Another month, another Object of the Month!
March’s Object of the Month has come from our costume collection, a rare bonnet from the 1840s.
Etiquette demanded that your head should be covered in the 19th century. In the 1840s women wore lace caps indoors and bonnets outdoors. Fashion followed the young Queen Victoria and it was considered proper for a woman to shelter her face with a wide bonnet brim like this example.
Headwear fashion changed more often than other items of clothing. Hat styles changed annually but dresses lasted a decade. Although the bonnet shape stayed the same it was regularly updated with new trimmings and fabrics. Most women purchased a new hat each year. The less well off made do by covering an old hat themselves. Traditionally new clothes would be worn to the Easter service, for many this meant a new bonnet at Easter.
This rare bonnet is made from cane and net covered with brown velvet and silk.
Every month our curators choose an object from our stores to put on public display in our Object of the Month case, in the Rear Atrium (by the back doors into the gardens).
February’s object is … Jerimiah Whirlings’ Watch
A highly decorative pocket watch made from shark skin and gold by Thomas Nash of London. This watch belonged to Jerimiah Wherlings who was Mayor of the city seven times between 1770 and 1801 and was linked to the Earl of Lonsdale’s Tory interests. Sir James Lowther, Earl of Lonsdale (1736-1802) may have presented this decorative watch to Wherlings as a token of thanks for continuing political support in the 1780s..
Lowther was known in Whig circles as ‘Wicked Jimmy’ and the ‘Tyrant of the North’ due to his manipulation iof local elections and his reputation as a dueller and womaniser. In the 1785 election Mayor Wherlings admitted 1,443 mushroom (bogus) voters as Freemen of the City to secure a victory for the Tory part. None of these men were qualified to be Freemen either by birth or occupation. Instead all worked in lord Lonsdale’s West Cumbrian coal mines. In symbolic terms mushrooms were seen to corrupt the tree of libery and illegal voters, thus obtaining this fungal nickname.
A Parliamentary Select Committee overturned the results of this fixed election in 1785 and others in 1786 and 1790. The third ‘mushroom’ election of 1790 led to an angry mob of Whig supporters partially demolishing Sir James Lowther’s townhouse on Fisher Street, Carlisle.
Because of these electoral scandals and his association with the Lowther political campaigns Jerimiah Wherlings was given the nickname ‘Red Nosed Jerry’ in Carlisle.