Category Archives: Exhibitions

International Women’s day- Celebrating the Cracker Packers

Today, Carlisle’s latest statue will be unveiled, ahead of our exhibition opening on the 10th March. To celebrate this, and International Women’s Day 2018, we’d like to share some stories from the Topper Off- the Carr’s biscuit factory magazine read by the workers employed alongBlog One- photo 1 the lines.

Named after the ‘Topper Off’- the woman who last saw the biscuits before the lid finally goes on the tin-the magazine was part of the community atmosphere generated in the factory ethos.

Running between 1928 and the early 1960’s, we can see the changes to women’s culture and social activities through the eyes of working women in Carlisle.

This 1874 illustration shows the biscuit process in the new industrialised format first pioneered by JD Carr in the 1830’s. Women first began to work at Carr’s factory in the 1850’s- and here, you see that the packing and finishing processes are a specifically female job; something that remained true of Carr’s factory for over 100 years. 

By the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, we can see the modernisation of many domestic appliances designed to ease the burden of household duties. Many of these would have been an enormous help to busy working mothers. This 1950’s edition of the Topper Off shows considerable interest in modernity in the home. An oral history recording in our archive notes one young girl returning home during her lunch hour in the 1910’s to help her mother with wash day- a time consuming process involving a wash dolly and mangle.

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A 1960’s edition features this tongue in cheek short story- “The Vanishing Tea Towel.”

-“It was a proud day when the new washing machine arrived. Gleaming white, with its twin lids for washer and spin dryer in contrasting grey, it stood shyly in the corner of the kitchen.”

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We also see technological advances in the factory. The laboratory became more important in the development of accuracy in biscuit production on a large scale. In this 1962 photo, lab worker Mary Johnston is using experimental apparatus to determine biscuit shelf life through chemical analysis. Ingredients were constantly checked to bring baking to a scientific level, and women were integral in this process.

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We hope you’ll join us in celebrating the Cracker Packers, and their role in Carlisle at our new exhibition ‘The Spirit of the Crack Packers’ showing at Tullie House 10th March- 15th April 2018.


Border Birthdays and other memories with John Myers#CNMyStory

John Myers came to see his photograph in Pages from History: Celebrating 200 Years of The Cumberland News, our current exhibition, and brought with him a very special guest.

eric2John and Eric the Monkey worked together from 1986-89 on Border Television, presenting the very popular Border Birthdays – which ran for many years – reading out birthday greetings for children across Cumbria, Dumfries and Galloway, and the Scottish Borders.

John shared his memories of working with the puppet, revealing that he had found Eric whilst on holiday in Spain and brought him back to present the show with him.

In 1986 Eric was so popular in the region that 1000 replica Erics were made and sold in County Stores – most of the monkeys sold out – topping kid’s Christmas lists that year!

John was kind enough to donate one of the last remaining replicas to Tullie House to add to our collection. Eric is currently being accessioned, which means our Curatorial team are taking his photograph and some measurements and adding him to our database. You can come and see the Eric replica, which we’ll be putting on display in Pages from History in time for half term.

John and his wife Linda spent quite some time in the exhibition and shared more of their memories with our staff, and reporters from The Cumberland News.

As soon as we entered the exhibition Linda spotted he front cover of The Cumberland News from November 1983 – which was the first time The Cumberland News printed a colour photograph. The photograph featured Princess Diana on her visit to Carlisle.

Crowds Diana? 83/2678k 17a

Linda shared a precious memory

“I was there, I was right in the front row and she shook my hand”.

Linda was certainly not alone, thousands of people turned out to see the Princess in the City Centre. Linda had a look at this crowd shot but couldn’t see herself there. Perhaps you can see someone you recognise?

As we got further into the exhibition John spotted a picture of Grapes Lane, which was in the city centre before the streets were demolished to build The Lanes Shopping Centre.

CN212“We used to walk past the Lanes all the time, I remember watching when the demolition crew moved in and hundreds of rats came running out from everywhere”


The Lanes were some of the oldest buildings in the City Centre, some dating back to medieval. By the late 1970s they had fallen into a state of disrepair and the process began to clear the area to build The Lanes, which opened in 1986 – just as John and Eric were taking to screen for Border Birthdays. The development of The Lanes roused a few Carlisle citizens to protest and you can see a poster from The Lanes Presevation Society in Pages from History.

