Wardown Park Museum has revealed the latest addition to its famous headwear collection; a rare 400-year-old wide brimmed hat recovered from the interior wall of a 17th century cottage in Essex.
The fragile 18th century lady’s hat, which is only one of four of its kind in the world, has been carefully treated for pests to limit further damage to the hat itself and also to rule out any risk of contaminating other hats in the museum’s collection.
Wide brimmed hats were popular with women in the eighteenth century, and like this example recovered from behind the cottage wall, were often decorated with motifs over a linen lining.
It joins a holding of hats and headwear that reflects a long and distinguished tradition of hat-making in the city dating back to the 17th century. Hat making and millinery dominated the town in the eighteenth century.
The museum’s Significant Collections Curator, Veronica Main describes the storage of the hats as a "pest management environment control nightmare" due to the combination of materials including metal, fur, straw and wool.
The new arrival has been subjected to a technically advanced anoxic treatment within an oxygen-free chamber to eradicate any insect infestation and is now safely on show to the public.