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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.


THe Shed – Terribly Modern Tudors

The newest exhibition Life, Laws and Legacies: Tudor Carlisle in Modern Perspective is up and running.  And we can brag about another first for THe Shed – this being the first time Carlisle’s Dormont Book (the original  handwritten document that lists all of Carlisle’s bylaws)  has been on show in Tullie House.  Project leader and guest blogger Eloise introduces the show

We’re now into March, and the final project has just gone up in The Shed! Come and explore Carlisle’s Tudor past through the Dormont Book, written in 1561, and help contribute to the exhibition with your own stories of life in Carlisle.

Tiny Tudor pointy hands

Tiny Tudor hands

It’s been a crazy few weeks getting the last of the materials together, from re-designing the information panels, to cutting up loads of tiny Tudor pointing hands! Thanks to Jill, Cathy, Ian and Cassie, we’re installed and ready for visitors!

The Dormont Book

The Dormont Book





Working with the Dormont Book has been a fascinating experience. I’ve always loved Tudor history, but reading some of the actual laws from Carlisle’s past has been a real eye-opener in learning just how much we have in common with the real people of Carlisle nearly 450 years ago.

Cathy installing our turbulent Tudor street scene!

Cathy installing our turbulent Tudor street scene!





From stopping your pigs escaping onto the street to women setting up their own businesses, the book is full of colourful examples of the laws which governed Carlisle, and the legacies of the early council and city officials who still play a part in modern society


See it in THe Shed until 29 March

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