The exhibition also brought back sad memories for John. This image of Lockerbie following the terrorist attack which rocked the nation brought back a very specific memory for John.

“The night this happened (21 December 1988) was the same night as the Border Television Christmas Party. The news came through, and because all the journalists and cameramen were already there, they headed straight out.


Border Television were the first on the scene and captured some truly memorable and shocking footage. News companies from across the world were getting in touch with Border to use their images”


A huge thank you to John and Linda (and of course Eric the Monkey) for coming to visit the exhibition and sharing their memories with us.

Pages from History: Celebrating 200 Years of The Cumberland News is open until Sunday 21st February. Why not visit and tell us Your Story.

Local Hero- Charlie Shepherd reminisces about winning Commonwealth super-featherweight title on home soil #CNMyStory

charlie shepherdLocal sporting legend Charlie Shepherd visited the Pages from History exhibition for the first time last week, and as well as being interviewed for the press, took time to talk to our staff about his photo in the exhibition.

‘It is very emotional to see this photo in the exhibition’ he told us. ‘My trainer Jackie, who is on the right passed away recently. He was a top guy- I think I was his Golden Boy really! I was his only World Champion.’

Ever the Carlisle man, Charlie told us that he counts competing at the Sands Centre to home crowds as one of the best moments of his career.

‘The tickets sold out within 22 minutes. It was an amazing experience to be on home turf. I’d competed in the Royal Albert Hall only the week before, but I was definitely more nervous be out in front of a Carlisle crowd.’

Pages From History exhibition at Tullie House, Carlisle. Charles Shepherd against Trust Ndlovu at The Sands Centre. Charles is congratulated by Barry Hearn, left, and co – manager Tommy Gilmour

Charlie Shepherd knocked out his opponent Trust Ndlovu in the sixth round of the 1999 Commonwealth games super-featherweight boxing final. The Sands Centre stadium with a 12,000 seat capacity was sold out.

And what was it like to see himself in a museum exhibit?

‘It is nice to be recognised!’ he jokes. ‘And I can’t wait to show my kids when I bring them to see the exhibition.’


Charlie Shepherd’s commonwealth photographic print, together with other high quality photographic works in the exhibition is available for sale. Please enquire at the museum for more information.

Do you have stories to share? Send us your stories on Facebook or Twitter #CNMyStory #CN200 or post them in the exhibition.

Stories of Cumbrian Spirit #CNMyStory

Tullie House’s current exhibition Pages from History explores news stories from across Cumbria and the world from the last 200 years – but the biggest story has always been the strength and character of the Cumbrian people – this has been proved this last couple of weeks and countless times across the centuries. In this blog post we explore the stories of three iconic Cumbrians shared by visitors to Pages from History.

Have you ever been in the local paper? Most people have a story to share, and we’re asking people to contribute theirs, in celebration of the iconic local stories featured in The Cumberland News over the last 200 years.

Featured in this first blog entry are three uplifting, tenacious and pioneering stories sent to us from Nicki Butterworth, K. Harkness and Paula Jennings.

Nicki Butterworth


Food Fighters, 2014

Nicki is an inspirational woman, who on finding out that her cancer had spread, wrote a bucket list of experiences she did not want to miss out on. Nicki’s story was followed by The Cumberland News and the News and Star. Many local people donated to make the things on her list possible.

In this bizarre award winning photograph by Stuart Walker, we see Nicki and her husband in the aftermath of an enormous food fight which took place in her back garden.

In March 2015, the News and Star reported that Nicki was investigating a new treatment plan with good results. Nicki visited the exhibition to see her picture and was able to shed a little light on a frequently asked question!

2Nicki’s Story:

“A question about my picture that always gets asked is ‘what did it taste like when you licked your husband!’ Awful! Beans, mayo, custard, chocolate and angel delight are not a good mix! xx”








Paula Jennings

Paula’s stories remind us of the important role of local newspapers. They are there to document, celebrate and commemorate some of the biggest events in our lives

4a“My Mum was in the paper when she got married in 1964. She was on the front page.”






