metal spatula in Abbey Museum Collection

The Mystery of the Small Metal Spatula

When the Abbey Museum’s Collection was in its infancy, its founder, John S M Ward, bought a number of objects of interest from S. G. Fenton. He was a known reputable dealer in archaeological and ethnographic artefacts and owned an auction house in London. Items were sourced by Fenton from many countries. He traded between 1894 and 1927 under the names of Fenton & Sons, Messrs Fenton Ltd, Fenton & Co, S G Fenton Ltd, and Messrs Fenton Ltd and Fenton & Sons Ltd. During this time his premises were based at Holywell Street, Leicester Square and New Oxford Street in London.

Apparently Fenton often formed a relationship with known seekers of artefacts, with Fenton himself often doing personal deals. The British Museum as well as other UK and international museums acquired various items during this time, as did individual collectors.

At some point, Fenton sold a small decorated metal spatula to Ward. The object was labelled as a bronze spatula for giving the Viaticum used by the Knights of St John. This object …

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Abbey Viking boat race

Abbey Vikings Charge!

Saturday 14th March was a very busy day for some of the Abbey Museum’s intrepid members. A team of 15 Abbey Vikings took part in the Our Village Community Challenge at the Queensland State Equestrian Centre, Caboolture.

From the initial parade, where we had to impress the judges with our team spirit, to the 11 specific challenges we competed valiantly and did the Museum proud in building up points for the overall point score. Our fantastic dragon boat, built from scratch on the day, won that challenge, as did our trivia team and our engineers in the Build it Up challenge. We also won the Team Costume (thank you sewing ladies, up to your usual high standard) and came second in the parade presentation.

We were competitive in most of the other challenges (Science, Photo Scavenger Hunt, Human Snakes and Ladders, Abbey Archery, Find a Word, Mathematics Cross Country, Mechanical Bull Ride, Flagged Treasure and Boat Race) to …

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Tiny Satsuma Vase at the Abbey Museum

Lost and Found – The Tale of the Tiny Satsuma Vase

Many of you will know the Abbey Museum collection has quite an interesting history. A story that starts in England in the late 1800’s when a young English boy started to collect Roman coins and pottery taking them to the esteemed British Museum for identification. This young lad was John Sebastian Marlow Ward, a boy with a passion for history and understanding people of the past. In 1934 his collection had grown and he opened the Abbey Folk Park, the first social history museum in England. Ward amassed some 90,000 objects that covered the story of humankind over 500,000 years of world history.

Sadly the Second World War brought the closure of Ward’s Folk Park and in 1946 Ward and a small community he had formed, left England with only a small percentage of the original collection.  One of the artefacts to set sail from England with Ward was a beautiful miniature Satsuma vase. Like many of his collection, it travelled to Cyprus where it languished for 9 years, before it was taken first to Sri Lanka (at that time …

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Medieval Music Manuscript at the Abbey Museum

Medieval Manuscripts Reveal More History

As visitors wander through the Abbey Museum they come across the entrance to a side gallery. Dimly lit, a figure of an old monk sitting in the corner, silently scribing a biblical text, beckons the visitors in. As they near the doorway case lights flicker on to reveal a treasure room of medieval manuscripts. The oldest manuscripts include an antiphon fragment dating from the 1100 AD. It contains a musical response and text for the third nocturne of matins.

One of my favourite medieval manuscripts to share with visitors is a folio from a Book of Hours. Dated to 1450 AD, it is written in ink on vellum and illuminated in paint and gold leaf. What is so compelling about this piece is a tiny illustration of a bird feeding her chicks in the nest which is incorporated into one of the illuminated capital letters. There is also an example of the rules from a monastic order from Italy that dates to 1500 AD, and a …

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stained glass fragments featuring a scourger in the Abbey Museum collection

Stained Glass Funding Success

The Abbey Museum staff are having a “pom-pom” moment!! What is that you may ask? Well, it is the way we celebrate when great things happen, those unexpected successes or some very good news. And we have just received some VERY GOOD NEWS. Late last year we applied to the Copland Foundation for funding for the conservation of nine of our medieval stained glass windows from our collection. Last week we received notification that our application was successful!!! Definitely a “pom-pom” moment!!

