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Memories from the Cater Museum

As autumn turns to advent it seems the time for nostalgia.  And as I have been away from the post of curator at the Cater Museum for a month now, I have had time for just that.

I remember that when I first moved to Essex from leafy Cheshire people told me the two friendliest towns to work in were Billericay and Maldon. I thought myself lucky to live in one and work in the other.  And that was so true.  I have enjoyed working in the museum and meeting some very wonderful people in Billericay and the surrounding districts.  The organisations in the area have been so very supportive, I've enjoyed working with a number of the schools and we soon boasted a crew of fantastic volunteers at the museum.

A visitor once said what a cushy job it must be, sitting at the desk in the museum all day.  I used to think about those words when I was on hands and knees, staining and varnishing the floors with the men who volunteered to help.  And I often wished that visitor might see how many bags of garden cuttings and weeds had to be removed each week.  I doubt the curator at the V & A has ever had to pick snails out her car - escapees from the bags of nettles and ivy!

I've been privileged to share in the preservation of the town's heritage and see just how much it means to many residents.  And I have had some incredibly interesting times!  

A very early memory of the museum centres on a Norsey Wood ranger.  She and I kept watch one night, armed with cookies and a flask of coffee, to see what fairly large animal had tunnelled under the museum's garden shed.  Nothing showed and the garden moved on, with the help of volunteers, from strength to strength!

A trip to the conservators was always exciting.  On my last visit I got to see their current project - a flag captured from an Austrian man-of-war at the Battle of Trafalgar!

It was always a thrill to open a previously untouched box to see what secrets lurked within.  Our most recent storage box find is a coin from Anatolia, dating from the third century B. C.  The museum mystery is "How did it get to Billericay?”  One day a cold, wet pigeon landed at the museum, unable to fly.  After warmth, food, water and a night in my bathroom, the volunteers watched it fly away the next day.

Truly there was never a dull moment.  And I have made some wonderful friends.

Regrets?  Well, try as I might, there were always some questions that I couldn't answer, but I am keeping vigilant.  One day I may come upon the reason why a Romanov shield was found in a garden in the town.  Or, perhaps, someone may find, in loft or shed, pottery from the Roman site at Queens Park.  Who knows?

But I remain grateful to the people of Billericay for very happy days.





Chris Brewster