Wedding dress, 1968, Tullie House

Almost forty years later The Cumberland News would remember Paula’s intrepid grandmother


4b“My grandmother Mary Little made the news when she died in 2002, as she was the first ever female bookmaker in the North West. In 1967 she took over my Grandad Willie Little’s business when he sadly passed away.”





K. Harkness

Our third story features a wonderful local character Ben Ion, whose portrait is featured in the Pages from History exhibition. Ben worked at the Thomas Muir Carlisle coal yard in Crown Street from 1902, and other than during WW1, never missed a day of work until he reached the age of 80 in 1968.


Ben Ion, coal merchant, 1968

One of our visitors worked with Ben, or as we find out, Andy, and shares some of his memories with us.

6“He was always known as Andy. His eyesight was very poor and his wife always brought him to work, then fetched his bait at 10am and 3pm, and also his dinner at noon. He lived in St Nicholas St.

During bad weather he would tie an old sack round his waist and also over his shoulders to protect himself. He never missed a day’s work for as long as I knew him.”

Do you have stories to share? Send us your stories on Facebook or Twitter #CNMyStory #CN200 or post them in the exhibition.

Find out more about some of our wonderful local personalities in our current exhibition Pages from History: Celebrating 200 years of the Cumberland News open until 31 January 2016.


Amy’s Care Poems

Our Sky Map project continues with some great poems written by our Amy’s Care group for those with Dementia.

You can read some of the poems here and visit Tullie House in November to see the Sky Map in place!

Cumbria Sky Map

An anthology of the poems written by the group during their first session.

It’s Cooler at the Top

Glaramara, Cat Bells
Walking up hills
First of August
A lovely warm day
Borrowdale, Ashness Bridge
Past a tea shop in Grange

Can be cooler at the top
A change in weather
A change in altitude

In winter, you’ll need gloves
Brenda must’ve been keen
To go up Helvellyn
In the winter

Tullie House/Amy’s Care: Helen’s Poem September 1st 2015


Owls, owls
Pictures and placemats

Owls, clouds
When the frost comes

Stay warm
Quilts, jackets

Clouds, wool
Chill proof

Tullie House/Amy’s Care: Jeanette’s poem September 1st 2015

Jeanette’s Poem #2

Smouldering sky,
High, bright
Up into the clouds

Rain drops
Wet to the skin

Over the hill
Shrouded in cloud
Eye-kissing light
Twelve-winded sky
Tullie House/Amy’s Care: Jeanette’s Poem #2 September 1st 2015

Olive’s Poem

Feel it in your bones

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Painted Eggs

Our work with Amy’s Care on the Cumbria Sky Map continued last week with an art session, see what they got up to on the new blog post.

Cumbria Sky Map

Last week was our second session with the Amy’s Care group at Tullie House, and our first artist session with Alex.


We were excited to see the Sky Map parasol, which is currently being painted lovely cloudy shades of blue by the other groups. Can’t wait to see what it looks like when it’s finished, and everyone’s artwork gets added!

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We also looked at the map, which the other groups have added to with things from their sessions. We’re hoping to see the Carlisle section later today.

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The Kendal group also sent us a lovely message from their session. It was great to hear how they’ve been getting on.

This week we were painting eagle eggs, based on what looking at the real ones last week.

Alex showed us how to make lovely speckles and textures with wax crayons and watercolours, and we were a very productive…

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The Cumbrian Sky Map Project arrives in Carlisle!

Eloise and Catherine have been working with Amy’s Care and our other CMC venues to bring the Cumbrian Sky Map project to life – read about it here

Cumbria Sky Map

‘Sun, sea and the sky; kites birds and clouds.’…as Helen said; ‘the clouds often come out in the Summer as well as in the Autumn! But the time has really flown by this week as the season changes. We certainly were talking about flight in our first session last week we had our very first session at Tullie House, working with the Amy’s Care Group.


