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Acting the part with Rooftop Theatre Behind the scenes of Ludlow’s Museum Resource Centre Dinham Green team Winning at Ludlow Racecourse Lost & found: Nag’s Head pub sign Tapestry talent of Sandpit Jack Train line facts

“You have to admire the dedication of someone who’s prepared to blow out the internal organs of a caterpillar, stuff and then hand-paint it in the name of science” IN the midst of Ludlow, hidden behind the innocuous shiny façade of the Library, lies a secret treasure trove of goodies. There’s gold and silver, an art collection that would be envied by any gallery, an extensive photo library of Ludlow life over the years, beautiful clothes from past eras, fossils, minerals, stuffed birds and, best of all, woolly mammoths. Yup, there really are mammoths in these here hills. Preserved only as bones (minus the famous wooliness), the mammoths sit behind closed doors in the wonderful Ludlow Museum Resource Centre, a star attraction among (deep breath) over 150,000 exhibits held there. And best of all, it’s open to everyone – just as long as you book your tour in advance. The charismatic (and frighteningly knowledgeable) Jackie Tweddle and Daniel Lockett, both of whom look after the collections, offered to take me on my very own behind the scenes tour. From geography

and natural history to archaeology and social history, the sheer number of items in the collection is mindboggling – it’s hard to know where to start, until I remember a friend’s comment about mammoths (made, I thought, in jest). Daniel and Jackie’s eyes light up and we’re off at breakneck speed through secret locked doors into an Indiana Jonesesque world full of huge rooms, thousands of boxes, shelving units and display cases galore. Purposebuilt from National Lottery and Council money, specifically to house the county’s rich collection of goodies, each of the Collections’ temperature-controlled storerooms house literally thousands of pieces essential to preserving and telling Shropshire’s story. In 1986, the bones of four mammoths – one male and three juveniles – were unearthed at a sand and gravel pit in Condover in Shropshire. Over 200 bones were discovered including the most

complete male mammoth skeleton ever found in Britain. Standing eleven foot tall and weighing over five tons, the male was an important discovery but the find became even more important when it rewrote the scientific perception of when mammoths died out – the bones dated back just 14,000 years, not 18,000. Daniel reveals that, as a schoolboy, he helped out on the dig during the holidays. Now the custodian of the majority of the find (Cardiff Museum have one of the juvenile jaws on loan), surely the dig inspired him to go into the museum business? He grins and shakes his head. “Oh no, I already knew I wanted to be a palaeontologist.” Jackie is also Shropshire born and bred, originally from Dorrington but now based in Pulverbatch. The duo’s enthusiasm for the collection is evident as they wheel back heavy shelving units to reveal drawers full of thousands of fossils, from beautiful 300-million-year-

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old ferns to ammonites, trilobites and the skull of a rather rare two foot long herbivorous reptile, the wonderfully named rhynchosaur. “Most of the fossils are local finds,” says Daniel, “around 75% probably.” Some of the trilobites are from Wenlock Edge and there are other fossils from Ludlow’s own Whitcliffe and Mortimer Forest. Both Jackie and Daniel confess, like many of us, that they collected fossils and rocks as children and Jackie, rather sweetly, reveals that her own shell collection from home is now the museum’s handling collection for visitors. The range of people that use and access these archives is remarkable. There are children’s workshops, adults’ workshops, researchers from all over the world, school groups and artists. Researchers visiting the collections sometimes even make exciting new discoveries.

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Profile for Ludlow Ledger

Ludlow Ledger (Issue #5)  

Welcome to the online-edition of issue 5 – the hyperlocal free print newspaper all about Ludlow, Shropshire – past and present – with column...

Ludlow Ledger (Issue #5)  

Welcome to the online-edition of issue 5 – the hyperlocal free print newspaper all about Ludlow, Shropshire – past and present – with column...