Sudbury Hall NT

Sudbury Hall NT Blog

Chinese New Year!

Happy Chinese New Year!

A doll of a Chinese lady
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A doll of a Chinese man
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A photo of Chinese children in Chinese dress
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A chinese dragonfly kite
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An automaton of a smoking Chinaman
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A.A. Milne

Today is the 132nd birthday of A.A. Milne, author of the world-famous Winnie the Pooh books!

A.A. Milne


Alan Alexander Milne was born on 18th January 1882 in Kilburn,London. He went to Henley House School where he was taught by author H.G. Wells, and who went on to be “a great writer and a great friend” in Milne’s own words.

Milne was Assistant Editor of punch magazine until the First World War when he joined the army. His literary career really got started after the war.

Milne wrote a great many novels and plays, but his most famous works were his Children’s books about The Bear of Very Little Brain, Winnie the Pooh. These books were inspired by his son, Christopher Robin, who featured in the stories. The stories tell the tale of Winnie the Pooh and his friends, Christopher Robin, Piglet, Eeyore the donkey, Tigger, Rabbit, Owl, Kanga and Roo. The first Pooh book, Winnie the Pooh was published in 1926. This was followed by Now We Are Six in 1927, and The House at Pooh Corner in 1928.

Winnie the Pooh with his friends

An original illistration of Winnie the Pooh and Piglet

















Winnie the Pooh has remained a firm favourite with young and old alike right to this day. The books have been published around the world and translated into many different languages. Walt Disney’s adaptations of the stories have also helped to ensure the continued popularity of Winnie the Pooh and all his friends!

Disney’s version of Winnie the Pooh and his friends


Here are a few of the Winnie the Pooh objects that we have in our collection here at the Museum of Childhood.

Inside ‘Now We Are Six’

A Winnie the Pooh teddy
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A pencil case with Eeyore on the side
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 (Information sourced from:,,,, )



Deck the Hall – Christmas at Sudbury

The days are getting frostier, the trees have shed their leaves, Christmas is just around the corner! We have been getting into the festive spirit here at Sudbury Hall and the Museum of Childhood.  

Our staff and volunteers had a busy week decorating the Hall and Museum for Christmas, based around a theme of Christmas traditions, old and new. Here are some of the preparations in the Hall.





And the finished result!








The museum has been beautifully decorated too, with the help of our lovely visitors during November who made all the colourful little people!


You’ll have to visit us to get the full effect and see all the Christmas traditions, old and new! We’re open for one more weekend, Thursday 19th to Sunday 22nd December, so do come down and see us!



St Andrew’s Day

Today is St Andrew’s Day, patron saint of Scotland!


St Andrew has been the patron saint of Scotland since 1320. He was a Galilean fisherman working in the Black Sea before he, and his brother Simon Peter (St Peter), became disciples of Jesus Christ. He was crucified by the Romans on an X-shaped cross, which has inspired Scotland’s national flag of a white X on a blue background, known as the St Andrew’s flag. St Andrew is also the patron saint of Romania, Greece, Russia and Barbados. His patronage extends to fishmongers, gout, singers, sore throats, spinsters, maidens, old maids and women wishing to become mothers.


To celebrate St Andrew’s Day, here are a few of the Scottish inspired objects in our collection.

A tinplate clockwork toy of a Scottish piper
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A toy Scottish Terrier
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A costume doll of Mary Queen of Scots made by Peggy Nisbet
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R.Bell & Co’s Scottish Bluebell Matches
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A Royal Bank of Scotland piggy bank
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A bisque-headed male doll in Scottish costume
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And finally….

The St Andrew’s Day Google Doodle!

(Information sourced from:


C.S. Lewis

C.S. Lewis, author of the famous Chronicles of Narnia books, was born on this day, 29th November, in 1898. A few days ago, on the 22nd November, it was the 50th anniversary of his death, 22nd November 1962 – the same day that J.F. Kennedy was assassinated.


C.S. Lewis was a writer and a university professor, teaching at first Oxford, and then Cambridge. As well as his famous Narnia stories for children, Lewis also wrote books for adults, about literature, religion and science fiction.


