There are many aspects to the history of canals and our collections reflect some of these varied areas of interest.
The museum has a fine collection of this iconic earthenware, which has long been associated with the canals. It is, however, quite unlikely that these large brown glazed teapots and jugs were to be found in the cabins of narrowboats, due to their size and the very limited space on board. They were often given as gifts and many pieces are complete with messages such as "home sweet home" or "a present from a friend". The name comes from the village of Measham, in Leicestershire, where the precious porcelain was sold.
Unlike Measham pottery, lace plates were a very popular decoration in the cabins of narrowboats, although not unique to canals. They have a ring of holes around the perimeter into which a colourful ribbon or lace is inserted to make the plate a pretty decorative object to be hung on a cabin wall.
In our lifting and handling display are a number of manual handling tools and a couple of weighing machines, along with a wall-mounted crane of a type often seen on canal-side buildings for lifting cargo. The collection illustrates the point that cargo handling in the past was a back-breaking manual job that few people would want to do today.
Narrowboat decoration is a canal craft that dates back to around the 1840s although nobody knows the origins of the art form for sure. Not only the boats themselves, but also cabin utensils such as buckby cans (used for water storage) and other items used on board were decorated in this traditional style. The museum has a collection of boating items dating from the days of commercial carrying and also some more modern pieces around the building - because this tradition is far from dead.
A display case shows our collection of items relating to the ice import trade and ice cream. Of particular note is an early 20th Century ice cream maker designed and sold by Mrs Agnes B Marshall, who was a famous cookery writer and demonstrator, and a businesswoman who ran a cookery school and designed and sold kitchen equipment. We also have several "ice dogs" used to grip and move blocks of ice, and a range of other ice and ice-cream-related objects.