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News Update - February 2017

Items in this Update cover:
  • Dates for your diary
  • Exciting changes at Radstock Museum
  • Exhibitions
  • James McMurtrie
  • Talks
  • New items in the Shop
  • Five Arches
  • The Friends of Radstock Museum
  • The Research Room
  • News (The Christmas Fayre, the Boiler)
Full details are below or on our website.

Dates for your Diaries

The museum re-opens on 1 February. 

Wed 1 Feb  2:00 Museum re-opens with 2 new exhibitions

Tuesday 7 Feb  7:30 Bygone Days talk 

Tuesday 21 Feb  7:30 Science in Radstock talk  

Tuesday 28 Feb  Know Your Place exhibition starts

Tuesday 7 Mar  7:30 Bygone Days talk 

Tuesday 21 Mar  7:30 Science in Radstock talk "The Solar System"

Details of all the events and exhibitions can be found on our website. 

Exciting Changes at Radstock Museum

Radstock Museum is beginning a programme of significant and exciting changes to its displays and permanent exhibitions that will enhance a visitor's experience.

Our full name has changed to


which is hoped will give people near and far a better idea of what the Museum is all about. Along with the new name there is a new logo which has been inspired by the letter head of “Somerset Collieries Ltd” as can be seen in the picture below and in our new header above..
We have changed our name because the name ‘Radstock Museum” does not reflect the wealth of artefacts, documents and photographs preserved in the collection and the rich and vibrant stories and memories which of course are associated with them. The name SOMERSET COALFIELD LIFE will suggest that the museum's  content is about ALL who lived in the Somerset Coalfield’s towns and villages, whether they be the hardy men and boys who mined the coal or the wealthy mine owners; the miners’ wives working hard in the home and shopping at the local Co-op shops, established to provide affordable food and a share, or a “divi”, of the profits. The lives of others working in the industries supporting the mines, such as those manufacturing bricks or iron parts for machinery and those who developed and worked for the transport infrastructure in the form of road, canal and railway links to transport the coal produced. And lastly those who worked in the printing and shoe making industries which, eventually took over from the coalmines as one by one they closed down.
This re-branding is the first step in a programme of improvements within the museum. Another major change is that thanks to our dedicated volunteers we have launched an improved website, visit it now to see what has changed.

The best way to view the new and enhanced displays as they are completed, is to buy an entry ticket which lasts for a full 12 months, so you can call in over the year to see what’s happening and what’s new. Annual tickets can also be bought as gifts. Adults £6, Concessions £5, Families (2 adults and up to 3 children) £13 Under 5s free.

Radstock Museum re-opens on February 1st with some of the changes already in place plus some interesting visiting exhibitions described below or visit our website for full details.


Working with Hand Tools …the traditional way
From 1st Feb – 31st May the museum will be hosting an exhibition curated by Jane Rees who is President of the Tools and Trades History Society, an educational charity founded in 1983 to further the knowledge and understanding of hand tools and how they were used.

This exhibition features tools from twelve of the trades that were carried out in the Radstock, Midsomer Norton and Bath area.

The trades that will be featured are edge-tool making, agriculture, wheelwrighting, coach and wagon making, coopering, millwrighting, bookbinding, plane making, sash window making, clock and watch making, harness and saddle making. The exhibition will cover the history of these trades, the way the trades were carried out and the tools that were used.

"Trade Roots” by Paulton Junior School.
From 1st – 27th Feb the museum will be hosting an exhibition entitled Trade Roots by Paulton Junipor School. The museum volunteers took part  last year in a local educational project in conjunction with WISE and Paulton Junior School The full title of the project is Trade Roots.: heritage, local history and migration led by WISE - We Inspire Sustainability Education. The project was sponsored by The Heritage Lottery Fund.

We encourage you all to come and see the lovely work by the children of Paulton Juniors. 
Know Your Place
From 28th Feb – 24th Apr the museum will be hosting the Know Your Place project which is bringing a  large interactive cube to the museum. with touch screens.

Have you ever wished you could travel back in time and discover how your area has changed over the years? The cutting-edge exhibition uses touch screens to access extraordinary images from archives, museums and heritage collections across the West of England, to give a unique insight into the history of the places where we live, work and visit every day.

For the first time in one place, the touring exhibition tells the stories of the people who lived in the varied landscapes across the West of England – from Miners in Radstock to Peat-cutters in the Somerset levels, Moonrakers of Devizes, to Foresters in the Forest of Dean.


James McMurtrie was born in Ayrshire in 1840. He came to Somerset at the age of 22, appointed "Head Bailiff" (foreman or overman) of the three Waldegrave collieries in Radstock: Middle Pit, Ludlows and Wellsway. 

He was charged with providing Frances, Countess Waldegrave, with the sum of £8000 per year from the Radstock pits. He became her personal assistant and confidential secretary and managed her entire estate business. 


