Northamptonshires Hidden Heritage

Northamptonshires Hidden Heritage Blog

The end of the first two roadtrips. What happens next?

Northampton Youth Forum have now visited the following museums as part of two roadtrips

23 August

Rushden Museum

Rushden Transport Museum

78 Derngate

Northampton Museum and Art Gallery

31st August

Prebendal Manor and Tithe Barn Museum

Oundle Museum

Kelmarsh Hall

Harrington Aviation Museum

What happens next?

The young people will edit the film they took. The films will be launched in March 2011 and will be entered into the Northamptonshire Film Festival. We will also run a writing workshop where young people can explore the 5 reasons to visit the participant sites. Young people will also support museums to develop and improve  facebook sites.

We have another two trips to visit museums and heritage sites in Northamptonshire planned with young people. These will be supported by Northamptonshire Youth Voluntary Action.


A young persons perspective of four museums in Northamptonshire

Evan Battison September 1st, 2010 at 11:56 pm

As a member of the Youth Forum I went on the Road Trip and have to say it was a great experience. Going to places around Northamptonshire which safeguard our county’s history to a much greater extend than some of the larger museums that young people who, while still unlikely, have a greater chance of visiting.

The first place we visited, the courthouse in Oundle, was very interesting as they had exhibits on the history of Oundle going all the way back to the romans which I found astonishing. I also found out that the last prisoner held at the courthouse was accused of stealing christmas trees. I found it hilarious! It was great fun to have a go at wearing Georgian clothes aswell! I thought that it had a really cosy feel and find it a shame that it is in Oundle as it is unlikely that many people will travel from Northampton to see it.

Next up was Probendal Manor, the oldest house in Northamptonshire, which I will admit I had never heard of. However, I was pleasantly surprised as I was able to wear chainmail and see examples of historical clothes and weapons (vintage!). I found it very interesting how the Manor had been visited by King Canute and also how large the house actually is. However, it is actually somebody’s home which gave it a very warm feel and again it is just sad that it isn’t very well known.

Our next stop was at the Carpetbagger Museum at Harrington, the site of the WW2 airfield where agents and supplies were flown to occupied Europe. We looked around the control room and saw a US military video that detailed how the base operated which was very interesting as it showed some of the rooms around us and that brought with it a great sense of history. Unfortunately, only a small part of the base is preserved and it is a real shame that we only see a small fraction of the site as it is the sort of thing that would captivate young people.

Our final visit was to Kelmarsh Hall, probably the most well known of our stops. I found it interesting as it was part stately home with its extravagent detail and swarthes of land and part modern art gallery. Personally, I found the later aspect most appealing as it showcased very interesting art as well as some that seemed to me to be just IKEA-esque furniture! However, I did enjoy the history of the place and I would like to go again to take more of Kelmarsh Hall.

Overall, I found the day really exciting as I discovered four hidden gems in the county that I wasn’t already aware of. I hope to go to them again as all had so much detail that it was impossible to take it all in on first visit. I also enjoyed the trip as I had the opportunity to do alot of filming of the various museums; altogether found it an awesome experience that not be easily forgotten and one I would love to do again!


Spies, ghosts, life and death – stories from Northamptonshire Museums

Post by Lindsey Ambrose

Discovering secrets about courageous daring spies, the eery ghostliness of watching life and death decisions being made in the very building we were in and in the rooms which looked remarkably similar to how they did today…

Discovering that political gestures and the art of spin and powerplay were alive and well at Prebendal Manor when conquering Normans literally swallowed up the home of King Knut, absorbing its wooden structure and replacing it with a larger stone one that’s been occupied ever since! (And as a Time Team fan being totally thrilled to recognise where trenches went in too!)…

Watching the young people getting into character, taking their top hats off politely to oncoming traffic… having fun with chainmail, a sword and shield… giving an inpromptu performance with medieval instruments (a variation on the traditional Three Blind Mice – including a medieval instrument which looked remarkably like a vuvuzela!)…

So much fun – proof that whether you’re into fun, fashion, photography… etc there’s lots to do and enjoy and that ‘going to a museum’ is often totally different to what you might expect to find

Feeling very proud of Youth Forum and all the heritage places with so many people providing wonderful experiences in the county I call home


Mr. Darcy, the Vintage Band, a Carpetbagger’s kit and the Goldfish Sellers.

