This week I spent a couple of hours in Pickford’s House: Museum of Georgian Life and Historic Costume, in Derby.
It’s an amazing place that has so much to excite a visitor. The staff are enthusiastic and knowledgeable; and it was clear from talking to them that they love the place, and want to make the experience of visiting one to remember.
The house was built by architect Joseph Pickford in 1769-70. It was multi-purpose, as not only was it the home of him and his family- his wife Mary, and two sons, Thomas and Joseph- but also servants, and possibly apprentices too. A notable architectural project that he was involved with was the building of a new factory and hall for Josiah Wedgwood- the potter, near Stoke-on-Trent.
Sadly the Pickford family line didn’t last, and the younger son, Joseph, a clergyman, who was responsible for the later extensions, died in 1844 unmarried.
The house continued on as a home until the 20th century, and later became an architect’s office until Derby City Council bought it in 1982, opening the museum in 1988.
The interesting aspect, for both visitor and writer, is that the house has been furnished and arranged as such rooms would have been laid out in the late 18th and early 19th century, so would be representative of the ‘middling’ professional class that existed at that time.
Everything blends so well that as you take a delightful stroll through time you can’t immediately tell the reproductions sitting alongside the originals.
The hallway has a wonderful plasterwork design on the ceiling and walls that was seriously designed to impress (you can see this over on Carol’s blog post with a few other photos ).
On the ground floor there’s a Morning Room set out as it may have looked in 1825-30. Just inside the door was one of the Barometers in the house.
There’s a Drawing Room for the ladies to retire to, and in the Dining Room you can see original shutters.
From here you can either go upstairs or down as there is only the one staircase. It’s an impressive stone structure, and is an example of an enclosed floating staircase. Metal rods in the stonework secure the steps and engineering principles – torsion keeps the staircase in place.
Going down the bare stone stairs to the kitchen you see how busy this area would have been…
The kitchen was one of my favourite rooms, purely because of the variety of equipment being displayed. It wasn’t the original kitchen, this was probably where the car park now exists, and is a later extension created during the Rev. Joseph Pickford’s residence.
They have a modern copy of an open range, and I’ve always wondered what went where, so this certainly clarified the practicalities for me, and for the kitchen in one of my short novels.
The tray with the little chocolate pot with the cups on saucers were my favourite kitchen item. Perhaps because it was a connection to my breakfast ritual of drinking hot chocolate. Though the 18th century version will be nothing like the commercially produced products we use nowadays.
The Scullery beyond the kitchen had been set up for laundry, and the big stone sink was filled with wooden tubs that would have been used in the washing up process- no one wanted their expensive crockery chipped!
It was also the location for a children’s event taking place that afternoon, and it looked to be very popular.
From the lower ground floor level you can access the Georgian Garden. This is now a beautiful and relatively peaceful area, compared to when it was originally built in the late 18th century. There was a well, which would have provided water for the kitchen, and additional buildings that were used for the stonemason business. It was derelict wasteland when the museum first opened in 1988.
Returning indoors and moving upstairs to the first floor there are bedrooms with attached dressing rooms, apart from the Master Bedroom and Dressing Room these are used as exhibition areas with cabinets displaying elements of men and women’s costume from the 18th century.
The main bedroom and dressing room is displayed as it may have looked in 1815. The four-poster bed is a reproduction, and you can look at the information plaque on the wall and see a copy of the original 1797 design and specifications which were used to make both the original and the reproduction.
In the dressing room the washstand displays a pull out draw on legs to house a ‘night stool’. Also a small fireplace that would have made the morning ablutions less chilly.
The house has a number of bathrooms on display. They are mid-way between floors, and the Edwardian and 1930’s bathrooms can be used by visitors. The Edwardian version has a large bath/shower system on display, which makes the 1930’s bathroom seem rather utilitarian.
Finally at the top of the house there was a larger room which may have been a dormitory for apprentices, but now holds an exhibition of toy theatres. And a bedroom designated for servants.
I’m quite certain that I could visit again and see elements I missed the first time. I hope to go back in future, perhaps when they have costumed re-enactors again- I missed the group at the weekend in the kitchen.
Like many council funded museums the future is never certain, so if you have the opportunity to visit Pickford’s House show your support by filling out the comments card and/or leaving a donation.
If you’d like to visit Pickford’s House Museum of Georgian Life and Historic Costume, you’ll find more information on their website:
You can find a few more of the photos from my visit over on Carol’s blog too.
Every small local museums and art gallery funded by local councils need regular visitors to ensure they remain open. Once museums are closed exhibits can be either put into store, or are, in some cases, sold; sometimes the buildings themselves are put on the market too and are then lost to future use as museum space.
So please support museums and galleries, whether local or national, as it really can be, use them or lose them…