C.S. Lewis’s full name was Clive Staples Lewis, but to his family he was known as ‘Jack’. He was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland. He was educated in both England and Northern Ireland, before studying at Oxford University. At the age of 19 he became a soldier in World War I, fighting inFrance.

C.S. Lewis wrote many of his more serious books first, writing The Chronicles of Narnia later in life. While teaching in oxford, one of his friends was J.R.R. Tolkien, author of The Lord of the Rings.


Having been brought up a Christian, C.S. Lewis became an atheist as a teenager, but returned to Christianity at the age of 33. Many of his books were based on religion, including The Chronicles of Narnia. He started writing the Narnia books in 1939 when three evacuees came to stay with him during World War II. The first book, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was published in 1950, followed by six more books until The Last Battle was published in 1956.


C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia are still hugely popular today and have sold over 100 million copies and have been translated into more than 45 languages. So far, three of the books have been turned into major motion pictures, increasing their popularity yet further.

The movie of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
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The movie of Prince Caspian
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The movie of THe Voyage of the Dawn Treader
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Here are a few of the objects in our collection which relate to the Chronicles of Narnia.

The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis

Inside the book of The Magician’s Nephew

Inside the book of Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis

A marionette of a faun from the Lilliput Marionette Theatre. He might have been Mr Tumnus from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
See it online here:

Inside the book of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis

Another look inside the book of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

A Catalan translation of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe


So, have you read any of the Narnia books? Which was your favourite?

(Information sourced from:



Doctor Who’s 50th Anniversary

Tomorrow, 23rd November, is the 50th anniversary of the first broadcast of Doctor Who!

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 First aired on BBC One at 5.15pm on Saturday 23rd November 1963, Doctor Who has been honoured by Guinness World Records as both the longest running and most successful science-fiction series in the world.

Created as an educational family show to fit between the football results and evening entertainment programmes, Doctor Who was the brainchild of Canadian TV producer and BBC Head of Drama, Sydney Newman.

After an initial run of 26 years, the series was rested. It returned for a one-off TV movie featuring the Eighth Doctor in 1996. Doctor Who was fully resurrected in 2005 and has gone from strength to strength ever since.

To celebrate this landmark anniversary, the 50th anniversary episode, The Day of the Doctor, is being shown in cinemas around the country (in 3D no less!), at the same time as being broadcast simultaneously in 84 countries around the world!

To mark the occasion in our own way, here at the Museum of Childhood, we have set up a display devoted to Doctor Who and his companions. This display contains models, toys, books and memorabilia spanning the (re)generations (sorry!) of Doctor Who, some donated to the museum, as well as artefacts on loan to us from private collectors.





For those of you who aren’t able to come and browse the display yourself, here are a few of the Doctor Who artefacts that we have in our museum collection. 


The Doctor himself, as portrayed by Sylvester McCoy.

See it online here:


K9, The Doctor’s robot dog companion.

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A CD of the Dr Who story ’The Stone Rose’ read by David Tennant.

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Finally, a Dalek! 

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(Information sourced from: , & )




 The seasons are changing and autumn is upon us. That can mean only one thing…Halloween!

Autumnal Sudbury
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To fit in with the Halloween season, I thought I’d show you some of the spookier objects in our collection!

A toy bat
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We’ve got a lovely collection of witches, from dolls to marionettes. Some are a lot creepier than others!

A witch marionette from the Lilliput Marionette Theatre
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A witch marionette from the Lilliput Marionette Theatre
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A witch puppet
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A witch doll
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A witch doll made of maize
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A witch doll
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A witch doll
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We can’t have witches without the witch’s trusty companion: the black cat!

A Steiff soft toy black cat
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A clockwork black cat
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A clockwork cat
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This is a creepy looking soft toy cat!
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We’ve also got a couple of ghosts haunting our collection…

A ghost marionette from the Lilliput Marionette Theatre
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A ghost marionette from the Lilliput Marionette Theatre
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How would you feel to find this snake creeping up on you?

A wooden snake
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Or this spider?

A wooden spider from a set of Noah’s Ark animals
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Finally, it wouldn’t be Halloween without a pumpkin!

