Another day, another press call as we had an early look at some Love themed artefacts as part of an exhibition for the Valentines weekend. Watched over by the ever angry Roman soldier, but this time with a rose in his mouth, we were given a quick tour by Dean Paton from BIG heritage and Liz Royles of the Grosvenor Museum.
“We have some Victorian Valentines cards, ones with the traditional loving depictions with Cupids and flowers, and a more racy one.. In the 19th century people could send mail anonymously because of the growth of Royal Mail.. The lady looks demure but you can push her skirt up to reveal her ankle which would have been very racy in Victorian times” explained Liz.
In the Roman tomb stones gallery, Dean explained how the pictured stone was thought to be one of the oldest depictions of a married couple in Britain, around 1800 years old. Also part of the themed trail are Victorian wedding dresses in the period house. The traditional white wedding dress only came into favour after Queen Victoria’s wedding in 1840 with brides traditionally choosing their “Sunday best ” for the ceremony.
Other items on display were Roman and medieval wedding rings, a 1671 pottery dish, a statue of Venus and a bronze Cupid figurine. Two coins on display also has tales to tell from history. The first, a Roman coin was created by a Roman Emperor who loved his wife so much, he created her a Goddess. “The other coin, of Philip and Mary tells a very different story of marriage.. it was a marriage of convienience. It was to get a Catholic Heir for the English throne. When they got married, he stayed in England for about a month, and then he went back to Spain and spent the rest of his time abroad. He didn’t even come back when she was dying and after her death he said he felt a “reasonable regret” ” said Liz.
“They are all things that we have got out of store, which is great because we have an amazing collection, but we can only put about a quarter of it on display. We love projects like this where we can get more of the collection out on show. We have 2000 years of history here and its really nice to be able to tell a tale of the city”
“Do you wanna come upstairs and see the Golden Eagles before you go- they mate for life?! ” asked Dean before I left the museum
Even for someone whose favourite band is The Smiths, I enjoyed the love trail and the chance to see some unseen exhibits . The Museum has occasionally come in for some stick in the past, but recent exhibitions and activities have been adding some real interest to the city’s calendar of events, particularly the Samurai exhibition. The love theme is tied into an attempt to rebrand Chester as the “original city of love” with an accompanying social media and press campaign. With so much in Chester, its about the interpretation and building upon the history to create something of interest for the present. The campaign has attracted a fair amount of media attention and has shined the light on the city once again. Who knew that the Peppergate was the site of an Elizabethan elopement, with the angry Mayor locking the gates in anger at his daughters flight with her penniless boyfriend? Other love themed locales with similar tales incude the Grosvenor Park and the Wishing Steps.. perhaps you can think of some of your own? The Rosies smoking area, the market cafe, the international aisle in Tesco…the back seat of the X8 bus, the list goes on !
The Love exhibition runs until the 15th feb !