Ashby de la Zouch Museum Digital Engagement Projects

Ashby de la Zouch Museum Digital Engagement Projects Blog

Don’t Panic!

Ashby Museum is set to be turned into a war zone on the morning of 31st October.  A large group of “evacuees” will be arriving from Donisthorpe Primary School for a World War II Home Front experience and the Museum will be closed to the public for the morning as we recreate air raids, food shortages and Home Guard drills for the children.  Don’t be surprised if you happen to be walking by and hear air raid sirens going off from within.  We are turning the Zouche Gallery into an oversized Anderson shelter and we are expecting quite a few air raids during the morning!

The Museum will have returned to normal and will reopen to the public again by 2pm.

The war theme continues the following Saturday 3rd November when our Kids’ History Club opens its doors again for a day on theme of First World War.  Come along between 10 and 12 and 1 and 3pm to take part.

Yet another  wartime connected event took place on Friday 26th October when the Museum was presented with two plaques commemorating the support given by the town to the submarine HMS Unison (see previous post for details). Left, members of the British Legion who were present at the event together with our Vice Chairman, Brian Berry.
Pictures of the plaques themselves appear below.

Hidden History Uncovered

Here are the answers to our list of hidden history sites and how you can find out more:

1. The Royal Hotel car park.  This was the site of the Ivanhoe Baths which opened in 1822.  The mineral waters were brought in wagons from mines in Moira and were said to be good for curing skin complaints, aches and pains, stomach disorders and just about anything you can think of!  The Baths building was an elegant classical structure and offered recreational facilities such as dances, billiards and card rooms to its fashionable visitors.  You can find out more about the Baths by coming to the Museum.  We have a model of the Baths and in our shop you can buy a book on the Spa Town written by Kenneth Hillier and a 60 minute film on DVD made by our film unit.








2. The Old Vicarage Garden. This was the site of the original Ashby Grammar School building which opened in 1567.  The school was knocked down during the English Civil Wars in the 1640s to make way for the guns and fortifications which were used by the Parliamentary army to attack the castle.  Also on the site, but now in the garden belonging to St Helen’s Cottage (St Helen’s Church) are the remains of medieval buildings which have been excavated recently by archaeologists.  A film about the excavation will be shown at the Museum on 22nd November at 7.30 (contact the Museum to book a seat) and Kenneth Hillier will give a short talk on the origins of the Grammar School.

3. The new flats on Birch Street and Oak Avenue off Nottingham Road.  This was the site of the Ashby Union Workhouse.  It was built in the 1820s, before the formation of the Ashby Poor Law Union, and closed in the 1930s.  A book on the Ashby Poor Law Union and the workhouse, written by Wendy Freer, is available at the Museum.

4. The new flats on Astley Way off Nottingham Road.  An old windmill once stood on this site.  It was a wooden post mill (a post mill is where the whole of the mill revolves to turn the sails into the wind, unlike a tower mill where only the cap revolves).  It is thought that some inmates from the workhouse worked there at one time although records show that the workhouse had some sort of flour mill of its own at one time.


5. Manor House School.  The building which is now the school was built in the 1830s as a private house for the Mammatt family.  Prior to that a complex of buildings stood on the site next to the castle.  One of these buildings was “The House of Industry”, an early form of workhouse.  You can read more about this institution in Wendy Freer’s book on Ashby Poor Law Union and the Ashby Workhouse.

Well that’s our hidden histories uncovered.  So far we haven’t had any suggestions from readers to add to the list but we would be very interested to know about any more hidden history sites in the town.


Hidden History Revealed

Here are some clues to the “Hidden History” sites on our list:

















These pictures should help you work out what used to be on these familiar sites.  If you think you know, please add your answers in the comments box below.

More information from us soon.




Hidden History

If asked to name the most interesting historic site in Ashby, I think most people would choose the castle.  But how many sites in and around Ashby have hidden histories? Here are some suggestions but please use the comment box below to add some of your own.
1. Royal Hotel car park

2. The Old Vicarage garden

3. The new flats and houses in Birch Street and Oak Crescent off Nottingham Road

4. The new flats in Astley Way off Nottingham Road

5. Manor House School site (not the present building)

What do you know about the history of these sites?  What once stood there?  What might still be hidden beneath the ground?  Use the comments box below to give us your ideas or what you know about these sites.  We’ll add some information of our own and some pictures next week.

Well it’s been a longer period than usual since our last blog.  Sorry about that but it’s been a busy time.  Arts Council Funding released recently has allowed various organisations to offer new training courses and workshops and we have been working hard to make sure that our Museum has a good chance of benefiting from these.








Our film of the St Helen’s Cottage Archaeological Excavation is finished and will be shown at the Museum on 22nd November at 7.30pm.  There will also be a photographic exhibition which will run from the evening of 22nd November until the end of January 2013.  Unfortunately we won’t have any of the finds themselves to exhibit as these will take some time to be properly cleaned and recorded and will then go into the care of Leicestershire Museum Service but we are hoping that some of them will eventually be on display in our Museum.

A prestigious event is due to take place at the Museum on 26th October when two plaques will be presented to the Museum by the Town Council.  These plaques were originally presented to the town to commemorate the support given by Ashby Urban District Council and Ashby Rural District Council for HMS Unison during Warship Week March 1942.

HMS Unison

Warship Weeks were British National savings campaigns during the Second World War. The aim was for a community to adopt a Royal Navy warship. Larger cities would try to raise enough money to build a battleship or aircraft carrier. Smaller towns such as Ashby would focus on smaller ships such as cruisers and destroyers. Once the target money was saved for the ship, the community would adopt the ship and its crew.

Local charity organisations, churches and schools would provide the crews of the adopted ship with gloves, woollen socks and balaclavas. Children would often write letters and send cards to the crew. When possible, officers and men from the adopted ship would visit the local community.

Ashby’s adopted vessel was HMS Unison, a U Class submarine which was launched on 5th November 1941.  She spent most of her wartime career in the Mediterranean and was transferred to the Soviet Navy in 1944.  She returned to the Royal Navy in 1949 and ended her career in 1950.

To acknowledge the support of Ashby de la Zouch, two plaques were presented to the two local councils involved.  The Town Council has been successful in re-uniting the plaques in what is the 70th anniversary year, and they are very proud of having done so.  The Town Mayor will officially present the plaques to Ashby de la Zouch Museum on 26th October at 10am.  Also in attendance will be the Town Clerk and the Leader of the Council.

A successful Kids’ History Club was held on 6th October.  The theme was The English Civil Wars and a number of children turned up to join in the fun, especially in the afternoon.  The next Kids’ History Club will be on Saturday 3rd November and the theme will be The First World War.  This is designed to coincide with Remembrance Sunday which will soon be with us.

Well that’s all for this post.  Don’t forget to add your ideas in the comments boxes below and we’ll see you next week.


About this Sponsor

Ashby Museum was established in 1982 in a small cottage in Lower Church Street. In 1991 it relocated to its present home in North Street, where it shares the old National School building with the town Library and Tourist Information Centre. In 2006-7, thanks to a major Heritage Lottery Fund Grant, a two storey extension was added. It is a Registered Charity and is run by a group of trustees supported by over 50 volunteer custodians. It won the Leicestershire Heritage Award for best temporary exhibitions in 1998, 2001 and 2003. In July 2007, the museum won Museum of the Year in Leicestershire. It works closely with the county Museum Service and other independent museums in the area, sharing expertise and artefacts.