Blog by Judith Allnat

On the trail of Northamptonshire’s hidden heritage, we had some fantastic experiences and found out some weird and wonderful things. I enjoyed the company of young people from the Northampton Youth Forum and finding out their responses to the special places that we visited. Here are some of my special highlights:

At Oundle Museum, the young people were able to try on period costumes. As the museum is in the old courthouse and cells, I asked them to ‘create a criminal’ by naming and imagining a character and what they might have done to end up in the dock . As a result we shared the blood-curdling tales of Cassius and Cornelia Emory and Jasper Ashby, the revenge of Magnolia Butterworth, the story of Christmas tree felons Harriet and Ivy Porter and the disorderly doings of undertaker, Orson Hogg. I enjoyed the characters immensely and hope we might develop them further in a workshop. There is more to come on their dastardly deeds…
Two of the costumes included frock coats and top hats: ‘Mr. Darcy’ style. When having a group photo taken outside the museum, it would have seemed churlish for the gents not to tip their hats to passers by – something that took local motorists by surprise!
The consensus was that the way the exhibits followed a time line from the Roman era to the present day made it interesting. Comments were: ‘I liked the way it went through time in one small town’ and ‘It was good the way it went from BC through to AD’. It made me laugh when one of the group pointed at a 1980’s photo and said ‘Look at their retro glasses!’ Seems like yesterday to me. Which all goes to prove that time is relative…

At the Prebendal Manor we encountered the past in a very ‘hands on’ way through using the senses. We held a 1,000 year old arm bone, smelt Victorian smelling salts (old nappies!) and rope woven from Lime bark and rubbed soap made from soapwort and water (very bright green) into our hands.
Dressed in medieval costume, the impromptu ‘Vintage’ band was formed and mastered ‘Hot Cross Buns’ on Gemshorn, Bone Whistle, Flute and Rebab. Who could forget this performance, or the grumpy faced gargoyles and the three- winged goose ? The visit was full of quirky things and the place has a special magic.
It’s often the tiny details that catch one’s imagination. Inside the Manor House we saw the spot where King Knut was reputed to have sat playing chess because he was bored. We also saw a ‘squint’, a hole cut diagonally through the wall so that you could look secretly at whoever approached your door before you let them in. I couldn’t help but see the bored King Knut in my mind’s eye, constantly jumping up from his chess board every time he heard a sound, to look out in the hope of a visitor.

At Harrington Aviation Museum we explored the exhibits then made a group list of things we would like in our kitbag if we were soldiers climbing into a plane through the ‘Joe hole’ about to go on ‘operation carpetbagger’. What we came up with was:
A parachute (definitely)
Gun and ammo
Dehydrated food
Fake ID
Water purification tablets
A map concealed inside a pencil

Having watched a film of the base in its operational heyday, it was strange to realise that we were sitting in one of the rooms that had been featured. For me, these moments are fascinating; as though the past is tapping you on the shoulder.

My favourite room at Kelmarsh Hall was the room decorated with wallpaper in a Chinese design. The colours are rich; the scene, one of flowers, foliage and exotic birds with tiny people at the bottom going about their daily business, playing games and selling goldfish. The wallpaper is in fact canvas hung on battens so that it’s portable and can be moved from house to house. I was intrigued by the whole idea of this blurring of the line between wallpaper and art. There was no obvious pattern repeat and all the walls were covered so that the impression given was of standing inside a painting.
The word I kept hearing from the young people as they wandered the rooms and gardens of Kelmarsh was ‘beautiful’. We talked about the symmetry of the Georgian architecture and the way that this was continued into the formal garden creating a sense of order and peace. There is something enchanting about visiting places that draw us for a little while into the past; we were all loath to leave the walled garden and venture out again into the modern world.


About this Sponsor

The Northamptonshire Museums and Historic Houses Forum has existed since 2002 and provides its many members of museums, heritage attractions and historic houses with a friendly network of support.