Archaeological "Aladdin's cave" opens to public at English Heritage's Wrest Park

By Culture24 Reporter | 07 May 2014

One of the country's largest purpose-built stores of historical and archaeological artefacts is open to the public

Click on the picture to launch the gallery

A third of English Heritage’s total stored collection – including 17th century window glass made to impress Elizabeth I, an enormous crane used to change street bulbs in Covent Garden and prehistoric antlers – has been revealed to the public in Bedfordshire, where Wrest Park has opened a £1.9 million warehouse of more than 2,000 years of national history.

There are more than 153,000 artefacts in the collection. Curators are calling it an “Aladdin’s cave of wonder”, describing an “almost military-style operation” which took more than two years and involved dozens of lorry loads of wooden crate pallets.

Five previously leased buildings make up the new central store, where 6,000 objects from London houses include nearly 1,000 wallpapers. The entire collection has been recorded into a database, allowing the smallest box to be easily pinpointed.

Tours will take place on the first Monday of each month.

Stars of the show

Longest item: An 8.5 metre cast iron beam, measuring 27 feet in a near-flawless work of metal by Bramah and Co in 1832, originally used to support the second floor of the North Wing of St George’s Hospital on Hyde Park Corner.

Heaviest item: Aside from the beam, some of the stone Wroxeter Roman City Bridge pieces measure more than the largest measurable scale weight of 1,500kg.

Tallest item: A tower for changing light bulbs in Covent Garden.

Smallest item: Copper pins from Wroxeter Roman City in Shropshire.

Oldest item: Objects from Grimes Graves – a Neolithic flint mine in Norfolk.

Most unusual item: A set of five 19th century carved bell jacks. At 91 inches tall, these larger-than-life-size 16th century tradesmen were rescued from the roof of Colombia Market.

Largest accessioned site collections

West

Wroxeter Roman City 24,637
Haughmond Abbey 3,742
Wall Roman Site 1,237
Wenlock Priory 895

East

Hill Hall 3,992
Audley End House 3,273
Wingfield Manor 2,819
Castle Acre Priory 1,543
Thetford Priory of our Lady 1,113
Bolingbroke Castle 990
Architectural Study Collection (ASC) 6,277

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

More from Culture24's Archaeology section:

Archaeologists find 'lost' medieval village full of pottery, coins and bones in Scottish Borders

Archaeologists say Stonehenge was "London of the Mesolithic" in Amesbury investigation

Digging for victory: The top ten archaeology discoveries for April 2014


Pics: Darren Harbar, English Heritage
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