Object of the Month June 2018

A Rotary Quern from Cawston, Rugby

During October 2012 an archaeology evaluation took place on Cawston Lane, Dunchurch, conducted by Cotswold Archaoeology.  The highlight of the finds is a complete Iron Age rotary quern which is now on display in the Archaeology Gallery.

Querns were used to grind corn into flour to make bread.  Rotary querns consist of  two circular stones that fit together.  The top mobile stone, called the handstone, rotates over the bottom stationary stone, called the quern.  There would be smaller holes on the top stone to hold wooden pegs to rotate thestone.  Grain is poured in through a central hole (hopper) and the ground coarse flour would appear from between the two stones. 

Rotary querns were introduced in the Middle Ages c. 400 BC.  Roman and Anglo-Saxon periods saw the market for quern stones dominated by imported stones of vesicular lava, though local stone was also pressed into service. The use of a quern at home could impinge on a manorial monopoly over milling, so such objects are more usually associated with periods before this monopoly was widely imposed.


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Object of the Month May 2018

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Object of the Month April 2018

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Object of the Month March 2018

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What's your story? Stories inspired by Cabinet of Curiosities

Stories by Spark Young Writers, Writing West Midlands


My pocket watch is special: the only thing I have to remind me of Father. The rich silks he brought back from India on his trades, the musky smell of his waistcoat. How I miss him.
“Is there anything you wish for me to get for you Clara?” Father asked kindly, whilst his men were loading the ship.
“A pocket watch please Father,” I replied hopefully, “One just like yours.”
He laughed fondly. “Of course Clara,” he replied, “I shall be seeing you in about a month.”
I hugged him tight. “Bye Father!” I murmured into his ear, and watched him walk away. My heart sank.
I waved and waved and even when the large ship turned into a blob on the horizon, I still waved, until I could no longer see the vessel - or my Father waving back.
For the next month I came and sat on the pier by the docks, until exactly a month later, when I noticed a waistcoat floating in the harbour. It looked velvety - the type Father wore. I seized a fishing rope and wheeled it out, yanking it back, straining under the waterlogged weight. When it was on the pier beside me, I carefully pulled it off the hook and read the label inside. R.H Addington. Father’s name – but how?
Then it dawned on me. I broke into desperate tears and held the lifeless, miserable jacket close; but it didn’t smell like Father. The only evidence of ownership for this sorry rag was the name tag – and a pocket watch. Not Father’s pocket watch, no, a golden - beautiful pocket watch. And on the back was engraved; ‘To my beautiful Clara’. I wept harder and whispered across the sea “Thank you Father.”

Daisy Aratoon, age 12
Spark Young Writer
Writing West Midlands


Daisy looked up at the broken shop sign. She struggled to see in the darkness but the faded words just made out ‘Dr George’s Curiosity Emporium’. It had been in decay for years but no one had been inside since Dr George died. The front window was shattered and the hanging sign swayed and squeaked in the wind.

Bravely, Daisy stepped through the doorway and into the shop. Inside, there were shelves and cabinets and cases and tables filled with unusual items. In one wooden cabinet, large boxes were stacked containing small green bottles. On a shelf, stood three hourglasses with grey sand seeping out. The floor was scattered with rubble, plaster, glass, scraps of paper and dead rats. Daisy walked around observing and cooing at hundreds of curious, odd items until she reached five brown bottles that stood on a splintering shelf. She picked one up and read the dirty label. ‘Boniwell Revealing Potion’ it said. Daisy slowly popped the cork out of hole and inhaled a long breath over the bottle. It smelt sweet like toffee and roses. Then she took a tiny swig of the content. At first it tasted bitter like the cruel words of her nanny but then sweet like the smell of poppies. When she swallowed the liquid, a shot of happiness ran through her body in a peculiar way.

Suddenly the bells of the church started ringing to Daisy that it was time to go but just before she left, Daisy slipped the bottle into her pocket. She left the shop in a hurry and ran down the dark street but as she turned the corner, she saw hundreds of floating white figures. Daisy stopped and stared at the ghostly crowds, gaping and gasping. Then one approached her, its clothes ripped and torn. “Wait, stop!” Daisy said but the figure went straight through her body. As it did, the potion started to glow. Daisy stopped and stared. Her mouth dropped open and she froze in fear. Her heart thudded against her skinny body and cold blood ran through her veins. Shaking her head, Daisy started to run but all through the town figures flittered. Some hung from gutters, other sat on the rooftops.