We had a very creative afternoon, looking at some of our objects, including the beautiful Golden Eagle Eggs used by Artist Uta Kogelsberger for her project. We all thought they were quite big, and it was interesting to look at how different the two eggs were. One was white and the other was very speckled. Andy even thought that the egg looked a bit like Alastair!


‘Big, speckled, golden brown, they fly and hatch. Fluffy like a baby hamster!’- Jeanette


We also spent some time…

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#askthecurators One Week To Go!

There is only a week left of our What’s In Store: The Curator’s Choice exhibition and our curators Tim and Melanie have been answering some more of the great questions that we’ve been asked during the exhibition.

dinosaurGrace Clowrey asked “Why can’t there be an exhibition on dinosaurs?”

Hi Grace, thank you for your question – the simple answer is that unfortunately the Tullie House collection doesn’t have any dinosaurs in it. It is possible that there were dinosaurs in Cumbria as Britain was once home to around 100 different types of dinosaur. But there have not be any dinosaur bones found in the county, most of the dinosaur fossils in the UK are found on the South coast, known as the ‘Jurassic Coast’.

We would love to have an exhibition about dinosaurs and always keep an eye out for a suitable exhibition to bring to Carlisle.

One visitor asked “Why is it so dark in the corner?

Melanie our Curator of Fine and Decorative Art answers “Light levels are kept deliberately low to enable the museum to look after the objects. Some of our objects can be damaged by light which can cause them to fade and lose their original colours“

mortatariaNiamh Irvine asked “Did Romans eat pigs?

Our Curator of Archaeology, Tim answered this one “The short answer to this is ‘Yes, they did’.

The Latin word for pig is porcus from which we get the word pork. Study of the animal bones recovered in excavations at Castle Street, in the early 1980s suggested that the animals were slaughtered before reaching the age of three years old which shows that they were being killed for food.

There are also some recipes for cooking pork that have survived from Roman times. The cookbook by Apicius contains a number of these such as one for pork kebabs. Another recipe that survives is for a pork and fig pie. However, many of them state that you need wild boar, which was hunted regularly, but there is no reason why they couldn’t have used domesticated pigs instead.”

Sophie T asked “Why do you have so much Roman stuff? Why not Tudors?”

Tim, who looks after the Roman collection here at Tullie answers “The Romans were here for about 400 years (72/3 AD to 410) and the Tudors for only about 100 years (1485 to 1603).

The Romans also had a large Empire to get stuff from and made things, like pottery, and so there was a lot to leave for us to find. The Tudors didn’t make stuff on such a large scale and so there was less around.

Also much of the Tullie House Collection comes from Hadrian’s Wall. This was only used by the Romans and so there are no Tudor objects from the places like Birdoswald because they did not live there.

There are some items in the museum which date back to Tudor times though, our Reivers gallery contains some pieces from Tudor times, as does our Guildhall Museum – which is a Tudor building in the city centre.”


Abby and Rose Holliday asked “How long has Tullie House been around for, when was it built?”

Melanie told us “The old house was built for the Tullie family in 1689, with the later Victorian extensions added in 1892.”

Tim adds “When these extensions were added it opened to the public and became a museum and Institute for the Arts. The date, 1893, can be seen over the door into the building at the top of the ramp from the garden. Until 1990, it was also the home of Carlisle’s library, which can now be found in The Lanes.

Adam has asked a question about one of the objects on display which has a curious carving on it “What is the carving on stone 39?” The stone is Roman, so Tim has answered this one.phallus

The carving on the stone is called a phallus and represents male creative energy. The Romans believed that this energy could be used to stop bad luck, They carved them onto their buildings to make sure that the buildings would be protected. They are found on many of the surviving building in the forts along Hadrian’s Wall as well as in Roman cities like Pompeii.


christian diorAs Curator of Fine and Decorative Art Melanie looks after our costume collection and so answers some questions about the dresses on display.

Jess P asked “Why do you have dresses?”

“The museum collects dresses amongst other items of clothing because they were often worn by local people and are an important part of human history.”

Kath asked “Can I buy the Dior dress?”

“Sorry Kath, we cannot sell items in the collections. The collections are permanently owned by the city for the benefit of the community today and in the future.”

As ever on #askthecurators the Natural Science collections are making people curious.

