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Our Museum Collection includes approximately 100,000 objects dating from around 360-300 million years ago to the present day. Founded in 1874, much of the Collection was either donated or bequeathed by wealthy local industrialists. It has been supplemented over the years through the generous donations of people living or working in the borough.

The Collection falls into the following areas: archaeology, Egyptology, natural science, social history, dress and textiles and decorative arts. In addition we have materials relating to two local personalities: John Bright (1811­-89), the famous nineteenth century statesman, and Gracie Fields (1898-1979), star of stage, screen and radio.

Highlights include:

Roman bronze age torc

This was discovered in 1832 under a large flagstone when a workman was uprooting the stump of an oak tree at Mow Road in Calderbrook (near Handle Hill). Its lower semi-circle is made of alternate convex and concave bronze beads, ornamented with a late Celtic design. The two halves are dowelled by iron pins. It was originally in the possession of the Lord of the Manor of Rochdale and was passed to the Collection by a descendant.

Roman torc. ©Touchstones Rochdale

Canopic jar in the form of Imseti or Mesti

In ancient Egypt, when a body was preserved as a mummy, the internal organs were taken out as it was believed that it was important to preserve them alongside the mummified body. The heart was left in place but the intestines, stomach, lungs and liver were placed in four different containers. The Sons of Horus were four minor gods who protected the organs that they contained. They are: the falcon-headed Qebhsenuef (intestines); the jackal-headed Duamutef (the stomach); the baboon-headed Hapy (the lungs), and the human-headed Imseti or Mesti (the liver).

Canopic Jar. ©Touchstones Rochdale

Model of a lily flower

The model was created by Robert and Reinhold Brendel, a father and son business based in Berlin, Germany. Made in around 1920 for teaching plant anatomy to botany students, the models were mainly papier mâché augmented with a range of other materials including feathers, cotton shirting, wood dowel and wire. Due to lack of availability of live plant material at the time and difficulty of live dissection in poorly lit laboratories, the oversize models were used as a substitute for live material. Many have been constructed to show the internal structure in fine detail and were intended to be handled by students, often separating into component parts. Reinhold was decorated with the Prussian silver state medal in appreciation of his business activities and the models won many awards during their time of manufacture. In more recent times the Brendel plant models have become highly collectable.

Brendel Lily Model. ©Touchstones Rochdale

Fossil scorpion (Eoscorpius Holti)

In 1894 a foreman for Brierley and Sons brickworks uncovered a large carboniferous fossilised tree at the Sparth Bottoms site, attracting huge attention from geologists across the country. In the years that followed, both amateur and professional geologists excavated the site and made some important fossil discoveries including different plants and insects. Perhaps the most significant discoveries were three scorpions never previously unearthed or identified. These can be seen in our collection alongside Manchester Museum and The Natural History Museum.

Scorpion Fossil. ©Touchstones Rochdale

Peterloo Banner

On 16th August 1819 around 50,000 men, women and children from across the North West marched peacefully into Manchester to call for parliamentary reforms and secure more rights for the working classes. This ended in bloodshed as the local magistrate sent in the cavalry to disperse the crowd, injuring nearly 700 people and killing fifteen in what became known as the Peterloo Massacre.

This is the only surviving banner that was carried by a group of marchers from Middleton and Rochdale. Made of blue silk with gold hand-painted inscriptions, it reads ‘Unity and Strength 1819’ on one side and ‘Liberty and Fraternity’ on the other.

Peterloo Banner. ©Touchstones Rochdale

Museum collection: Dress-Bloomer Suit 6432.9

Knickerbocker suit or bloomer suit

Made in around 1915 from watered silk and peach satin, this suit has an embroidered and braided panel front and a pair of peach colour knickerbockers or bloomers with matching embroidery. Developed during a radical wave of women’s dress reform in the later nineteenth century, ‘Bloomers’ were adopted by women throughout the world who wanted to escape the restrictions of heavy corseted dresses. The bloomer suit (or cycling suit) consisted of a pair of lightweight bloomers with a loose-fitting skirt over the top, which gave women the freedom to cycle, walk or take exercise without being restricted by their clothes, and became fashionable in Edwardian Britain. This new approach to dress was controversial and had many opponents who thought trousers were inappropriate for women of the day.

Bloomer Suit. ©Touchstones Rochdale

Wedgwood ceramic vase, 1872

This vase (Wedgwood Jasper ware and cover) is part of a cabinet of ceramic art that was presented to Rochdale-born politician, statesman, social reformer and British radical John Bright, one of the key figures in the abolition of the slave trade in the 19th century. The inscription on the cabinet reads ‘To the Right Hon John Bright M.P., whose foresight, eloquence and faithful character have greatly contributed to this country’s prosperity these specimens of ceramic art are presented by admirers in the Staffordshire Potteries.’

Wedgewood Vase. ©Touchstones Rochdale

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