Daisy, frightened and weak from running, stopped and looked up at the ghosts. A smaller figure started to approach. It hovered just above the ground and swayed slightly as it moved closer to her. It stopped right in front of her trembling body. It looked her up and down then left to right. Then it tried to touch Daisy’s hair but she stepped back and screamed. She covered her mouth with her hand, glancing over to the figures in the street. Nothing. “They can’t see you.” The figure said, looking at her with his blank, colourless eyes. “They can’t see you at all now you have the potion in you, Daisy Green.”

Eva Maltby, age 11
Spark Young Writer
Writing West Midlands


This was a shell that held
The world together,
That locked our atoms in place
Like Lego bricks kept safe forever.

And when the stars began to fall
Like tears from up above,
The shell hugged us close at last
A symbol of its love.

When the universe collapsed
And we all crumpled too,
We knew it was all for the best
And there was nothing we could do.

And then we realized at last
We had lived up all our time,
We walked away without a tear
As the death bells chimed a chime.

The shell of everything split in half
And life was forever broken,
But all the joy of 1000 years
Would forever be unspoken.

Hannah Tilt, age 13
Spark Young Writer
Writing West Midlands


Doctor Smith,
My friend Benjamin Fisher recommended Tr.OPii for my daughter Harriet’s illness. Please could you find us a bottle?
With many thanks,
Samuel Jones

Dear Samuel Jones,
Tr.OPii is not necessarily a medicine to help with Harriet’s symptoms, but, as nothing else seems to work, I shall bring a bottle to you next Monday. The directions of use are:
Take four times a day, six hours apart. If she does not get better soon, or the conditions worsen, take eight times a day, three hours apart.
Yours Sincerely,
Doctor Smith

Dear Mr Fisher, 
Thank you ever so much for your lovely gifts! I am so looking forward to eating my chocolates when I get better but unfortunately the medicine you recommended does not seem to help. 
Doctor Smith said I will most likely be ill for months to come. My condition seems to be worsening yet nobody knows what sort of illness I have. It is not contagious though, which is a relief as so many people have come to visit me since I got ill! I am simply laden with toys, flowers and cards.
My symptoms consist of aches and pains in my limbs, high temperatures, a hacking cough, hallucinations, weakness, headaches and regular turns. My leg has almost healed though, but Doctor has strongly recommended me not to climb out of bed again, as my fainting did cause a lot of trouble.
I hope I can see you again soon. Say hello to Mrs Fisher and dear Anna and Charlie.

14th February, 1889
Dear Diary,
I think I’m going crazy. I seem to be hallucinating constantly. Dark figures swim before my eyes, evil spirits haunt me in my sleep. These hallucinations are now a normal part of my daily life, yet I am restlessly uncertain about my last one. It was of kind, caring Mr Fisher standing before me, clutching a bottle of Tr.OPii. He fed me a drop but it turned into poison in my mouth, a great roaring pain seared through me and I could hear the cackles of everyone I knew, the pointing, the jeering, and then suddenly it turned to blackness and all was gone.

19th February, 1889
Dear Diary,
I really am going mad. The medicine Mr Fisher recommended is making me dizzy and it feels like I am about to suffocate whenever I drink it.
But it is not the medicine that is worrying me. Alas, it is the medicine bottle. If I take so much as a sip, the brass label stating ‘Tr.OPii’ turns into a wizened, wrinkled face and the green bottle into a tuft of untidy dark hair, much resembling Mr Fisher. I am waiting for someone to tell me I am hallucinating, yet I see it clear as day, and the table beneath it seems to be reaching out for me, yearning to stab me in the heart.
“Take me twice more,” it said last time I drank it (a few hours ago). “And you will be gone.”
Am I hallucinating? Or is it really waiting to kill me?

To the Local Police Association of East London,
Our daughter, Harriet Jones, was killed in the late hours of the19th February 1889. She was 12 years old at the time and had shoulder-length straight blonde hair, blue eyes, freckles and a pale complexion. She had been ill for a long time with an unknown condition that doctors had prescribed various medicines for.
At the time of her death, Harriet was found clutching an emerald-green glass bottle labelled Tr.OPii. My wife (Mary Jones) and I were wondering if her death had anything to do with this and would like you to launch an investigation into Harriet’s sudden death. I have enclosed one pound and twenty-five shillings, the amount I deem suitable for payment of a proper police investigation.
Please write back immediately.
Yours truly,
Samuel Jones

