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The Museum Collections: Treasures both little & large

By 23 March 2016January 13th, 2021No Comments

The Museum’s collections hold some of the most fascinating artefacts, offering insight into centuries’ worth of working life for the people of the South East.

This blog looks to showcase just a few, to shed light on the diversity of our collections.

These artefacts, which although very different in size, fulfil much the same functions as one-another, but on a vastly different scale!


Bellows large and small

The small set of bellows pictured here, were used on a domestic open fire and consist of a chamber which is filled with air when the bellows are pulled apart. The air is expelled when the bellows are closed and this gives them a suck/blow operation which is fine for a small fire.

The blacksmith, however, requires a much greater and constant flow of air to feed the coals of the forge which is why the larger set of bellows have two chambers; one being filled as the other is expelled.


Hammers large and small

Some hammers can be quite sophisticated and delicate tools; this ‘gentleman’s’ hammer used for very light furniture or upholstery work is one. The much larger sledge is not. These tools were used for a variety of tasks including timber framing and adding the iron tyres to wooden cart wheels.


Wheels large and small

The wheel may have been invented millennia ago, but its basic form and function have changed relatively little. However, the tasks to which they have been adapted vary hugely. Trolley wheels need to be very robust but small to cope with the relatively large weights they have to move on a relatively small frame.

The timber bob, used to move felled trees, requires a large ground clearance so that one end of the tree can be slung beneath the axle and dragged along using a team of draught animals. The wheels’ 8ft diameter allows for the movement of the largest of trees.


Saws large and small

The smaller of the two saws is a very specialist tool used for producing wooden patterns for printing wallpaper. In appearance, it is virtually identical to larger back or tenon saws. However, this example measures only 8 inches in length.

The larger is a pitsaw, used by two men in a sawpit to convert felled trees into planks. To give added scale to the photograph, the depth of the teeth on this saw is the same as the whole thickness of the smaller saw.


Drills large and small

When it comes to making holes, we are blessed with a very large range of items from awls and gimlets to augers and drills. Even within these different groups, the nature of specific examples varies greatly, as can be seen from these two drills. The smaller is a percussion ‘rapper’ drill, commonly referred to today as a hammer drill, used for breaking into masonry.

Today’s hammer drills however, are almost exclusively powered whereas our ‘rapper’ is hand operated. In comparison, the much larger bench drill is a very complicated mechanism, used for drilling accurate, vertical holes into wood or metal, although not necessarily any bigger than those made by the rapper.

To see these and many more fascinating items, join a tour (1.30pm daily) of our award-winning Downland Gridshell building. This tour also includes an inside look at our extensive artefact collection, which displays rural trades and crafts throughout the ages.

For a hands-on experience, we also run an extensive programme of adult-education courses in traditional rural trades and crafts, historic domestic life and building conservation.