Wool, Wiltshire and All Manner of Wonderful Things!

I love museums, the smaller and more local they are to a place the more I love them. And this one is an absolute gem.

Inside two dinky little cottages, there resides the most eclectic mix of things . Assembled in part by locals but also by Dr Marie Stopes, more usually known to the world for birth control, than her knowledge of paleobotany (fossils). She had an impressive education for a woman born in 1880, gaining degress from UCL and Munich. Dr Stopes  bought the Higher Lighthouse on Portland Bill as a retreat from her academic life, and so came to know local people and customs, eventually deciding to found this museum to house everything.

So this is what caught my eye.

Shoes and boots found in local cottages to ward off evil spirits. I’ve spared you the mummified cats also found in houses to deter evil spirits.

Victorian wedding dress, isn’t it pretty, what must it have looked like in its full glory?

Two dolls which may have spent most of their life in the box as the backs of their dresses were apparently a pretty pink colour.

See these bonnets,

Here’s one in closer detail. I reckon the back is that shape to prevent sunstroke. Just look at the needlcraft.

Couldn’t leave this post without sharing some of the fossil collection.

Giant Fossil. Now that’s what I call a fossil!

And if this isn’t enough Dr Stopes was friendly with Thomas Hardy whom she tried to recruit as a patron of the museum. He turned her down as he felt he was too old for a new venture. However he used one of the cottages as a setting in his novel The Well-Beloved,

My kind of museum. I wonder do you like museums, do you like little local ones as I do or prefer ones with national collections?



Comments on: "The Portland Museum, Dorset" (38)

  1. This place looks like a treasure. So is your blog.

  2. That museum sounds right up my alley, Cathy. Here in Toronto we have the large Royal Ontario Museum which is wonderful, of course, but I do prefer the smaller ones. They seem more connected to the local community and can have, as in your museum, a quirky collection of artifacts which are so fascinating. I plan at some point to visit Toronto’s first Post Office, which is still a working post office but also a museum. If I could, I would visit the museums down in Salem, and I believe there is a witchcraft museum somewhere in England – I’d hop on my broom in a jiffy to see that one!

    • Is there really one, I shall google it in a minute. I would be at the Post Office one, sounds interesting. I shall be watching out for a post on the post office, sorry!

      • Hi, Cathy. LOL. I believe it’s the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic in Boscastle, Cornwall. I adored Cornwall when I was there many moons ago; a museum devoted to the Craft would just be the icing on the cake!

        • I looked it up yesterday. I have even gone so far as to look at nearby holiday cottages as it is near Tintagel which I have always wanted to visit.

          • Oh my goodness, you MUST go to Tintagel! It was absolutely my favourite spot on our trip. It was so atmospheric, I swear I heard the hoofbeats of long-ago horses and felt the ghosts of generations of inhabitants. Plus of course it’s so picturesque, and there’s the old post office as well.

  3. Joanne S said:

    That hat/bonnet. For outdoor hard work it sure is pretty!

  4. Murtagh's Meadow said:

    This looks like a place I would happily spend some time. I like all museums, there is always something of interest

    • Museums are a bit of a magnet to me, Other people may be drawn to shops and cafes in new towns but the word Museum is music to my ear.

  5. I’m with you, Cathy, small local museums are the absolute best!

    • They are so much quirkier for a start, and more to do with ordinary people and every day life. I suppose I find I can relate to the objects more.

  6. I’m not sure I’ve ever met a museum I didn’t like, big or small. The small museums are like old music albums, lots of stuff with a few “hits” and a few songs that are fillers, and the big museums are like “greatest hits” albums, all fancy and impressive. We need them all!

    • I am often dismayed when a TV programme heads into museum stores and you realise how much stuff there is that the public never gets to see.

  7. The Tudor House in Southampton used to be more like that but now they have made it into an ‘experience’. Don’t like it as much. Must find time to get to Portland and see the museum.

  8. This is, as you say, a little gem. My favourite museum of all time is the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford, which is an absolute House of Wonders and has everything from elaborate jewellery to shrunken heads. I could spend a year in there and still not see everything. I miss it….