Dear Mr Jones,
We searched your house for any evidence involving Harriet’s death when you were away but could not find anything else suspicious.
One further note, we did find the bottle of Tr.OPii a very strange object of murder. We checked but there was no sign of poison in it, yet one thing struck our chief investigator:Harriet is lying in a position that clearly shows she was staring at the bottle at the time of her death. There is a look of plain fear on her face. Had you noticed any strange happenings with the bottle beforehand? Perhaps she seemed unwilling to take the medicine inside?
Also, in case you have not noticed, her nightdress was ripped in various places and blood had formed around the tears. We have no idea how this could have happened.
Finally, try to remember who else was in the house at the time of Harriet’s death, and read any passages in books/diaries/letters that Harriet wrote herself.
Your generous donation of one pound and twenty-five shillings allows us another proper search of your house and belongings, fifty posters asking people for evidence of Harriet’s death, and any advice, help and expertise you may need.
Yours sincerely,
Robert Kelly,
The Local Police Association of East London

Lulu Frisson, age 10
Spark Young Writer
Writing West Midlands


I gleamed proudly in the darkness of the cave. I had spent all these years in the cave wall, experiencing no excitement at all, and now it was coming. This was my chance. I wriggled about in my space in the wall, feeling like one hundred strikes of lightning were shooting through me. Brief footsteps pattered across the damp, uneven ground and they were slowly edging towards me. Suddenly, everything fell silent. My body drooped. Wasn't this coming? Hadn’t I spent enough time here in this long-forgotten cave? My hopes of an adventurous life faded. BANG! What was that? CRASH! Someone was coming!
I forced myself to adjust to the quick movement over at the darkest corner of the barren cave. Two tall, broad men with pickaxes in their hands were mining at the rocky wall. Crystals and sapphires fell to the ground at their enormous feet with a harmony of clinks. I felt a burst of excitement. I was the only emerald in the whole cave! The men were sure to take me!
One of the men muttered something to his companion. He had square shoulders and was the taller one of the two, even though they were both huge. The man put his pickaxe on a nearby rock and picked up a faded beige sack. He started collecting up all of the gems from the ground that they had mined and began chucking them into it. I longed for him to take me out of the wall and put me in there too. A few crystals had rolled down a sloping area of ground and were now lying underneath my ledge in the wall. I held my breath as the man with the sack walked over to collect them. Watching his every move, I hoped with all of my might that he would somehow see me on my ledge and come and get me. After all, there were still more gems around me that the other man could come and mine. I felt envious of the other more common gems in the sack. Why should they get the privilege of going into it? They were common in this cave; I was rare. I should get this chance, not them!
Swinging the sack, the man started whistling as he gathered up the fallen crystals. I rocked by body to and fro to try and get him to look up. But all that this effort did was make tiny clinks. I started to get angry. Why, why, why wouldn’t he look up? I shook uncontrollably with frustration. Clink, clonk, clink, clonk! The man looked up, straight at me. His eyes widened. He dropped his sack and rushed over to his companion, who was still mining away at the wall. I could tell that they were talking about me. The other man froze for a couple of seconds and then ran over to me. He gasped and raised his pickaxe. Clink! I fell to the floor. Finally, I was free! He fumbled with me in the dim light of the cave and then carefully put me in his pocket. I settled inside it, and fell asleep.

When I awoke, I was greeted by a blinding light. This definitely wasn’t the cave. Many clinks, clonks, bangs, and crashes surrounded me, and people pushed their way in and out of doors and corridors. I was scared. I’d never been anywhere like this before. In fact, I’d only ever been in the cave! Distracted by my thoughts, I didn’t notice a thin, scrawny man carry me into a quiet room. I jumped when I saw I was in a different place now. The room was small and full of weird equipment. Metal tools hung from the walls, and I could hear the faint whir of a drill somewhere else. A table was in one corner of the room, and on top of it were about ten black boxes. A pale hand held out a duster and started brushing away dust from me. The hand hung the duster on a gold rung from the wall. The man walked away and went out of the door. Something banged into me, and then I saw black.

I was lying in the room when I came back to my senses. A black box was open next to me. I peered down at myself, looking for any signs of damage. Just then, a woman walked into the room. She was wearing a pair of cotton gloves and what looked like her job uniform. I noticed that she was clutching a silver necklace with an empty locket dangling off it. She placed it on the table and tenderly picked me up. The woman slotted me into the locket and it made a satisfying click. She smiled before putting me into the open black box. The lid closed.
Blackness swallowed me up. I didn’t know what was going on, so I decided just to go to sleep. I was tired. I woke up after what seemed like many hours. The box I was in was jolting about, and I could hear an engine purring. I wanted to know what was happening, but I was trapped inside this little black box. I began to daydream about what my future may hold. A short while passed and the soothing purr of the engine stopped. Suddenly, I felt hands prise open the lid of the box and a wave of cold air drifted over me. The driver carried me out of a scratched, rusted grey van and inspected me. He then put the lid back on and I was imprisoned once again.

