E G Bolton – Father of the Museum

The genesis of the Rutland County Museum’s collections came from Oakham School’s archaeological collection, which was put together by W. L. Sargeant, and the rural life collection of Edward Bolton.

E G Bolton

Edward G Bolton was born in Buntingford, Hertfordshire in 1899. He was baptised at the parish church of St Mary’s in Aspenden, Hertfordshire on the 30th July 1899. He was named after his father, Edward George Bolton, who was variously employed as a coachman, house painter, or gardener.

The 1891 census records show Edward living with his parents and sister in Widdial Road, Buntingford. There was one other member of this family who is not recorded on the census and that was Edward’s half-sister Agnes Susannah who was working as a kitchen maid at Widdial Hall. It appears that Agnes’ mother had died just four days before her daughter was baptised, suggesting complications in childbirth.

Seven years later Edward George Bolton Snr. remarried. His new bride was Eliza Edwards from the nearby village of Aspenden.

Edward Bolton came to Rutland in 1923 after war service in France and on completion of his teacher training. His first post was as assistant master at Cottesmore village school at which he taught from 1923-25. He then moved to Barrowden where he was headmaster from 1925-1929.

On the 29th December 1925 he married Gladys Finch Matthews at Cottesmore parish church. They set up home in the school house in Barrowden. In 1929 he took up the post of headmaster at Uppingham Church of England School for ten years. He left to take up the post of headmaster at Casterton Secondary School where he remained for 25 years, until his retirement in 1964.

In 1940 with the onset of WW2 Lt. Col. Hon. CHD Willoughby, brother of the Earl of Ancaster, was chosen to be the County Commandant of the Local Defence Volunteers, or Home Guard. One of his first duties was to select his Platoon Commanders and he chose E G Bolton as 2nd in Command of Number 1 Platoon (later ‘A’ Company).

In February 1942 commanders of Home Guard companies and their 2nds were awarded commissions. Company Commanders were awarded the rank of Major whilst their 2nds, E G Bolton amongst them, became Captains.

Rutland Home Guard outside Casterton School in 1944. – E.G. Bolton in centre, front.

Vere Chaplin the Commander of ‘A’ Company resigned in 1942 because he had reached the age limit for the post. E G Bolton took his place and promotion to the rank of Major. He continued in this post until the end of the war and for his service he was awarded the MBE.

Butter Roller from the Bolton Collection

Whilst Headmaster at Casterton Bolton amassed rural life and ‘folk’ material.  He started by installing some museum type cases in which he deposited everyday objects that he recognised as becoming defunct in this rapidly changing world. Bolton did not start out with a particular aim in mind, just a passion to collect rural artefacts on the brink of extinction.  Pupils at the school would bring in redundant items from home, such as butter clappers, and farmers would offer old ploughs and farm machinery to this expanding collection.  Before long much of the school was filled with his collection.

E G Bolton died in 1964, only months after retiring from his post as headmaster at Casterton School, following a fall from an apple tree which he had been pruning in the garden of his home. Bolton was a founding member of the Friends of Rutland County Museum in the late 1950’s. After his death and following the agreement for the Riding School to become the Museum, his widow Gladys arranged for the transfer of the rural life collection to the Museum.

EG Bolton and John Barber of Oakham School

In 1946 John Barber returned to Rutland to teach at Oakham School, where he had been educated before his time at Cambridge. Barber’s love of archaeology was passed to his pupils and he formed a partnership with EG Bolton. Bolton had approached Oakham School’s museum curator (then in the Old Schoolroom) for advice on a piece of mosaic found near his school.

Barber and Bolton organized a dig at the Roman settlement of Great Casterton, with their pupils as excavators. In the first phase they uncovered several buildings, one with a tessellated floor. The villa site discovered by Bolton and Barber was placed in the hands of professional archaeologists. Further work was carried out by the University of Nottingham’s Department of Adult Education’s summer school, under Dr Philip Corder FSA. John Barber supervised the transfer of Oakham School’s collection to the newly formed Rutland County Museum.

Another ‘Williams-Hall’ Production.