Objects in Focus

Objects in Focus


Fanny Kemble’s Apocrypha, leather bound book, America, 1891


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 Fanny Kemble was a stage actress, novelist, diarist, abolitionist and social reformer. After her education in France she returned to the family home, staying at Eastlands, Weybridge.

During a tour of America, starting in 1832, Kemble met Pierce Butler, a slave-owner who was – at the time – one of the richest men in the United States. The pair married in 1834. After viewing the conditions that Butler kept his slaves in, Kemble and Butler had repeated arguments; she kept a diary of her experiences on the plantations throughout 1838-1839. The couple divorced in 1849 after a messy separation and ensuing court battle.

It was during this time that Kemble received the Apocrypha from her friends, the Banisters, whom she often stayed with while in the United States. Dating from November 1841, it would have been in Kemble’s possession throughout her disagreements with her husband over slavery.

The Apocrypha is a book of religious texts that are not included in the standard bible, usually because they would cause internal contradictions.

The word ‘apocrypha’ translates from Latin to the adjective "secret" and from a Greek verb "to hide away". This is exactly what Kemble did with her own journal. Kemble’s journal remained unpublished until the American Civil War (and until her children were aged 21) and was not released until 1863. Kemble delayed publication in the hope that her journal would help crystallise political movements against the southern Confederate states.



Dental Probe Handle


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Churchfield Road in Walton on Thames was the home of a thriving factory producing dental equipment from 1896 until its closure in 1981. During WWII the factory played a crucial role in the nation's defence - manufacturing components for Mosquito and Wellington bombers.

Elmbridge Museum has a number of pieces in its collection that were produced at the factory, all of which were owned by Stan Patto, an ex-Director of the Amalgamated Dental Company.

This handle is unfinished and gives a good indication of how dental, medical and industrial items were produced; it serves as a good illustration to accompany mass production. Products are usually made by passing through many stations, each one with a small and specific, but skilled and important task. This tool handle has been moulded and cast but has not yet been drilled. When it is finished it would have had a threaded end so that multiple attachments could be screwed into the end.

This handle has a patterned grip but others in Patto's collection had experimental finishes. A display, in 2016, at Walton on Thames Library, organised and curated by Elmbridge Museum, exhibited Patto's collection as part of its 'Walton Dentistry' display.

|Visit the 'Pulling Teeth' online exhibition to find out more about Walton's factory and the tools it produced.



Anchor Stone Bricks

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Construction toys, such as this example from the late nineteenth century, were first introduced in the late 1700s and are still popular to this day.


Although the lid is missing from the box, the contents are in fantastic condition and boasts inspirational illustrations for children to follow. The 100 or so bricks are made of stone and are in three colours. The three colours represent popular building materials: red brick, tan limestone and blue slate of European buildings.

Educational toys such as this have a rich and interesting history. Sometimes referred to 'Froebel Gifts' after the German educational theorist Friedrich Froebel, basic toys that deal with shapes and colours are aimed at heightening a child's understanding of the world by recognising their unique needs and capabilities through 'free play'. Froebel invented both the concept and coined the word "kindergarten" which is now used in both English and German.


Learn more about childhood in the Victorian era through our online exhibition.



who's who in molesey


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Who you gonna call? Many of Molesey’s shops, pubs and services are listed in this guidebook from 1959. The Molesey Section of the Esher District Chamber of Commerce produced many ‘Who’s Who…’ guidebooks to encourage local trade by letting residents know the amenities and services available on their doorstep. The first Yellow Pages directory was not released in the UK until 1966, so these little booklets were incredibly useful.

The Museum holds a number of local Chamber of Commerce guidebooks for various years.





Roman Patterned Tile


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The Romans not only built a lot during their stay in Britain, but they seemed to reuse quite a bit as well! This tile, found at the bath house at Chatley Farm, is a great example of a patterned tile. Tiles were cast in 'dies' - and patterns from eight separate dies were discovered at the Chatley Farm bath house. This number is incredibly rare as most sites unearth no more than five.

Designs have been found in an Ashstead villa and brick-making site that was abandoned 150 years before the bath house at Chatley Farm was built. This suggests that patterns were kept, rediscovered or reused by both Romans and Britons.





Long Tailed tits

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Rosemary Wren (1922-2013) was well known for her animal creations. Despite the fact she grew up around clay, living next to the workshop of her mother Denise Wren, Rosemary turned to a very different type of pottery from her mum. Whereas Denise threw clay, producing vessels on a wheel, Rosemary learned to make hollow creatures purely by hand, pinching out shapes and creating invisible seams so her finished animals were both solid and remarkably airy.

These long-tailed tits date from 1987 and were made as a pair. They are typical of Rosemary’s work, because of its animal form, and extraordinary, because of the shape of their amazing tails.

Rosemary and her partner, Peter Crotty, drew animals from life before executing their studies in clay. Oxshott Pottery, the house and studio where Denise, Rosemary and Peter lived and worked until 1978, had an aviary full of birds as well as rabbits, bees, dogs and cats. 

For Rosemary, the internal space of her hollow clay animals was just as important as the finished surface. The only openings in the whole construction are the eyes, and this is important for two reasons: not only does it let the steam out when the clay is in the kiln but, as Rosemary said, "it also allows the animal to look out. It’s fascinating; as soon as they have their eyes, the animals turn round and look at you!"  





Sunny Jim

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This happy fellow is called Sunny Jim. He is a caricature of an 19th Century gentleman, used by Force Cereal, originally an American company to promote their wheat flakes.

Sunny Jim and his cereal were very popular in England too, in 1910, Mr A. C. Fincken, a former employee of the Force Food Company, set up an agency to import American cereals to the UK.

Whilst the first rag dolls became available in large numbers from 1922, it was not until the 1930's when more significant novelty items were released to appeal to children, such as yo-yo's, jigsaws and models.

Sunny Jim has gone through small design changes over the years; this doll has the rosy cheeks which appear only on examples produced during the early 1960's.







Multicoloured Brooch

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There is not a great deal known about this brightly coloured object. It is probably a decorative brooch, made of millefiori glass and may have been made in France or Italy during the middle to late 1950s.

We have chosen it as one of our Objects in Focus simply because we love its aesthetic qualities: it has such vibrant colours and its irregular design is so quirky that it just makes us smile when we look at it.

We would of course love to find out more about it. If you have any information that you can give us about this brooch, please get in touch.





The Duchess's Pet

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This 'Maltese Toy' dog in the glass dome was once a pet of the Duchess of Wellington, Elizabeth Wellesley who lived at Burhill House in Hersham from 1887 until 1904. She bred Maltese Terriers and this little one was her favourite.

Her coachman, riding a bicycle accidentally ran over the dog and the Duchess had her beloved pet stuffed by Queen Victoria's ornithologist, John Leadbeater.





kenwood chef mixer, model a700d, 1957-1960

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Kenneth Maynard Wood sold his first Kenwood Chef in 1950 at the Ideal Homes Exhibition. Despite its steep £19 price tag (£600 in today’s money), the Chef stole the hearts of housewives nationwide, promising to be a time-saving and "life-changing" device. Harrods sold out of the product in just one week.

Ken Wood was an inventor and businessman who developed his products from his garage in Woking. The Kenwood Chef was a literal culinary revolution: the unique planetary movement of the mixing paddle and sleek, yet robust, design meant that it could deliver all the saved time it promised, be adapted to undertake the most unpleasant of tasks (like peeling potatoes), and last an age!

The Kenwood Chef is still present in department stores and kitchens the world over, proving its success.