Knock knock. I was beginning to wonder about this new world. All these noises confused me. Voices spoke outside. I couldn’t make out what they were saying. Click. The lid opened and I was pulled out of the box. A young man held me up. His eyes sparkled when he saw me in the locket. “Wow, it’s perfect,” he whispered. I sighed. Another different place. I was in a warm, homely room with a burning fireplace and extravagant furniture. The man placed me back into the box and fitted the lid in place. Then I heard voices and excited squeals. I was curious about what was going on outside. The voices sounded like they were coming from a man and a woman. The lid was removed and a beautiful woman’s face stared back at me, open-mouthed. “It’s wonderful,” the face said. A perfectly manicured hand reached out and held me in its palm. It hung me in mid-air, and then fastened me to the woman’s neck. The clasp on the silver chain clicked as it was secured tightly. I felt a pang of pride, sitting high off the ground on her neck.

For what felt like a long while, the woman treasured me dearly. She took me everywhere with her; to music concerts, special parties, expensive holidays, to places where people could gawp and admire me and shower me with compliments. I felt so loved. But those times soon wore away. I watched the woman receive more and more jewellery, each one more precious than me. I watched with sadness, as my place on her neck was mine no more. I watched as my compartment in the lady’s jewellery box became flooded with other jewels. I watched as I became forgotten.

Years passed with me remaining untouched. I would sense the lid of the box opening and for a short moment I would feel excited. Then a wave of trepidation would fall over me. Disappointment would follow as the lady’s hand would push me to one side and a different pendant was chosen. On these occasions I would get a quick glimpse of the room I was in and I recalled seeing a tiny baby. This baby was now a pretty young girl of around five years old with blonde, frizzy hair and sapphire-blue eyes. She would open the lid of the jewellery box quite often and, peering inside, she would smile widely at the beauty it held within. Her mother would tell her off, saying that jewels were not toys to be played with. I wished with all of my heart that I was a toy, as I longed more than ever to be touched and admired.
One day, my wish became reality. The lid of the box opened, and my heart leapt as I was drawn out of my compartment. But it was not the beautiful woman who was staring back at me, it was the pretty little girl. Her blue eyes bulged as she turned me over and over, inspecting every part of me. Suddenly, a voice shouted for the little girl. She hurriedly shut the box lid, and shoved me inside her coat pocket. I was shaking with joy as she moved. I heard her mother say something about going to the village park. An adventure!
A little while later, I was sure we had arrived. I was resting against the little girl’s hand, which was inside her pocket. She kept on whispering, “Don’t worry, I’ll take you out soon and play with you.” Soon after, I felt her hand grab me by my chain. She gingerly pulled me out, and put her face close to mine. ‘Hello, sparkly,’ she said, ‘I’m going to play with you now.’ she spun around, twirling me swiftly with her. Her mother shouted across to her and the little girl glanced at me, and then put me back in her pocket. ‘Mother wants us to go already!’ she sighed. Skipping half-heartedly, she made her way towards her mother. But as she bounced, I bounced with her, getting closer and closer to a hole in her pocket. One more bounce, and I would be lying on the path. I would surely shatter! One more bounce and - smash! I was on the ground...
Inside my head, I screamed for the little girl to turn around and find me. She didn’t. Inside my head, I yelled for my body of broken shards to heal itself and be back to my normal shape. It didn’t. I felt like all of my hopes and dreams had just been crushed. I knew what would happen to me. I would be left here, within this muddy ditch in the path, and be forgotten once more. I’d probably just lie here in the shade, never to shine again. I shut my eyes and waited for time to pass.

I’m not sure how long I lay there, but it must have been a few years, as I saw the seasons change many times. No one paid me any attention at all; I really didn’t care any more. The little girl and her parents never came back, not once. My thoughts would drift and I would often dream of how different things could have been. I could clearly hear life carrying on around me, whilst I lay here undercover and alone. The sound of laughter, people chatting, dogs barking, children playing, footsteps close by . . . footsteps here beside me . . .  What was happening?
The footsteps stopped abruptly right next to me. Something brushed against me, detaching some of the dirt from my body. It swept me again. Dirt, leaves, branches and other things were flicked off me. I could see light, and a blurry image of a brush. As my vision improved, I saw a man kneeling down by my side. He was holding a brush and he carried on brushing until everything was gone and I was completely visible. He gasped when he saw me and stooped down to take a closer look. “It looks like a real emerald,” he said to himself, whilst picking me up with gloved hands. He placed me in a grey-leather pouch. I felt horribly weightless and numb now that I was in shards. What was this man going to do with me? I hoped he wouldn’t make my life any more miserable than it was now. Staring at the inside of the dull grey pouch, I impatiently waited for something to happen.