A theatre programme in the shape of a pumpkin
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A volunteer’s perspective

We’ve got a guest blogger today! Liz, one of our Collections Volunteers, has very kindly written today’s post. Following on from my post last week about the variety of volunteers we have, I thought it would be nice to hear directly from one of our volunteers about what they get up to while volunteering with our collections! Here’s what Liz has got to say…


I’m letting Rose have a break from blogging (not from cataloguing), to tell you a little about why I volunteer. Basically I became a volunteer at Sudbury after being interviewed for a Marketing Internship, which resulted in me being offered the chance to volunteer with the museum collection. I didn’t realise that the opportunity was there for me to work with the collections if I was to volunteer with the Trust, which is why I came at things a little back-to-front.

As Rose said in her last post, I’m helping with different collection based jobs in order to gain some additional experience to help me get a job in the heritage sector and to help out the team in the process. Here at Sudbury I’ve had the chance to see, well, the good, the bad and the unusual in the collection – at least for me.

The Good

I’ve had the chance to work with experts who have been brought in to help review an aspect of the museum collection. Through this I’ve seen some of the beautiful items of clothing housed in the museum’s stores, that won’t necessarily make it out onto display. I’ve seen intricate Victorian wedding dresses and simple maid’s aprons, as well as coming across shoes, handbags and accessories. I know it seems a little ‘girly’, but the quality of these outfits and the care that went into making them is astounding.

The Bad

It may seem silly, especially helping out at the Museum of Childhood, but I have a phobia of mannequins. My friends, when I told them I was to help look over and check a collection of marionettes for damage, laughed as they know how scared they make me (I have been known to leave a room, or at least take a wide berth). I however managed it – though I probably should say I took notes and didn’t touch them but its all about baby steps right? I may even go as far as to say there were a couple of ‘cute’ ones in the collection, but some did freak me out a little.

A rabbit marionette from the play ‘Hansel and Gretel’


A jester marionette



































The Unusual

Most of my time volunteering is spent helping Rose with the collections database. Doing this means I’m not always ‘hands on’ with the collection but it does mean I get the chance to see what objects are in the collection. I’ve come across dolls of different shapes and sizes, not to mention a great deal of finely-detailed doll’s clothing and doll’s house furnishings. I’ve seen teddy bears, building blocks and model railway sets, not to mention toy cars, tea sets and lantern slides. I’ve seen objects that I remember playing with and I’ve seen objects that have been well loved. Suffice it to say this collection is big, and to try and pick out any unusual objects is causing me a bit of difficulty. That said, I did come across a stereoscope and slides not so long ago, which made me stop and wonder what one was (I discovered it was used to see 3D images).

A late 19th century stereoscope


19th Century stereoscope slides


























Hidden volunteers

Everyone knows that the National Trust is reliant on the hundreds of thousands of volunteers who act as room guides in all our properties across the country. What a lot of people don’t realise is that the National Trust is also supported by a great many additional volunteers who help us with a vast miscellany of tasks, from helping in the gardens, assisting with education activities and serving customers in the shops and tea rooms, to lending a hand with the care, conservation and documentation of our precious collections!

As an example of this, I thought I’d show you the range of volunteers we have just within our Collections Team here at Sudbury Hall and Museum of Childhood.

First of all we have Liz. Liz has recently graduated from her post-graduate qualification inArtGalleryand Museum Studies and is now searching for a collections-based job within the museums and heritage sector. Liz is working on our collections database, Collections Management System, helping with the transfer from our previous collections database, Modes for Windows. She is editing each record, ensuring that the information has transferred across correctly. Her work than feeds into the National Trust Collections website, which updates with the corrections she has made, ensuring that you (‘the public’) can see all the information about our wonderful collection. Liz has also helped us out with other collections activities such as undertaking condition checks on a collection of marionettes, handling and moving some of our objects in and out of storage, scanning photographs from our collection, and assisting when we have an expert in to undertake a peer review of an aspect of our collection. Volunteering with a historic collection is an excellent way of gaining valuable work experience, practical skills and knowledge while searching for that all important first collections job.













