Now that I am coming to the end of my time working for the North Herts Museum Service I thought it would be a good opportunity to share with you what is my favourite object in storage at Burymead.

I have chosen a selection of ‘Home Cookery’ magazines which date from 1911-1919. My reasons for choosing these are simply because I enjoy cooking myself and found it interesting to see the recipes people were using 100+ years ago.


In the 1911 publication I particularly enjoyed the ‘Invalid Recipes’ which include Bovril Toast, Bovril Custard and Boiled Custard. I wonder which of those you would find most appealing? Personally I am not sure which I would prefer!


The second publication I have chosen is from the war period and is dated October 1915. The focus of this issue is on the cheap cuts of meat which can be found, and how to plan a week’s meals in advance. This includes substituting meat for other food stuffs including oatmeal and breadcrumbs to bulk out a meal.


Finally I would like to thank everyone at the North Herts Museum Service for being so welcoming and giving me the opportunity to see the objects in storage. I look forward to visiting the new museum in 2015.

November is a time of remembrance for many in the United Kingdom. The 11th day of November is the anniversary of Armistice Day, and has become a time to reflect upon both the past and present sacrifices being made by service personnel.

The North Herts museum service has an extensive collection of military objects, these include uniform, photographs and everyday items such as ration books. In order to commemorate the ending of the First World War we have selected photographs of a small number of items in storage to share with you here today.

Figure I is a photograph of Graham Sydney Gilbertson a second Lieutenant in the Bedfordshire Regiment, 4th Battalion and later the 7th Battalion. Unfortunately Mr Gilbertson died aged 19 on the 28th November 1917, he is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial .

Fig I Graham S Gilbertson

Fig I Graham S Gilbertson


Figure II shows the Death Plaque commemorating Graham S Gilbertson’s life and death. The plaques were presented to the families of all who died during the First World War.


Fig II Death Plaque

Fig II Death Plaque

Figure III is a ration book which is dated 6th July 1918 belonging to a local family of the name Waldock. Rationing was not introduced until February 1918 and was a response to an increase in German U-boat activity in the Atlantic. The Defence of the Realm Act (DORA) had been established in 1914 in order to ensure food shortages did not occur, in spite of initial panic buying in 1914 the population settled well into a routine until late in 1916. Britain relied upon food imports from Canada and America and until 1916 this was a relatively safe business, however in 1917 German U-boat activity increased and merchant ships were attacked. This resulted in DORA issuing a self-rationing policy which, unfortunately was not sufficiently effective and the continuing U-boat activity in the Atlantic meant that malnutrition was becoming a problem by 1918. In January 1918 sugar was rationed, and by the end of April butter, margarine, cheese and meat were added to the list. The decision to introduce rationing was shown to be the correct one as levels of malnutrition decreased.

Fig III National Ration Book

Fig III National Ration Book


We Will Remember Them




Man-traps first came into use in England during the late eighteenth century. The law permitting the use of man traps can be explained by the fact it was near impossible to protect game without some kind of aid. The use of man-traps and spring-guns was not completely inhumane as land owners were obliged to give notice (Fig I) that there were traps set in order to prevent poaching; unfortunately this did not always deter poachers. (See Fig II for our example of an inhumane man-trap, I am 5’3 and the trap is nearly as tall as me, so it is awful to imagine someone being trapped in this trap!).

Fig I A notice of man-traps

Fig I A notice of man-traps


Fig I Inhumane Man-trap

Fig II Inhumane Man-trap

On occasion the land owner and staff were the victims of such traps and so the law was eventually altered in May 1827 which made it illegal to set man-traps, spring-guns and other mechanical items which would kill or maim except within a home between sunset and sunrise. It was in this period that the ‘humane’ man-trap (Fig III) came into creation which did not have teeth and was intended to harmlessly trap the poacher who would remain until a home-owner or gamekeeper came to release them with the key.


Fig II Humane Man-trap

Fig III Humane Man-trap

We also have some examples of spring-guns (Fig IV) which were more widely used as they covered a larger area, again there are two types; one potentially deadly and one humane. They worked by having a series of wires stretched at right angles which were attached to the gun, and so when the unfortunate person came across them and knocked one of the wires the gun would spin around to the wire which is now slack and would fire. The humane version did not contain live bullets, although they would still have the potential to injure!


Fig III Spring-gun

Fig IV Spring-gun


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