Coins, Cheese and Charles I

‘An army marches on its stomach’ – Napoleon Bonaparte

The challenges of feeding an army were well known to Napoleon and we can imagine that they were equally relevant 150 years earlier when Charles I was engaged in war with Parliament during the English Civil War. How (and what!) the soldiers were fed is demonstrated in a number of fragmentary receipts which are within the Trust’s collection.


Gold Unite of Charles I (click for larger image)

These receipts were found as a part of the enormous Breckenbrough hoard. This hoard contained over 1552 silver coins in addition to 30 gold coins. One of the coins, a gold ‘Unite’ of Charles I is illustrated above. The hoard represents a huge accumulation of wealth, more than many would have seen in a lifetime. It was put it into the ground during the unrest of 1644 when Parliamentarian forces were active in Yorkshire, possibly in the period immediately before the Battle of Marston Moor. In a period before the advent of banks, a pot in the ground stuffed full of coins represented one of the more secure ways of burying your wealth.

Receipt for purchase of 10 1/2 stone of Cheese from 'Woodall Field'

Receipt for purchase of 10 1/2 stone of Cheese from ‘Woodall Field’ (click for larger image)

Hoards of civil war coins are not particularly unusual. We have others, such as those from Grewelthorpe and Middleham in our collection. What marks this hoard as very unusual is the fact that four fragments of paper were concealed alongside the coins. These fragments record the fact that John Guy, the ‘deputy provider general’ for the Royalist forces, had requisitioned 12 stone(!) of cheese to feed Charles’ army. These are dated to 17 January 1643 although this would be January 1644, as we would reckon it, given the different way we calculate dates. The date is visible at the top of each receipt and you may just be able to make out the curvy ’1643′ on the image below.

Receipt 2

Receipt for purchase of 1 1/2 stone of Cheese from ‘Brekenbrough’ (click for larger image)

So why would you include receipts alongside your coins? Well, it is perhaps best to think of them as ‘IOU’s. The king had taken the cheese to feed his army but had not yet paid for it. Whoever buried the hoard would have been able to claim payment for this whenever Charles won the war. The receipt were thus valuable commodities and were saved alongside the coins. Now we know that Charles did not win the war but it is likely that whoever buried the hoard did not think that they would be leaving it there for any length of time. It is likely that they were killed during the Civil War’s fighting and could not go back and dig up their wealth, leaving it to be found in modern times.

The grand total of 12 stone (about a medium size person) of cheese and the enormous pile of coins suggest that there was significant wealth in the region during the Civil War. Much of it was lost, gobbled up (literally or metaphorically) by competing armies or hoarded in the ground never to be seen again. The receipts show the human side of this war and also that cheese could be as valuable as coinage!

Receipt 1:
Dat’ 17 January 1643
Rec’ from Woodall Feild 10 stone
1/2 of Cheese for the use of

John Guy
Providere [gen]erall

Receipt 2:
dat’ 17 January 1643
Rec’ from Brekenbrough 1 stone
and 1/2 stone for the use of

John Guy deputie
Providere generall

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Pop in to a Pop-Up Gallery

As a long-term resident of York with a passion for art, I love to see projects that give budding artists in the city the opportunity to develop and explore their own abilities, and share it with art fans like myself.

You may have recently read our blog by Mike Linstead, our E-Communications Co-ordinator, on the pop-up art project developed in conjunction with York College, giving students the opportunity to respond to York Museums Trust’s current exhibition at York St. Mary’sArtist Rooms: Bruce Nauman.

La Brea/Art Tips/Rat Spit/Tar Pits 1972 by Bruce Nauman born 1941

The exhibition has been hugely popular, so the students were thrilled to be given the chance to use Nauman’s work as inspiration. One of the participating artists, Jade Bull, said:

“Working on the pop-up gallery opened my eyes to the work of a curator and spurred me on to research and learn about many artists.”

To find out more, you can follow the project on Twitter via @PopinYork or @YorkArtGallery, or add us on Facebook –

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Spode Work

We at YMT are paying a lot of attention to ceramics at the moment, so many of us have made our way to the British Ceramics Biennial.  The main event is based in the disused Spode Works in the centre of Stoke-on-Trent.