Jessica B asked “Where was the shark caught?”

Good question Jessica, our little porbeagle shark was caught just off the Solway Coast in West Cumbria, not far from Carlisle. Porbeagles get their name from the Cornish word por meaning harbour because they are often seen very close to the shore or in harbours.

The porbeagle is native to all coastal regions of the UK. The largest one in Britain was seen just off the coast of Tynemouth in the North East and is thought to have been about 12 feet long, about 4 times bigger than ours!

Jenson asked “Where did the peacock come from?”

Another good question Jenson, this type of peacock is not native to Britain, they were originally from India and Sri Lanka. But rich people in the Victorian times (about 150 years ago) would bring the birds home to keep as pets.

This one was collected from Cumwhitton in 1990.

Thank you all for your great questions on #askthecurators over the last couple of months – we’ve really enjoyed answering them and we’ve even learnt some more things about our objects! We hope you’ve enjoyed reading some of our answers.


#askthecurators Wolf Special

We’ve had a busy week here at Tullie with the start of the Cumbrian summer holidays! Lots of visitors to our What’s in Store: The Curator’s Choice exhibition and lots more questions for our curators via #askthecurator.

Whilst the curators are busy answering some of the other questions we’ve had this week we’ll start off with some questions about one of the most popular items in the exhibition, our very proud grey wolf.


7 visitors have asked questions about our wolf, so thank you to Ella, Aimee, Gemma, Molly, Erin, Nathan and Amy.

Ella and Aimee have both asked “Where did the wolf come from?”

This wolf lived at an animal park here in Cumbria and came to the museum in 2002. There are no wild wolves left in the UK – although there used to be lots of wolves in the UK and particularly in Cumbria. The wolf is not an endangered species though, they are still found in a lot of countries across the world such as Canada, the USA and Russia.

Amy asked “How did the wolf die?”

The wolf died of natural causes in about 2002 – as it lived in captivity this means it was probably quite old.

The museum does not accept any animal specimens which were hunted or killed on purpose.

wolf packErin and Molly both asked “Why do you have a wolf?”

The museum collects all different types of animals, plants and insects for all kinds of reasons.

Museums first started collecting animal species like this wolf for research purposes – often travellers or hunters would find a species that we didn’t know much about and would bring it back for people to study. Some of the older specimens in the collection were collected in this way – but we don’t kill animals just to add to the collection anymore.

Other people might come and ask to see our animals to draw them – lots of animators will base their drawings and computer animations on animals kept in museums because they make very patient models.

The main reason we keep animal specimens though is so that we can show them to the public in exhibitions like this one. It is hard to make people interested or care about animals who need our help if they don’t know about them. By displaying our specimens we can encourage people to learn more about the environment and nature, and who knows they might become vets or zoo keepers or scientists who can help care for the world around us.

wolf howlGemma asked “Why is the poor wolf dead? Why can’t you have an alive one that eats boys?”

Thanks for you question Gemma, unfortunately Health and Safety rules mean that we can’t have a live wolf in the museum, particularly one that has developed a taste for eating boys!

It wouldn’t really be fair to keep a live wolf in the museum, but if you would like to see a live wolf there are a few zoos and animal parks in the UK that keep wolves. Or if you’re heading to Canada or Russia (and lots of other places) you might get to see one in the wild!

Also this one is much better at staying still so that people can have a look 🙂

And Nathan has asked “Can I take the wolf home for Courteney?”

I hope you were thinking of giving the wolf as a gift to Courteney and not to scare her Nathan! Unfortunately, for you, the museum has a strict policy of not letting visitors take objects from the collection home with them. We look after the objects in our collection ‘in trust’, this means we look after the objects on behalf of the government and private collectors so that they might be seen by visitors for many many years.

