The Thompson Collection Exhibition has been created with the support of Heritage Lottery Funding
The first phase of the Thompson Collection Exhibition opened in April 2019 and we have been overwhelmed by the positive feedback of our visitors.
The exhibition traces the story of this Alford Millwrighting firm from its early beginnings, under the Oxley family, through to its final closure in 2012 with the retirement of Tom Davies. The story of Alford mills, millers and connected industries are followed along with lots of stories of Alford characters throughout the years.
There is something for everyone, the freestanding signage includes indepth research on the millers, the mills and connections with the local agricultural industry. Some people prefer a lighter approach and the cabinets contain bite size information, for those with less time, along with other interesting items which have cropped up during the research. Slideshows also showcase the main features of the exhibition and videos of Alford’s remaining windmill demonstrate the working interior.
The millwright section provides an indepth look at the history of R Thompson & Son, the connections to the Oxley family of the 18th Century, and their role at the forefront of the mills preservation movement in the 1970s. This area includes interactive models of belt driven gears and a hand quern for those who prefer a hands on approach, especially our younger visitors.
The progression from the grain to the mill inevitably ends up with the flour, this has allowed us to explore the subject of food adulteration in the Victorian era. As laws were introduced to counter the amount of additives used to bulk out the flour, the details of those fined were reported in local newspapers. It is clear that this was not just a problem encountered in the large cities.
Victorian cookbooks allow us to see the end uses of the flour during this era, along with the close connections between the Manor House kitchen and the walled garden when it came to presenting the creations of Mrs Beeton and her contemporaries.
Whether you have a couple of hours, or a couple of days, The Thompson Collection Exhibition at Alford Manor House provides something for everyone to enjoy .
Update June 2018 :
Plans for the first phase of the Thompson Collection Exhibition are well under way , there will be a new trail dedicated to younger visitors along with family friendly exhibits.
The heritage of Windmills and Millwrighting will be explored, with a particular focus on Alford, and the connections with our industrial heritage.
Following the centenary events on 11th November 2018 the WW1 Exhibition will begin to draw to a close, the Memorial Wall will remain in place throughout 2019. The new exhibition will be ready for installation to take place during the Winter closure.
Alford & District Civic Trust Ltd have announced their delight at being gifted the entire contents of a millwright’s workshop. A milling specialist has described the contents as being ‘of exceptional significance nationally’.
The current site of the workshop is being developed, leaving the rare collection at risk, and Alford & District Civic Trust Ltd have painstakingly removed the artefacts to their own site to afford protection, thanks to a loyal team of volunteers.
The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) have provided initial funds for the collection’s removal, labelling/cataloguing, storage and assessment as well as funding for new displays and interpretation, adding to the museum’s collection of industrial heritage. The grant funding also includes provision for professional fees which will take the project to outline planning stage in preparation for the second phase.
Alford Manor museum has Visit England certification and their frequently updated exhibitions have won them numerous national awards. This new collection will add another layer of interest for new and returning visitors.
The second phase of the Heritage Lottery funded project will focus on a new exhibition space to re-create the exact footprint of the original workshop. The workshop and its contents belonged to R Thompson and Son, now retired, and the entire collection is of high significance locally, being an example of a small scale local business with 19th century origins. However, its contribution to the mill preservation movement in Britain throughout the 20th century elevates the collection to that of ‘exceptional significance nationally’. Thompson’s were one of the last operational millwrighting firms descended from a long line of master millwrights. The Davies family continued Thompson’s work of repairing and restoring our traditional wind- and water-powered mills until Tom Davies’ retirement in late 2012
The Thompson collection project will allow future generations to understand and appreciate the important part that milling played in rural life.
The Chairman of the Trust, Grant Allan, along with his team, are delighted to have secured the HLF funding to save this rare collection of industrial heritage and look forward to re-housing the content on their own site.