To reach the site from Stoke station is only a five minute walk, but it’s a that walk takes you under a branch of the West Coast main line, over the Trent & Mersey canal and across the A500 dual carriageway. Your trip into economic history has already begun.

Spode needed excellent transport links because its workers used to turn large volumes of raw materials into large volumes of high quality, mass-produced, ceramic commodities. The biennial uses the same site to show high quality, hand-made, contemporary ceramic art.  The fuzzy line between the factory-made and the hand-made, and our confusions around work, craft, labour, economic value and artistic values are underlying themes of the whole show. One of the central exhibits, for example, is Clare Twomey’s ‘Made in China’, which comprises 80 giant red vases ordered by email from Jingdezhen, China, and one nearly identical British-made vase decorated with real gold leaf.

The Chinese pots have particular resonance in a factory closed due to global competition. It’s worth remembering too that one of Josiah Spode’s main technical achievements was, in the early 1790s, perfecting the formula for imitating Oriental porcelain and so beginning the successful production of ‘Bone China’ in Britain.  Which was, of course, a mixed blessing for the people of Stoke:

“The potters as a class, both men and women, represent a degenerated population, both physically and morally. They are, as a rule, stunted in growth, ill-shaped, and frequently ill-formed in the chest; they become prematurely old, and are certainly short-lived;” Dr. J. T. Arledge, senior physician of the North Staffordshire Infirmary 1863

The main exhibition space is a well worth a visit in its own right for its range of work by established and emerging artists, together with the best of British student talent.

For me though, the experience took on a different and unexpected aspect when I began to explore the wider site. The factory closed only five years ago after more than two centuries of continuous production. It is derelict and largely abandoned, but still just about habitable and still full of remnants of the working life it contained.

For this Biennial a series of 40 different researched and thoughtful artistic interventions and re-presentations of these remains are scattered throughout the buildings. Visitors are invited simply to explore. The result is a game-like experience which works on all sorts of different levels and plays on all your senses.

The interventions are very individual but also feel very connected, part of a whole piece. They are collectively titled ‘Vociferous Void’ and, thinking about it afterwards, it probably is their response to the void, the absence of the workers, their activity and their noise, that helps to tie these works together.

Anyway, the Spode Works has been brought temporarily back to life with a magical combination of art, heritage, curatorship and pies.  If you’d like to read up more there are lots of materials available online, but if you can, do get yourself along to the factory before it closes its gates, once again, on 10 November.

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Linked by Design: Textile collections of York Castle Museum and the Board of Trade Design Register

On Friday 12 October 2013, I spent an enthralling afternoon at the York Castle Museum’s stores examining handkerchiefs recording historic events ranging from World War 1 to the building of Manchester Ship Canal as well as Royal jubilees and coronations. This is part of a project aiming to link objects in the museum collection with the extraordinarily rich evidence contained in the Board of Trade Representations and Registers of Designs 1839-1991 held at The National Archives, London.New Picture (22)

This set of records, known widely as the BT Design Register, contains nearly three million designs which were registered between 1839 and 1991. This vast record contains the name and address of each proprietor who registered a design and a representation of the registered design as a drawing, photograph or sample. I’ve been working with Dinah Eastop, Curatorial Research Fellow, The National Archives, and we have already established that a printed cotton handkerchief named ‘A Souvenir of the Record Reign of Queen Victoria 1897’ with the Registration number 292206 appears in the BT Design Register.

New Picture (23)

This made it possible to identify the manufacturer as Aitken Campbell & Co., a Glasgow firm founded in 1847.

Mary M Brooks, Director, MA International Cultural Heritage Management, Durham University.

This research is supported by The Textile Society

For the Guide Reference to the BT Design Register, click here.

For an online exhibition of 300 Victorian-era ceramic and related designs from the BT Design Register, click here.

For links to interactive images of some of the designs in the BT Design Register, and a medieval seal, see the following links:

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Drawing Inspiration

photo 01

I’m willing to admit that I’m not exactly the foremost authority on studio ceramics; far from it!