    • YES, YES,YES, the Pitt Rivers museum is my favourite museum of all time too. All those gorgeous exhibits, in those fabulous glass cases and beautiful hand written labels. When we lived near Oxford, it was a must for me in the school holidays whether the boys liked it or not!

      • I loved it so much I almost applied for a job there…

        • I tried for a job in the gift shop in the natural history museum next door, in the end I took one at St Michael at the Northgate running their visitor centre and gift shop. Small world Kate.

  9. Oh and as an aside – The Golfer is related to Thomas Hardy (by marriage on his father’s side).
    According to him…..that must be why I like reading so much lol

    • really, REALLY? Oh wow, how wonderful. Not quite sure why it means you like reading, though, there’s a flaw in that argument somewhere!

  10. Small ones with local objects definitely- the huge ‘national/worldly ones scare me. Too big too much space dedicated to untouchable things. Not that we have to touch, but remote behind glass is probably a better description.
    Thanks for sharing these bits and pieces Cathy. There is a great one here in the town where I’m having a winter break. Needs another visit from me and The Golfer I think 😎

  11. I like the smaller museums too – they are usually more quiet and intimate and I can generally maintain my ‘museum face’ for long enough to look round them and stay interested.
    Thank you for sparing us the mummified cats but I wonder why you didn’t spare us those dolls which – in my opinion – are almost as spooky 😱😾

    • I’d forgotten you didn’t like spooky dolls! One for Clare anyway. I can manage a couple of hours in a museum before my back aches. Mr E gives up much sooner, so I have to pick the exhibits I look at when out wit him.

      • claire93 said:

        lol yay for the antique dolls, eh Cathy! I do appreciate. And I expect no little girl was ever really allowed to play with these as they would have been very fragile. They were indeed probably kept in their box and there to be looked at but not touched.
        I do enjoy a museum visit from time to time, and thank you for sharing parts of this visit with us.

        • I thought you might appreciate them. I suppose if they were looking at they weren’t playthings at all.

          • claire93 said:

            no they would have been purely ornamental. I bought myself a couple of books on the history of dolls when we were in UK for sister’s wedding, in a lovely second hand bookshop in Rochester. Even though I’m not “into” antique dolls, the history of dolls really is quite fascinating

  12. This looks a charming little museum. I think I would be interested in it because of it being near the sea and the fact that it was set up by Dr Stokes. Reminds me a little of our fave book Remarkable creatures, with her interest in fossils etc. X

    • I made the link to Mary Anning too, and was somewhat surprised there was no mention of her in the museum! The fossils in Portland museum were wonderful. I think you would like it a lot.

  13. Now why/how were shoes able to deter bad spirits? I have not heard of this before and am most curious. Like you I prefer to see the local quirky collections. Lots of fun. Marie Stopes was a fascinating woman!

    • Various theories exist about the shoes- usually they were worn shoes, often belonging to children, and usually only one was needed to do the job. Apparently a witch was attracted to the shoe by the smell, climbed inside got stuck and couldn’t leave.
      Another theory for the shoes was they were a fertility charm, hence the nursery rhyme , about the Old Woman who lived in a shoe. Also explains why old shoes may be attached to a bridal car!
      I was fascinated by Marie Stopes. But faintly appalled by her belief in eugenics, not surprising if she was in Munich I suppose. Apparently she refused to go to her sons wedding because his wife was short sighted and therefore not perfect. Not sure I believe that story.

      • That is all rather fascinating – about the shoes, thank you for educating me. The thing about Marie Stopes is she was convinced about eugenics as it was proscribed back then and she did encourage sterilisation of the ‘mentally unfit’ so the genes weren’t passed on and she disinherited her son when he married against her wishes. She did a lot of good things in the world and also a number of cruel things due to her beliefs – which is pretty much par for the course I think.

  14. I think I like the smaller ones. They seem more personal. 🙂 Thanks for sharing. Hugs, Tamara

    • Smaller ones do tend to be personal I agree. How are you Tamara?

      • 🙂 I’m very well. Thank you for asking. I wish I could get back into blogging, but my computer at home is so slow that it takes me forever to post anything on the blog. Hopefully I can get a new computer soon and start back writing again, I really like it. It helps me keep track of what I’ve been doing and it helps me remember. I hope you have a wonderful weekend. 🙂 Hugs, Tamara

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