Next we have Chris. Chris is also a recent graduate. He has also been seeking employment within the heritage sector. Chris is not afraid to get stuck into anything, and has been helping out in shop and hall, as well as helping us in the Collections Department. Within Collections, Chris has been working on making ‘flip books’ for the museum containing additional information about all of the objects that we have on display. With limited space on display case labels, these are a valuable way to provide extra information for our most engaged visitors, ensuring that they get the most out of their visit to the museum. Of the back of his volunteering, Chris now has a part-time job at Derby Museum and Art Gallery, but he still finds time to come back and volunteer with us from time-to-time!

Chris dressed up as Sir Joseph Wright as part of his work at Derby Museum and Art Gallery!


We also have a small team of photography volunteers. This team grows and shrinks over time, but at present we have two dedicated photographers; Sue and Steve. Sue and Steve are contributing to the improvement of our collections database by photographing the objects in our collection that do not already have a photo, or which only have a photo of poor quality (prior to the easy availability of digital cameras, photography was a much more protracted and expensive process, which has led to some of the deficiencies in our photographs of objects). You can also appreciate their photographic efforts as the photos also appear on our National Trust Collections website (,-Derbyshire-%28Accredited-Museum%29/1)! Sue and Steve work up in the attics of the Hall, where our collection is stored, so that they can easily access the objects that need to be photographed. We have set up lighting and a photography cube as a portable ‘studio’ for them.













Finally, we have Brian. Brian is in charge of updating the collections database for the Hall’s collections (while the rest of us work on the (much larger!) museum collection. Brian is retired, and has been working with the collection for many, many years. He has even been awarded an MBE for his services to volunteering! As well as volunteering with us, Brian also volunteers as a room guide in the Hall, and volunteers with the National Trust collections at Norbury Manor and Calke Abbey. I think that MBE is well deserved!













So, for anyone out there who has been put off from volunteering for the National Trust by the prospect of standing in one room for hours on end, do get in touch with your local properties and find out what volunteering opportunities they have on offer. Whether it’s gardening, working with children or caring for precious collections that rocks your world, there’s bound to be a role out there that is perfect for you!



The Saratoga Trunk


In the collection here at the National Trust Museum of Childhood we are lucky enough to have a miniature doll’s version of the famous Saratoga trunk!


The doll’s Saratoga trunk


Saratoga trunks are named after the spa city where they were most commonly taken – Saratoga Springs, New York. In the 19th century, Saratoga Springs was a hugely popular vacation destination for the rich and famous, where they could enjoy the spas and racetracks of the area.


‘Back in Saratoga’s Victorian heyday, people didn’t just come to the Spa Cityfor a weekend, they came for “the season.” An entire summer away from home meant hauling a whole summer wardrobe. And in the days before shorts and slip dresses, 19th century vacationers needed some serious luggage. Ladies were hauling countless hats and gowns. Never mind the myriad of undergarments required.’ (


Saratoga trunks, with their durability, huge size, curved tops and many compartments and trays within, were the ideal container for transporting this huge wardrobe. Nobody knows who designed the Saratoga trunk, but they appeared during the mid 1800’s. Too big for stagecoaches, they were transported by train, but by the early 19th century when people started travelling by car, the trunks became too cumbersome and they fell out of favour.


A full size Saratoga trunk


The Saratoga trunk we have here at the Museumof Childhoodis a much smaller version of the original – just 460 mm long, 327 mm high and 310 mm deep. However, it is a perfect little replica, complete with all the compartments and trays within. It came fully stocked with all the clothes and accessories that a fashionable doll of the 19th century could ever need, including hats, shoes, gloves, parasols, jewellery and corsets!

Inside the doll’s Saratoga trunk

This doll’s Saratoga trunk was given to a little girl called Mary Ann by her father on her 8th birthday in the 1850’s. Her father, a wool buyer from Manchester, bought the trunk while he was attending wool sales inLondon. Mary Ann was a very lucky girl indeed to be given such an extravagant present!

Below are a few examples of the contents of the doll’s Saratoga trunk

A doll’s hairbrush

Doll’s shoes

Doll’s haircombs

A doll’s parasol

A doll’s corset


You too can come and see our doll’s Saratoga trunk, which is on display in our Toy Gallery, complete with many of its contents.



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