I suppose like many people I can appreciate the work involved and the thought process behind many of the works, but my knowledge thereafter is somewhat very limited.

However, in my role here at York Museums Trust I have been asked to support a new exhibition relating to our extensive ceramics collection.

Now I can’t go into too much detail about said exhibition at this stage, as it’s under wraps for the time being, but what I can say is that it is going to be a very exciting new venture for the Trust and I’m keen to ensure I can provide as much of a useful contribution as possible.

In an effort to expand my knowledge in this area I recently joined a marketing delegation – well, ok, a delegation may be exaggerating a little – but myself, Head of Communications, Charlotte Dootson, and Communications Manager, Lee Clark, travelled to Stoke-on-Trent to take in the British Ceramics Biennial that is taking place from 28 September – 10 November.

photo 18

The festival is showcasing work from the UK’s leading contemporary ceramic artists in a series of new exhibitions and special events across the city.

As well as The Potteries Museum and Art Gallery we also visited the Original Spode Factory Site.

As the main hub of the exhibition during the biennial celebrations, we were greeted by a looming space which, through its fading white interior, echoed its more functional 8

It was a great opportunity to see such a diverse array of ceramic art and what I found most useful was having the experience of seeing how they were 14IMG_2674IMG_2661

York Museums Trust has possibly the best and most representative collection of UK studio ceramics anywhere in the world and in particular an amazing collection given to the trust by the late Bill Ismay, an inspirational figure in the world of ceramic art.

When York Art Gallery opens we will be able to showcase the collection in our wonderful purpose-built centre for ceramic art. Until then however much of Ismay’s collection has been loaned to The Hepworth Wakefield.

In the meantime the next step for us is to bring this collection together in a brand new exhibition space for us: online.

Perhaps I’ve given too much away by letting that point slip, but we are about to enter the realm of digital exhibiting on a formal level for the first time.

These are exciting and challenging times as we seek to maintain the traditions of the physical exhibition whilst embracing the many wonderful opportunities that the online world presents.

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Debtors Prison Tours

Work has now started on our forthcoming exhibition at York Castle Museum – ‘1914: When the World Changed Forever’ – which will open next year to coincide with the anniversary of the start of the First World War.

As part of the exhibition, what is currently the Debtors Prison will be transformed to reflect the sights, sounds and smells of life during the Great War.

York Castle Museum 1914 exhibition poster

Having been fascinated by seeing the redevelopment work at York Art Gallery, I am eagerly anticipating a similar hard-hat tour experience when York Museums Trust employees are allowed round on a special tour in November.

What’s even better is that visitors will also be given an exclusive peek behind the scenes on a limited series of tours to take place on Saturday 9 November 2013. There will be several time slots available, with no additional fee other than the cost of entry to the museum.

Enquire at front desk to book your place on what is sure to be a memorable and unique experience!

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Travel Money

I have been working on a display which takes that loose change from your pocket and turns it into something much bigger over the past few months. The Yorkshire Museum has been host to a ‘travel money’ display featuring modern coins left by visitors from around the world. I have blogged about it previously  but the basic idea was that we asked visitors for a coin from their home country, if they were from overseas, or for locals to leave a coin from their holidays. The idea being that by adding all of these coins onto a large world map we would emphasize York’s connections across the planet.

The response has been excellent with over 200 coins from 72 different countries/states added. If you would like to see the list of places that we had a coin from then there is a list at the bottom of this blog but we covered over a third of all of the countries in the world. The display was also very nicely covered by a couple of newspapers who took the excellent photograph you see below.

Andrew Woods, curator of numismatics, with a coin from Hong Kong at the Yorkshire Museum

Travel Money display, with curator thrown in for good measure. Image is copyright York Press

The display was also noticeable for the range of countries represented. I was surprised at the breadth of places that came to be represented on the map. Everywhere from Kazakhstan to Costa Rica, by way of Ghana and Fiji, was present. This all occurred within two months of the display being launched.