Why are we so very excited? Well it is because when we started fundraising for the conservation of the medieval and Victorian stained glass collection, over ten years ago, we had to raise a massive $165,000. For our small and predominately volunteer organisation that seemed a daunting task. However, through the generous donation of many wonderful individual donors who have funded the conservation of specific windows and through the fundraising efforts of the Abbey Museum Friends, who with the assistance of a grant from the Regional Arts Development …

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excavating a Viking horn at the Abbey Museums School Holiday Family Fun week

Kids Dig It – Viking School Holiday Family Fun

Even the occasional shower of rain cannot douse the enthusiasm of the many young people who have been visiting the Abbey Museum over the last few days to participate in our Viking School Holiday Family Fun program. The rain is falling gently from the skies, but still the kids are lining up sword and shield in hand waiting eagerly for instructions and more importantly, the whistle that tells them it is time to do battle. The high pitched whistle pierces the grey skies and heralds the drumming sound of sword on shield as these junior Viking warriors advance across the grounds to face yet another group of eager warriors. The Viking warrior training is without doubt one of the most popular activities being offered during the Viking School Holiday Family Fun program at the Abbey Museum.

Archery – a popular Viking School Holiday Activity

Right up there with the Warrior training is the ever popular archery. In the past …

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winchester windows angel gabriel at the Abbey Museum

Winchester Windows return to the Abbey

For many years now, the Friends of the Abbey Museum have been busily raising funds for the conservation of two of the most significant medieval stained glass windows in the Museum collection. These were wonderful medieval stained glass windows originally from Winchester Cathedral.  At times we wondered if we would ever raise the required funds. We held many fundraising events included our annual Medieval Christmas –  Gregorian Chanting nights and also Walk for Winchester, in which many of us walked from Bribie Island to the Abbey in a “pilgrimage” supported by sponsors and raising some much needed dollars.  So there was great excitement when we were finally successful in an application to the Regional Arts Development Fund for the balance required so that the work could begin.

It is amazing to think that it was just over a year ago (17th December 2013) that the very fragile windows were removed. There were many times when our hearts were in our mouths as the conservators Gerry Cummins and …

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A Medieval Christmas - an evening of Gregorian Chant

Celebrating Christmas with Ancient Song

There is no better way to commence celebrating Christmas than to attend an evening of wonderful ancient chants sung by the Brisbane choir, Schola Cantorum.  Hallelujah! It was also the ideal way to welcome the newly conserved and reconfigured Winchester Cathedral stained glass windows back to their rightful place in the Abbey Church.  After missing the group last year, an appreciative audience was delighted to have Advent ushered in with the unsurpassed sounds of the Gregorian Chants. Performed by a small but dedicated group, Schola Cantorum nevertheless filled the Abbey Church with their music for almost an hour.

More Celebrating with Medieval Christmas Fayre

Following the performance in the Church, chanters and audience moved to the Abbey Hall where tables laden with medieval Christmas themed supper awaited.  Whilst partaking of this appetising repast, chanters and audience were able to meet and mingle sharing their enjoyment of the evening.

Appetites appeased, the evening was rounded out with a further session of Christmas carols, led by Schola Cantorum but with audience members invited to join …

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Charles I Miniature in teh Abbey Museum Collection

The Face of Death – the execution of a King

Death by Execution

Until recently, death by execution seemed to be a horror from the past. I had never stopped to consider what someone might be thinking or feeling knowing that their life was about to end with a swing of an axe or a sword. But the graphic images of execution from Iraq that have been splashed across our news in recent month are too horrifying to ignore. Although I am a bit of a murder mystery buff I do like to keep the gruesomeness of death definitely in the realms of fantasy. There my mind can cope with the barbarism often demonstrated by humankind.

This made me think about a small miniature that we have in the Abbey Museum collection of Charles I. You might remember that he was executed on Tuesday 30th , January1649. I read that it was a very cold day, but despite this Charles was allowed to take his pet dog for one last walk …

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St Michael the Archangel 2

The Abbey Museum’s Icons Travel Interstate for Art Exhibition

We are so excited that two of the Abbey Museum’s icons from our wonderful Art Collection have been chosen as part of a special exhibition at the Ballarat Art Gallery in Victoria.

Abbey Museum’s Icons on display

EIKON: Icons of the Orthodox Christian World”, features eighty high-quality works, including some really sumptuous examples of Orthodox art. Most of the icons in the exhibition originated from Greece and Russia, with examples as well from Cyprus, Syria and Palestine, and date from the twelfth to the beginning of the nineteenth centuries.

This exhibition is a rare opportunity to view two stunning icons from the Abbey Museum collection, so if you are in or around Ballarat why not join one of the special tour the Gallery is offering through the exhibition and hear the stories behind these wonderful artworks. These special tours are on at 11.30am from Wednesday to Sunday during the exhibition which opened on Saturday 18 October and will close on Monday 26 January, next year.

The …

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