2012.
Mr Hemmings’ Hat
Among the curiosities on display are Mr Tom Hemmings’ Hat and his Morris Dancing jacket and leg bells. After his death his wife donated them to the museum in 1960. They are in a cabinet with a pair of shoes that had been thrown out into a skip with building rubble in East St Helen Street. Shoes discovered inside strange places in old buildings could have been put there by builders for good luck, or the family as a fertility aid.
Mr Hemmings’ Hat
There is a Erik de Graaff chair – added to the museum as part of the 1994 refurbishment when it was decided that as well as exhibitions there would be concerts. These fold-up triangular-chairs were the resulting design.
Mr Hemmings’ Hat
The Sergeant at Mace’s uniform is displayed; and a portrait of Sir Thomas Fleming, the judge who tried Guy Fawkes. He is not known to have any Abingdon connection so the curiosity is what is he doing there. There are also buns and china commemorating royal occasions, and some artifacts from the Abbey Lodge Free Masons. In another case are some dog collars from the 1700s – one belonging to Mr Morland’s dog.

Fossils still feature in the attic where you can see The Abingdon Fossil Collection. They date from around 153 million years ago when a warm sea covered the Abingdon area. They were preserved in the Kimmeridge clay. There you will find the Abingdon Ichthyosaurus. The oldest objects in the museum are the fossils. The newest exhibit could be the Geiger Counter from the Jet Project at Harwell.

The museum gets busier during half term and weekends. Tuesday in January can be quiet if there is not a school or coach party passing through. The staff were very friendly. There is one member of staff in the sessions hall on the first floor, and another in the attic to tell you about the exhibitions.
Mr Hemmings’ Hat
In the basement from 10 am to 2 pm, Tuesday to Saturday, you can visit The Mousehole Cafe. The name was originally used for the basement cafe when it was a popular teenage hangout from 1958. Back then teenagers drank coffee, and soft drinks – including hot orange squash in the winter. The coffee in those days was just coffee. Nowadays you can get Americano, Cafe latte, Cappuccino, Café Mocha etc. The new Mouse Hole cafe is warm on a Winter’s day and only £1 for a hot drink.

Leave a Comment January 14, 2020

Museum at Night

Museum at Night
Abingdon Counnty Hall Museum was open from 7-9pm this evening. There were exhibitions to look round, but most people were watching the musicians perform. There was a good turnout of people.
Museum at Night
The Oxford Waits were performing in 17th period costume.
Museum at Night
Scampy played acoustic music.
Museum at Night
The Alphorn Trio performed traditional Swiss Alphorn music. It is the first time I have seen an Alphorn band performing in Abingdon. The horns used to be used for signalling or rounding up cows, but are now adapted as musical instruments.

6 Comments May 17, 2019

Museums at Night – Abingdon

Museums at Night - Abingdon
Abingdon County Hall Museum took part in the national event Museums at Night. The Mayor of Abingdon, Councillor Margaret Crick, was there talking to the guests, and musicians.

Musician included the Cherry Tree Ensemble, playing in the former court sessions hall, where trials were held for 200 years. Now the hall holds the main standing exhibition of Abingdon’s unique history, as well as an area for temporary displays.
Museums at Night - Abingdon
The Oxford Waites also performed. Some of their music dates back to the 17th century, when the County Hall was built.
Museums at Night - Abingdon
Between their songs, one of their number regaled the audience with old tales of Abingdon, including the escapades of the Moorish Dancers, and how people were scandalised by them when they dressed in women’s clothes. Over the centuries the Moorish Dancers have become Morris Dancers. He also told of how tigers, baboons and other exotic animals were once sold on Abingdon Market Place, as recounted in Jackson’s Oxford Journal.
Museums at Night - Abingdon
Ian Miles performed on the roof with the keyboard.
Museums at Night - Abingdon
He played Moonlight Serenade as we looked out over the sun’s long afterglow, and the pool of incandescent light in front of Sami’s Kebab Trailer.

Leave a Comment May 18, 2018

Museum at Night – May 2017

Museum at Night
I missed the Museum at Night so was very glad to get this report from Matt. He says …
Museum at Night
We had a great turnout and some amazing music.
Museum at Night
Typically it rained almost the whole evening, but the bands improvised splendidly by heading to the attic galleries which turned out to be highly atmospheric.
Museum at Night
For the moments that the sun came out the crowds gathered up to enjoy what was a stunning contrast of darkened sky and brilliant yellows of the evening setting sun.
Museum at Night

1 Comment May 25, 2017

Abingdon County Hall Museum – Lift and Cupola

Work in Progress
The museum lift appears to be Out of Order more often than not. Perhaps outside lifts are just not that reliable.
Work in Progress
Meanwhile there has been scaffolding round the Cupola, at the top of the museum, for the last 2 or 3 months. English Heritage are investigating some unexplained noises.

24 Comments February 17, 2016

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