Before long, I was listening intently to voices around me. I think they were talking about me. No longer bored, I thought about the mysterious man who had found me in that horrid ditch. Maybe he was looking for something … zip! Somebody was opening the pouch! The strange man was nowhere in sight. A flight of stairs were in front of me, and I suddenly realised that I was ascending them. I wished the person who was carrying me would go faster. Gazing in surprise, I frowned as another person picked the pouch up with me inside it. He took me over to some sort of machine, and tipped me out of the pouch. I winced when I hit the metal machine with a sickening thud. The machine hummed and a bright green light came out of a scanner. When it had finished, the person took me out of the machine, and examined a screen on it. “According to this, it’s real,” he said as if he didn’t quite believe it. But I knew that the machine was telling the truth.
He picked up the pouch and put me back inside it. He zipped it shut, and I felt myself being passed around to lots of different people. Many minutes later, I stopped being moved about and was kept still. A small part of the pouch wasn’t zipped up properly, so it came loose when I leant against it and made a gap. I peeped through it and saw that I was in a room full of other objects. I couldn’t see any specific details because it was dark inside the room, and a window in the wall showed it was night-time. The moon shone in the sky and that was my only source of light. Tiredness overwhelmed me, and before I knew it I was fast asleep and when I awoke it was morning.

Bright light from the sun poured through the window like a stage light. And the stage light was on me. For the first time in a long while, I felt warmth flood my body. It was exhilarating. Looking around, I saw peculiar objects clumped together in a group next to me. We appeared to be inside some type of glass cabinet. People were filing into the room and within minutes a group of children had surrounded the cabinet. A large sign above a shelf suddenly caught my attention and it read: Rugby Museum - Cabinet of Curiosities. Pairs of eyes were looking inside at every one of us and I felt an immense sense of happiness and pride. A young girl with dark, curly hair seemed mesmerised by everything that she saw, but me in particular, and moving closer to the cabinet, she pressed her nose to the glass and whispered, “What’s your story?”

Alessia Stokoe - Age 10
Spark Young Writer
Writing West Midlands


Object of the Month February 2018

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Object of the Month January 2018

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Object of the Month 2017

A portrait of Admiral Keppel currently on display in Cabinet of Curiosities

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Can we keep you well?

The Rugby Art Gallery and Museum Community

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Farah's Art Gallery and Museum

By one of RAGM's supervisors

image of tool trolley

Tell us about your job
I love it! There’s something different every day. Opening and closing the building, checking everything’s running smoothly, toilets are working, tweaking the air conditioning, signing contractors in and out, hanging and taking down exhibitions, setting up schools workshops. We’re on a rota for emergency call-outs – I’ve been called out to floods in the boiler room, and when a poster fell down and triggered the sensor. It’s a great team, and people jump in to help when you need it.

Your favourite painting from the Rugby Collection?
Man with his Shadow by John Davies.
This is painting reminds me that we are never really alone; we always have our shadow for company. It makes me think of this quote from Imam Ali (a, s):
This world is like a shadow. If you chase it, it will run from you, and if you run from it, it will chase you.

The job of an art gallery/museum is…
To provide service to the public, to make unexpected connections and to contribute to wellbeing. Somewhere you can look at something beautiful, a peaceful place.

I keep…    At home, what’s the object you’ve kept for longest
A little summer dress and white jumper, and the babygro my baby wore when she came out of hospital. (They’re 28 and 24 now)

In our ‘Imaginary Collection’…    If we were making an ‘imaginary collection’ of important things we could NEVER put in RAGM, (eg your favourite tree, a memory, the smell of rain, something you believe in) what would you put in? And why?
I’d love to capture the feeling of summer holidays. The sun on your face, the feeling of relaxation. The different foods you try if you go abroad, all the different smells & sounds you encounter on your journey.

I remember in Rugby:
I grew up here playing in the streets. I miss the indoor market. The jeans stall was the cheapest in town. The smell of denim…

Your turn to ask the people of Rugby a question:
When was the last time you came up and visited us at RAGM? It’s cool in hot weather, warm in the winter!