Archive for 17/12/2015

Shine A Light

By Jamie Everitt

What links these four things together? Perhaps one of my favourite objects in the Norfolk Collections Centre, the enigmatic silk press. Let us find out how.

Press full view

Norwich was once the most important cloth manufacturing town in Britain. Daniel Defoe, visiting in 1723, claimed that there were 120,000 textiles workers employed there. Although this was probably an exaggeration, there is no doubt that textiles were the backbone of the city’s trade for centuries.

In medieval times Norwich was renowned for its worsteds, a fine fabric made from combed wool. The name derives from the village of Worstead about 12 miles north of the city which, along with nearby Aylsham and North Walsham, first developed the trade in the 12th century. Carefully selected wools were prepared with a wool comb, a fearsome-looking instrument which had to be heated before use.

Wool comb

A wool comb from the collection of the Museum…

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One Billion Hungry: Can We Feed the World?

By Katrin Glatzel, Originally posted on, Dec 10th 2015

As the International Year of Soils comes to an end, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have been passed and COP21 is wrapping up in Paris, it is time to reflect on the role soils can play in future development agendas.

The decision made at the Rio+20 conference to develop a set of SDGs and the agreement “to strive to achieve a land degradation-neutral world in the context of sustainable development” created momentum to discuss the role soils play in the global sustainable development agenda. It also initiated discussions concerning the need to develop clear soil and land indicators, necessary implementation mechanisms, supporting governance instruments, and the role of public participation.

This is now, at least partially, reflected and anchored in SDG goal #15, “Sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, halt and reverse land degradation, halt biodiversity loss.” Furthermore, the…

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The third object in this series is of historic importance. The Wardian Case, originally designed by Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward in 1829.

A modern reproduction of a Wardian Case at Tregothnan Gardens, Cornwall. Picture by Rosie Reeve

A modern reproduction of a Wardian Case at Tregothnan Gardens, Cornwall

It became a vital tool for those intrepid plant hunters of the 19th century. Without it, many of the exotic plants that now thrive in the U.K. would not have survived even half their journey from the far corners of the world.

Early plant hunters had been actively searching the world for new exotic plants from the end of the 16th century. But transporting their discoveries as seeds and dry roots because of the dehydrating sea air and a substantial lack of fresh water caused many plants to perish. The Wardian Case provided protection from the salty wind, created a mini greenhouse where the plants could use sunlight and produce their own water through condensation.

And the Case is not only of historic importance in explaining the wide range of plants now available in the U.K. It also symbolises the ways in which gardeners try to create micro climates to nurture an exotic plant or even a range of plants. They do this by growing them under glass (and a few years after Ward’s invention an explosion in greenhouse manufacture began), sheltering them from the excesses of sun, wind and rain or creating plant colonies which support each other, possibly altering the soil too.

 Old School Gardener


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