Travel Money display in its final state (click for larger image)

It is also noticeable that the distribution of the coins quite closely mirrors human settlement and economic development. This is (crudely) visible if you compare the coins on our map with the stunning NASA map of light pollution from earth. You see similar concentrations in Europe, the East coast of North America and much of the Asian sub-continent. This was never something we set out to consider but it highlights the ability of a simple object such as a coin to tell those really big stories.

world at night

Nasa image of the earth at night (click for larger image)

Finally, as the display has come down today it is only fair for me to say a big ‘Thank You!’ to all those who left us a coin. We, quite literally, could not have done it without you.


Coins from the following countries were present at the end of the display:

Canada, USA, Mexico, Cuba, Cayman Islands, East Caribbean States, Barbados, Costa Rica, Venezuela, Argentina, Ecuador, Peru, Brazil, Chile, Falkland Islands, Iceland, Ireland, UK, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Spain, France, Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, Poland, Slovenia, Croatia, Hungary, Serbia, Malta, Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, Lithuania, Latvia, Ukraine, Turkey, Cyprus, Israel, Morocco, Egypt, Ghana, Ethiopia, Angola, Tanzania, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Russia, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, China, Japan, South Korea, Macau, Hong Kong, Thailand, Vietnam, Nepal, Malaysia, India, Philippines, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Mauritius and the Maldives.

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The pop-up project

The pop-up project will be running alongside and in relation to the current Artist Rooms exhibition at St Mary’s church featuring American conceptual artist Bruce Nauman. The project will culminate with a week long pop-up exhibition showcasing six different artists, curated and managed by fifteen foundation year students from YorkCollege, in several locations, with various events and workshops throughout the city.

Bonnie, Charlotte and Gris in the Amnesty book shop

As part of the project I was offered a three month internship to further develop my arts practice in relation to the Nauman collection. Taking inspiration from the concepts, visual aesthetic and methods inherent in Nauman’s work I was to produce a piece or pieces that would then be exhibited in one or more of the alternative, pop-up exhibition spaces.

The nature of the project required two things of the work produced, the above mentioned connection to Nauman, for this I chose to focus on his ability to take language beyond the ‘first instance’ through a negotiation of unavoidable complex linguistic associations. Secondly, with the main pop-up location being the Amnesty bookshop on Goodramgate, it became equally important to consider the logistics of working in a non conventional space, a commercial space that unlike most pop-up exhibitions will continue to function as a shop throughout the duration of the exhibition.

pop-up galery students in the Yorkshire Museum stores

With the internship being the first of its kind available though Artist Rooms, it seems relevant to highlight the importance and value such a rare position provides. Offering an invaluable experience to any graduate artist through the opportunity not only to make work with a guaranteed exhibition at the end, but the space and time to do so and continuous support in terms of facilities, mentoring and technical advice from both YorkSt John’sUniversity and YMT.

Opening with a preview event on the evening of Friday 25th October, the pop-up exhibition will also feature work by Poppy Whatmore and Yvonne Carmichael, whose pieces have been selected and curated by the YorkCollege students. I and Charlotte Salt have produced a collaborative installation with scheduled performances and a sound work. These will act to map an exploration of language as instruction, and ultimately physical action itself, inseparably interlinked within a chain of past and future instances in which language is activated through speech, action and the performative utterance.

Works by Hannah Savage and Chris House, both Fine Art graduates and guides at York At Mary’s, Has also been selected for the show.

Written by Bonnie Powell Current Graduate Artist Intern with YMT

 (Bonnie’s internship is running as a partnership between YorkSt JohnsUniversity and YMT. It has been made possible by the Art Fund through Artist Rooms.)

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The Connected Museum (beta)

If you are active in the museum world you must aware of the ever-increasing impact that digital technology is having on the way we work. If not you might be curious to learn a bit about it.

Like lots of museum organisations we at YMT have been wrestling with the opportunities and implications of the emerging landscape. As Agnes Alfandari from the Musee du Louvre posed the challenge recently, “The museum is now ubiquitous and polymorphic. It exists outside real space and is in front of audiences in a variety of forms. The rapid rise of digital allows it to invest into new territories, to be present at school, at home, in hospital or in prison.”

Agnes goes on to describe ‘the augmented museum’ as popular, permeable, malleable, iterative and brave. This ties in very closely with a concept we have been playing with at YMT, that of ‘the connected museum’. Other adjectives we use are inclusive, personalised, responsive, connecting and open.

