Many happy returns as Havering Museum marks first birthday

From the ancient royal palace at Havering-atte-Bower, to Saxon and Roman artefacts, Havering has a rich history and culture.

But until a year ago it was the only London borough without its own museum.

After a 10-year battle by historians and councillors to establish it, the museum opened in May last year.

On Wednesday volunteers and other supporters held a celebration to mark its first birthday.

Ian Wilkes, chairman of Havering Museum Ltd, said: “We were the only London borough not to have a museum. But we also have more history than any other borough.


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“A group of us wanted the museum and embarked on a crusade to get one. This culminated in �990,000 Lottery funding.

“Hopefully we will go from strength to strength. The amount of enthusiasm is enormous.

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“I have high hopes for the future. Everybody is very complimentary and encouraging.

“Quite a lot of people who come for the first time love it.”

The museum now has two paid staff and 50 volunteers who run it.

There are also regular groups who meet at the venue like the Reminiscence Group and the Hedgehog Club for children.

The small but intimate space showcases the best in the borough’s history.

It includes displays and pictures of the borough during the war, farming in Havering, the Royal Palaces of Havering, entertainment and much more.

Important artefacts including a Saxon horn found in Rainham in the 1930s, blacksmith’s tools, sports trophies, historic clothing and accessories, and 19th century weights and measures are on display.

They have also had loans from the British Museum and Epping Museum.

Holocaust

Exhibitions have included The History of British Coinage by the Havering Numismatic Society. This explores how early-day coins were made and runs until September 17.

For Remembrance Day last year the Holocaust Memorial Trust lent the museum an exhibition exploring memories of those who have experienced the atrocity.

The first temporary exhibition at Havering Museum explored life during the First World War. The Great War looked at home life and service during 1914 to 1918. This exhibition was on loan from Epping Forest Museum.

An exhibition by photo-journalist Barry Kirk encouraged the viewer to look at nature in Havering from a new perspective.

Mr Kirk said about his exhibition: “It was called Imagination because after 39 years on the Recorder group these were the pictures I wanted to take. The idea was to show that photography and art have a lot in common and one can sit on a wall next to another medium such as oils.”

Geology

In May, Keith Oaks, a tutor at Havering Sixth Form College, brought his collection and knowledge of geology to the museum for Geology Rocks!

Elizabeth Neathey, curator of Havering Museum, said about the birthday celebration: “Many thanks to the hard work of the directors, volunteers and staff making Havering Museum’s first year a huge success.

“This exciting event celebrating Havering Museum’s first anniversary looks back at the past year and the many residents who have come to explore their local history through the galleries and special events.

“We look forward to welcoming old and new faces in the next year to continue exploring Havering’s fascinating local history.”

Laura Turnage, intern co-ordinator for the museum’s Heritage Lottery-funded project I Heart History, said it helped her discover the borough’s past.

She said: “Learning about the dedicated and enthusiastic individuals who have campaigned for a museum in the local area greatly assisted my appreciation of the importance of Havering’s history.

Fascinating

“By celebrating Havering Museum’s first anniversary we look back on the success of the past year and its significance for the heritage of Havering.”

Alistair McMurdo, an admin volunteer at the museum, said: “I had never looked on Romford as a particularly historic place.

“But working as a volunteer has shown me that there is a fascinating history to Havering.

“The museum has done so much to confirm this and to bring this sense of history to life.”

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