He lived at South Hill House which was on the Frome Hill and now demolished. He was married three times and had 17 children! He managed the Waldegrave estates until Frances' death in 1879 and then continued to do the same for her widower, Lord Carlingford, until 1898 when he retired. 

James McMurtrie retired to Bristol where he died in 1914. at the age of 75.

He was an exceptional engineer and geologist and wrote and presented many papers on coal mine engineering and the geology of the Somerset Coalfield to local societies during his lifetime. The Museum holds these papers and his beautiful drawings and diagrams which are currently being summarised by a volunteer.



Bygone Days talks will start again on the Tuesday 7 Feb at 7:30 with a repeat of Andrew Linham's popular talk with a presentation and film on the Somerset and Dorset Railway which many people missed earlier this year as our venue was full to capacity.
This time we are in the much larger Somer Centre in MSN and f
ull details are on the website 

Science in Radstock talks restart on Tuesday 21 Feb at 7:30 in the Working Men's club with a talk entitled "Inkjet Printing - Past, Present and Future" by Nigel Caiger, Director Global Digital Technology at Sunjet, formerly Coates Electrographics. 
The photo below shows 15 picoliter drops leaving a printhead as captured on a visualisation system.
Full details are on the website 

Gift Annual Entrance Tickets
How about a gift that will last a whole year? Why not buy someone a gift entry ticket, which for 2017 costs £6 for adults, £5 for concessions and £13 for a family of 2 adults and up to 3 children.  Amazing value! And on sale in the Shop now.


We have some new books which are linked to our latest exhibition "Working with Hand Tools...the traditional way". 

And we have also just received copies of  "Frome to Bristol"  (£18.95) by Vic Mitchell & Keith Smith which is now back in print. The Frome to Bristol route served a large number of collieries and several quarries, the complexity of the branches thereto being explained with numerous diagrams and maps. Also extensively illustrated is the Camerton branch and the filming of the "Titfield Thunderbolt" thereon.

Dragonfly Prints for Sale

Two framed Dragonfly prints have been generously donated to the Friends to be sold in aid of their funds. 
If you are interested, to find out more please contact the Museum by e  mail. 

Five Arches

The Winter edition of Five Arches, the Museum Society's Journal, is available in the shop price £3.50. It includes items on William Peacock's memory of the Great War, stories from Radstock Baptist Manse, the impact of the 1895 Timsbury mining disaster on one High Littleton family, a closer look at another item from the collection and a ramble to Holcombe. 

A subscription to Five Arches (£13:00 for 3 issues including p+p to UK addresses) makes an enduring present.

The Friends of Radstock Museum

The aim of the Friends is to raise funds for the Museum by organising or helping to organise fund-raising events, by acting as volunteers to support those events and by promoting the Museum and what it offers at every opportunity. 

If you would like to support the Museum in this way, please join the new Friends organisation. It’s FREE, you aren't expected to be on the committee and your membership and support will help the Museum to remain open and to preserve the social and industrial heritage of the former Somerset Coalfield.

To join please click here to enrol. Alternatively you can drop your details (as shown on the poster above)  into the museum by hand or by post.

Research Room Improvements

Thanks to grants from Midsomer Norton Town Council, Westfield Parish Council, the Friends of Radstock Museum and the South West Museum Development Programme of the Arts Council England the Museum has now fitted out the new Research Room.
With new computers, desks, chairs, a blind and some ingenious software developed by a volunteer, people visiting the Museum during normal opening hours will, in addition to seeing all the normal displays and temporary exhibitions, be able to access electronically stored local, historical photographs of the local area. And subject to a small charge, they will be able to print copies of items for their personal use.

Access to the library will be available to people who are doing research at the Museum through the research management system which is explained on the website.

The Trustees would like to thank the volunteers who have worked hard to store over 15,000 images and put together a library of over 1000 books.


The Christmas Fayre

The Friends of the Museum's ever popular Annual Christmas Fayre raised  nearly £1500 in aid of the Museum. Many thanks to everyone who attended, the stallholders, all the volunteers who set up and ran the event, to Sue Gearing and Les Davies who signed copies of their new book "Miles More Mendip" (on sale in our Shop) and to Ian Piff and the Farrington Gurney School who provided live entertainment.

The picture shows Royston Knight, Chair of Radstock in Bloom, presenting Yvette Mobbs with the cake she won for guessing its weight correctly (3lbs 6oz). Radstock in Bloom had a hugely successful day at the Christmas Fayre, and raised more than £106 to spend on more flowers for Radstock.  If you would like to volunteer to help with Radstock in Bloom please ring 01761-438968 

The Boiler

Unfortunately one of the museum's 2 boilers failed catastrophically at the end of November, leaving us with just one boiler which was running flat out to keep the building warm. 

The defective boiler has just been replaced and the systems are back to normal in time for the new season. 

We are hugely grateful that a local charitable foundation gave us a significant grant towards the cost.
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