Thank you all for your wolf questions, here are a few of our favourite wolf facts thrown in for free!

wolf dog

  • The wolf is related to all breeds of domestic dog. It is part of a group of animals called wild dogs which also includes the dingo and the coyote.
  • Wolves can adapt to a number of different environments and have been found to be living in more places in the world than any other mammal, except humans.wolf snow
  • Wolves have two layers of fur, an undercoat and a top coat, which keeps them warm in temperatures as low at minus 40 degrees Celsius! In the summer they shed their fur, like domestic dogs.
  • A wolf’s howl can be heard around 10 miles away, they howl to call other members of their pack to them and mark their territory to keep rival packs out of their area.
  • Most wolves live in packs, but a wolf that lives on its own is known as a lone wolf. They don’t scent mark or howl and live off of very small animals such as rodents due to the fact that they have to hunt on their own.

#askthecurators Tullie Time Travellers Special

Group shotThis week our #askthecurators questions have come from the Tullie Time Travellers, our group for 8-13 year olds, who meet at the museum once a month. Sammy, Holly, Leon and Stella met up and had a look round the exhibition and posed our curators a couple of questions.
squirrelsStella asked “Why are there dead red squirrels here if red squirrels are endangered?”
Good question Stella, we don’t kill any animals anymore just to add to our collection. Most of the specimens on display are very old, more recent specimens were found dead, often killed by cars.
Collections of endangered animals like this can actually help scientists to save an entire species. Scientists can study how squirrels have changed over time, what they are eating and where they are living,. This helps them to understand more, so that they can help to keep more of them alive, it is important we keep them in good condition.

By displaying animals we can help create the future generation of scientists as well, a child visiting the museum might see animals like this and become interested in looking after them when they grow up.
nettlesSammy asked “What’s the point in studying nettles?”
Another good question, whilst we see nettles all the time and they might not seem very interesting—a historical collection of plants like this can tell us a lot about how the environment has changed, what is in the water or the air, whether a place is hotter or colder and how plants are affected by these changes.

spidersLeon asked “What are the names of the spider types in case 18?”

That’s a tricky one Leon, unfortunately we do not have any information on what the different species of spider in this case are. Tullie House currently doesn’t have any spider experts (or arachnologists) here at Tullie House to give us a definitive answer.

The banana spider Heteropoda venatoria

The banana spider (Heteropoda venatoria)

However some of the specimens look very like the well named banana spider (aka Heteropoda venatoria) a species thought to be native to Asia, which has become prominent in other tropical countries because it frequently hides in banana shipments. It is rare to find banana spiders in fruit shipments today because of changes in how bananas are transported.

If you did find one of these then there is no need to panic – although they can deliver a painful bite if handled badly they are harmless.

The Brazilian wandering spider (Phoneutria)

The Brazilian wandering spider (Phoneutria)

Another species found in fruit shipments is not so safe though, the Brazilian wandering spider (aka Phoneutria ) is in the Guinness World Records book as the most venomous spider in the world. It is still incredibly rare to find this spider in bananas that reach the UK!


Holly asked “How did you collect the dead animals?” and “How do you store things?”

Both good questions Holly, firstly the animals are collected in a number of different ways. Some of the older specimens in the collection were hunted especially for the collection, but we haven’t done that for nearly 100 years. Nowadays a member of the public might find the animal and bring it to us, we don’t accept animals who have been hunted or trapped. For larger and important animals we might be contacted to collect it.

In answer to your second question different things are stored in different ways, here’s a sneaky look at some of the ways we have stored items.

IMG_0177IMG_0179A lot of our collection is stored in what is known as ’roller racking’ . These are shelves that are on tracks, so we can open them up to get at items—but then they close up, meaning they take up less space in the store—which is great because our stores are not quite big enough for everything we have collected.

IMG_0170Another way to save space, is shown here in our Large Picture Store— large paintings are attached to the mesh which is pushed back into the rack—meaning we can store lots of big paintings in a very small room!

IMG_0165Other objects are kept on shelves in various stores throughout the museum, we have 12 dedicated storage areas which are all secure. It is also important for some of the collections that the temperature and humidity is controlled, so that it doesn’t get too warm or too damp, which would damage a lot of the collections. Our Fine Art and Costume collections are particularly vulnerable to this, so their storage areas have special systems in to remove warm damp air and keep the temperature constant. 

Thank you all for your questions – What’s in Store: The Curator’s Choice is on display until August 16th so if you’re heading in over the Summer holidays then please leave us a question and we’ll post the answer here on the blog!

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