Explore some of our past temporary exhibitions as well as collection highlights and resources for teachers.
Click on the page numbers at the bottom of each page to discover our past displays on washing & cleaning, village schools, the First World War and the 1950s.
‘All Washed Up!’ Exhibition
This exhibition explored how people kept their homes and clothing clean in the past. It covered the labour-intensive Victorian era, the 1920s and 1930s when gas and electricity really began to be harnessed for the home through to the 1950s when household labour-saving devices soared.
Some Objects in Detail:
(Left) Goffering Iron Stand
Goffering irons were used to iron the rolls of delicate frills and lace on caps, aprons, night-gowns and underskirts. A red hot piece of iron like a poker was inserted into the hollow tube which was fixed on an iron stand. The moist starched fabric would be grasped in both hands and pressed over the tube.
(Centre) Mrs Potts Iron
A detachable handled iron, pointed at both ends, was patented in the United States of America by Mrs Mary Florence Potts in 1870. It was sold in sets of three bodies, one handle and a stand—so that two could be heating on the stove whilst one was in use. In England, Kenrick of West Bromwich made irons of this type under licence from 1880 onwards.
(Right) Crimping Machine
Used to create the many pleats popular in Victorian dresses. The corrugated, brass rollers were hollow and were heated by placing a small hot metal rod inside them. It was operated in the same way as an upright mangle—by turning the handle the rollers rotated and the material passed through. However, it was not an essential part of laundry equipment and only professional laundries or the wealthy would have owned one.
(Far Left) ‘Baby Daisy’ Vacuum Cleaner (Model No.3 c.1908)
The Baby Daisy was a hand-operated vacuum cleaner consisting of bellows to suck up dirt. However it would frequently redistribute its contents just a few seconds later! It required two people to operate it – one to pump the bellows and one to hold the suction nozzle.
(Left) ‘Newmaid’ Vacuum Cleaner (late 1930s)
This ’Self-Generating De Luxe’ vacuum was manufactured by Burrage & Boyde Ltd. of Northampton. The company was formed in 1932 to produce non-electric vacuum cleaners. However they quickly ventured into additional products including non-electric washing machines and gas washing machines.
(Centre) Goblin ‘Wizard’ Vacuum (1930s)
This was a popular British model produced between 1930 and 1955. This lightweight upright had great versatility – it could be converted to a hand cleaner by removing the two-part handle and attaching a bag to the arm.
(Right) Hoover ‘Junior’ Vacuum (Model 375, c.1945-1950)
This popular vacuum cleaner sold in great numbers. For many it was the first ‘modern’ appliance that they could afford. This model was launched in late 1935 and was produced until 1939 and from 1945-1950. This example is a post-war version. The ‘Junior’ was unusual in that it was built for only the UK market and was not sold in the USA.
(Far Right in Case) ‘Star’ Vacuum Cleaner (c.1920)
The ‘Star’ vacuum cleaner was made by the Star Engineering Company of Wolverhampton. It was invented and patented in 1910 and was produced until 1938. The vacuum worked by hand. The concertina-like drum was pushed and pulled up and down the handle, sucking air and dust in through the cleaning head. Unfortunately, the dust didn’t store very well inside the drum and tended to blow back out again.
‘Back to School’ Exhibition on page 2…