MORE CAN­TER­BURY CON­NEC­TIONS

EADT Suffolk - - Museums -

Ge­of­frey Chaucer’s grand­daugh­ter, Alice, mar­ried Wing­field man Wil­liam de la Pole and be­came the Duchess of Suf­folk. For cen­turies whole swathes of Suf­folk were owned by the Dean and Chap­ter of Can­ter­bury. St Ed­munds­bury Cathedral (for­merly St James’ church) was re­built af­ter the Re­for­ma­tion by John Wastell, ar­chi­tect of Can­ter­bury Cathedral’s Bell Harry tower. Bury cathedral’s re­cent mil­len­nium tower has a strik­ing re­sem­blance. over a cen­tury. Founded just down the road in Mu­seum Street in 1846, to “pro­mote the study and ex­tend the knowl­edge of nat­u­ral history and its branches”, by 1850 it had gained a na­tional rep­u­ta­tion with its sec­ond pres­i­dent even men­tor­ing Charles Dar­win at Cam­bridge. By 1880 its cur­rent premises was in place, com­plete with carved façades full of fos­sils, fruits, founders and flow­ers. Here, in the hugely im­pres­sive Vic­to­rian ex­hi­bi­tion hall with its high ceil­ing and bal­cony gallery, Watch with Mother nos­tal­gia is re­placed with Visit with Mother/Fa­ther/Grand­par­ents ex­pe­ri­ences and mas­sive mem­o­ries that would last an ice age.

“I re­mem­ber com­ing here as a child, “ad­mits smi­ley new mu­seum as­sis­tant and for­mer mu­seum trainee Tim Rousham, as he stands in the shade of a full-size woolly mam­moth by the main en­trance. “I’ve got my dad to thank for that. He had a real pas­sion, and my granny who lived in Colch­ester would take us round the cas­tle mu­seum there.” He pauses, dis­tracted by a crackle from his walkie-talkie. Or per­haps he had spot­ted the ter­ri­fy­ing wild boar across the hall? It’s a jun­gle out there, more akin to the com­puter-an­i­mated Dream­works world of Mada­gas­car than the safe haven of Smal­lfilms sets next door. Lions grin and glare in the dis­tance. A gi­gan­tic gi­raffe stretches its neck to read the dis­play boards on the bal­cony and a Rhino called Rosie, seems all set to make a run for it

“Oh, I just love stand­ing here and watch­ing peo­ple’s faces as they come through the door,” beams Tim. “What a wow fac­tor this place has.” He’s right.

FLIGHTS OF FANCY

There’s talk of the great Vic­to­rian hall be­ing a rare spec­i­men it­self, of its mo­ment, yet time­less in its po­ten­tial. A por­tal to other worlds as well as all things Ip­swich. The ge­ol­ogy gallery in­cludes more orig­i­nal ex­hibits from the Vic­to­rian col­lec­tors, in­clud­ing mam­moth tusks and great mol­luscs, fan­tas­tic fos­sils and a mag­nif­i­cent whale jaw bone. Ven­ture into the side rooms up­stairs, past the sledge made by Ip­swich firm Ran­somes and Rapier for the great Ed­war­dian ex­plorer, Cap­tain Oates, to take to the South Pole, and tur­tles lurk along­side tiny lo­cal mice, bats, hares and ot­ters.

“I love the bird gallery up there,” shares Tim. “I don’t think I ap­pre­ci­ated it as a young child, but the Vic­to­rian field ob­ser­va­tions are sim­ply amaz­ing.” And therein lies an un­der­state­ment, for the Ogilvie taxi­dermy col­lec­tion of Bri­tish Birds, courtesy of Sizewell and Scot­land, is as orig­i­nal and beau­ti­fully pre­sented as it is vast. Con­sid­ered one of the most im­por­tant and com­plete in the coun­try, it in­cludes ev­ery­thing from dip­pers to ducks and divers, from golden ea­gles to goldfinches, all po­si­tioned in nat­u­ral habi­tat set­tings, all cap­tur­ing the mo­ment as well as the Vic­to­rian fas­ci­na­tion with na­ture. The im­pres­sive widescreen cliff scenes full of gulls and gan­nets even make for truly cred­i­ble film­sets in their own right too.

MORE GOLDEN OLDIES

The dis­cov­er­ies just keep com­ing, snapshots of far­away places and history close to home. Here, the shim­mer of Samu­rai swords,

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