Tamworth Castle through its Artefacts

Esme Ballard, previously manager of Tamworth Castle, spoke to Society members at their monthly meeting on 22nd July about the general history of the Castle and, in a departure from usual presentations, brought along a box of Victorian artefacts from the Castle collection to share with us.

Esme explained that the Borough Council had invested over 600,000 since 1981, transforming the Castle into the interesting museum there today with its range of period furnished rooms and the exhibition entitled "The Tamworth Story". Although some may say that Tamworth Castle is relatively small beer in the museums league, the fact that the District Council has invested substantial sums of money to enable it to be transformed into the museum we see today and still continues to invest 250,000 in running expenses, underlines the Borough Council's strong commitment to its historic heritage. This is reflected in the 40,000 visitors per annum that enjoy the Castle. Staff are particularly proud of the strong educational programme involving costumed actors, providing an interesting insight into Tamworth's place in history.

Castle by Candelight evenings are now into their twentieth year and continue to be popular with the visiting public.

Although the site of the Castle is known to have been fortified in Saxon times, the stone castle we see today is very much a product of the Norman Conquest. Its curtained walls and shell keep date from the early 12th century and it has been continuously occupied from that time until 1897 when it was acquired by Tamworth Council for the sum of 3,000.

The evening was rounded off by Esme sharing with us some of the Victorian artefacts from the extensive Castle Museum collection. We looked at just a few of the 9,000 photographs held there, together with such diverse items as a milk dipper, candle-snuffer, a pin cushion, jet jewellery and even a chair leg reputed to have been used in a local brawl!

Summer evenings are notoriously difficult times to guarantee attendance at indoor meetings. The 30 members of the Society who sacrificed the summer's evening outdoors to enjoy Esme's informal and relaxed talk found their sacrifice to be most rewarding.

Roger Hockney
July, 2003