Openness is key; particularly when it comes to data. People outside the museum world will probably be unaware of the struggles that we have been having around museum data. It has been a classic tussle between the Opportunities and Threats presented by new technology. The opportunities are clear but the concerns around quality control and loss of revenue are real too.

I’m glad to say that, for the most part, the more positive ‘let’s open it up and see what happens’ approach appears to be getting the upper hand.  Exciting projects like the Rijkstudio that allows you to download and re-use 130,000 high quality images and Europeana which gives access to 20 million objects from 1500 different institutions are leading the way. (If you’re interested there’s an excellent summary of the story by Mia Ridge).

But it’s a bit tricky, the concept of the augmented or connected museum, and we thought it would be interesting to try to visualise it. To do that we used a clever bit of software called Gephi (open source, naturally). This is the how the traditional view of YMT might be illustrated with Gephi (click to get a full-size version):


The relative sizes of the circle very roughly reflect the numbers of people involved and a thicker connecting line represents a stronger link between the connected groups of people.

Now if we loosen the definition of ‘York Museums Trust’ a bit and include some other closely related groups, such as visitors to our websites, we get:Connections-2

But if this is only part of the story, there are many other potential connections, e.g.:


I think this begins to give a sense of what the connected museum concept is all about. Perhaps an important aspect of the work of YMT and other museums from now on is managing and stimulating the connections between collections, knowledge and a whole complex network of interested groups and individuals.

This is of course, in the spirit of the connected museum, a work in progress. What do you think?


Related Content: On the Cusp of a Digital Revolution

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A Little Chat With: Yvonne Carmichael

The pop-up gallery project, Oct 26th-Nov 3rd, is an exhibition of art, language and performance that been curated by York College Arts Foundation Students. The exhibition will be taking place in a beautiful bookshop setting and beyond into a trail of secret spaces in York.

All work from the six exhibiting artists has been inspired by the work of Bruce Nauman, which is currently on display at St. Mary’s contemporary art gallery, Castlegate.

Yvonne Carmichael’s artwork will be featured in the exhibition; she took a few minutes away from her craft to speak to us about her involvement in the event.

Tell us a bit about yourself…

I am an artist and curator based in Bradford. After graduating from Leeds College of Art in 2006 I curated and facilitated various events and exhibition in empty shop units. I enjoy exhibiting in unusual and public spaces as well as working collaboratively. I am part of artist collective Black Dogs (

Tell us about your work…

I have just completed an MFA at University of Leeds and this provided me with a great excuse to develop my own practice as an artist. I focussed on working with video, photography and performance. One body of work made during the course is ‘Retail Aesthetics’ that explored commercial catalogue photography, shop displays and the movements of shoppers and shop assistants.

Poundlandisagirlsbestfriend by Yvonne Carmichael (3)






Poundland is a Girl’s Best Friend is a series of photographs depicting various useful objects purchased in the pound shop that I displayed using some of the rules that shape high-end retail visual merchandising (eg. products should be displayed in odd numbers with no more than three key colours used in displays etc). The photographs are also inspired by Hollywood dance choreographies (such as Diamonds are a Girls’ Best Friend). Another series of photographs entitled Ladies of Leisure is of women mimicking garden furniture from the ASDA outdoor living catalogue.

How did you become involved in the project…

Recently I was commissioned by Gallery II (Bradford) to do a project in my own home. For this I made a series of short videos using my phone called Chore-ography that looked at the choreography of different chores and everyday domestic objects. I exhibited these videos in my house as part of Saltaire Arts Trail and it was during this exhibition that Gaby Lees from the YMT learning team saw my work. She got in touch to see if I would be interested in exhibiting as part of the pop-up exhibition which I was excited about as I’m big fan of Bruce Nauman’s approach to making art. He lets the concept leads the work and isn’t afraid to experiment. I ran the Teenage Summer School in August at York St Mary’s in response to his work.

The foundation students from York College are curating the upcoming exhibition they will be selecting from my previous works I look forward to seeing how it all comes together!

For more information on the work of Yvonne Carmichael visit:

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