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16 May 2017

Curator Corner: the stories behind the objects

Find out more about some of the objects in our collection with curator Anthony Chadwick…who explains the history behind these...


A group of 18th and 19th Century law books 

These books were studied here in Ripon over three centuries. They remind us of the great antiquity of our common and statute law. Many matters had to be decided by the grand jury four times a year at their Quarter Sessions; not just at the pre-trials but considering many aspects of local government. This brought in a fresh 48 jurors each year representing their townships in a manner which if not our kind of democracy, it was a community participation now quite lost. And to do it properly they needed the guidance, via the clerks, from books like these. (Courthouse Museum)


The Coat of Arms 

Royal coats of arms are placed behind the magistrates and judges in all English courts, they remind us that we are all governed by the King or the Queens law. When the usher cries, “All rise”, and the court bows to the bench, it is to the coat of arms they bow. This court was re-built in 1830 and a new coat of arms painted bearing the arms of George IV. But days before the opening, the king died, and the arms of William IV had to be quickly painted. Those with good eyesight might see the joins. (Courthouse Museum)


Plumbing at the Workhouse

If workhouses offered a hard routine, imagine the time when this building was opened when there was no piped running water. All water had to be carried in with buckets from a public pump in the street, likewise all effluent had to be taken to the street sewers, as excrement had to be taken from buckets in the privies to the kitchen garden. If hot water was needed for cleaning or bathing, the water had to lifted up the cistern above and the warm water tapped from the boiler below.


The Restraining Chair

The poor laws recognized that idiots and lunatics (those periodically unsettled by the full moon) need relief; Many lunatics came into the workhouse rather than to an asylum, and were strapped into a chair like this one. An old woman from the paupers’ wards would watch over the lunatic and most likely was paid generously with gin. (Workhouse Museum)


The Tramps’ Baths

Most baths in the tramps’ wards were single and horizontal to take a number of men at a time. Such a bath was moved out here and replaced by these very heavy ceramic baths. Notices reminded the tramps that warm water was rationed to one bucket.  A journalist posing as a tramp in a nearby workhouse likened the experience to stepping into cold mutton broth.(Workhouse Museum)


Funeral Bier

The family of a dead pauper were expected to take the corpse back to their parish church for burial.  In Ripon’s case the Minster was the place of rest and a parcel of land to the south west of the burial ground was allotted to paupers to which the paupers’ coffins were wheeled on a bier. The graves were unmarked, but that was not a deliberate discourtesy. Rather everyone else was expected to buy their own or family grave, and the headstone marked the place for the next family corpse. A paupers’ family couldn’t afford the plot. (Workhouse Museum)


Interested? Then we look forward to your visit. Special tours can be arranged for groups as well as handling sessions please contact Carrie Philip for more information about these [email protected]

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